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Oracle OpenWorld 2020: Miranda – business model changes are driving turn to cloud

Steve Miranda, who leads Oracle applications development globally, spoke to Computer Weekly ahead of his keynote at the virtual version of OpenWorld. Supply chain management and customer experience are vectors where improvements are being made, he said

Steve Miranda, executive vice-president, applications development at Oracle, has said that customers changing their business models are those most likely to go all-in on the supplier’s cloud applications suite.

Speaking ahead of his keynote address to be made live at the extended virtual version of Oracle OpenWorld (“Reimagined”) on 29 September, Miranda told Computer Weekly: “That is a theme with our customers who are moving to the cloud. Their traditional systems have been fine, but now fast-changing business environments are forcing them to change to make them more nimble.”

He said the Covid-19 crisis had speeded up cloud adoption among Oracle customers, adding: “We’ve seen faster go-lives during the pandemic. There has certainly not been a slowdown.”

The two broad technical areas in which Oracle is making upgrade announcements are in supply chain planning and customer experience. It is adding machine learning, in the form of a conversational user interface, for logistics, said Miranda. “So a logistical planner can have a digital assistant they can communicate with via the phone.”

In the customer experience area, Miranda said Oracle’s significant differentiators against competitors such as Salesforce were direct integrations into a full suite of transactional systems and the use of machine learning to push out appropriate actions – such as a direct call to someone who has abandoned an e-commerce site basket.

During the keynote, Miranda is set to interview representatives of Dropbox, Office Depot and Starbucks.

Tim Regan, chief financial officer at Dropbox, will talk about its use of Oracle’s cloud-delivered cloud financials and employee performance management products.

Rich Grandy, vice-president, total rewards and HR operations at Office Depot, will talk about its use of recruitment, compensation and payroll Oracle cloud applications. Office Depot was an established customer, said Miranda, and had spoken at OpenWorld before about its use of enterprise resource planning (ERP), financial management, and supply chain management software.

“They are interesting because their business has been disrupted by the pandemic, as well as a general industry shift to online, and so they have gone to be more of a B2B business,” he said.

Gerri Martin-Flickinger, executive vice-president and chief technology officer at Starbucks, will also be “on stage” with Miranda. “With Starbucks,” he said, “you have a mix of the up and coming, as with Dropbox, and the transforming, as with Office Depot. Its CTO will talk about its work with Oracle on the customer experience cloud, especially connecting that CX suite to the back office.”

Pandemic as catalyst

How much of what Oracle is announcing in respect of cloud applications has been conditioned by the pandemic, and how much of it would it have done anyway?

“There are two things that have been impacted by the pandemic,” said Miranda. “One is we have been surprised and pleased that our design plan of being able to react quickly to change has been vindicated. The fact that it is cloud means you have much less labour on the customer side. So, our talking point about being nimble and being able to react to change and be flexible has held.

“Then there has been an acceleration of adoption in certain areas, for example in our HCM Learning Cloud. So, there, learning went from compliance to ‘how can we rapidly retrain to enable remote working?’

“And – again not a new product, but which comes under the heading of Covid-related stress – is the entirety of the supply chain and supply chain planning. There are lots of companies rethinking their supply chain to avoid single source of supply areas, and putting in more use of our tooling there. A lot of organisations are not as static as they used to be, so forward planning to avoid some of the things that have happened during the pandemic is front of mind for those customers.

“And again, because of the supply chain disruption, cash planning has been an issue, and so the forecasting and cash management part of our financials suite have seen a lot more usage and become a lot more important.”

New features roster

Alongside the keynote, Oracle is highlighting some new features in its cloud applications suite.           

It is announcing a series of new aspects of its customer data platform. The latest updates to Oracle Unity  are said to “enable B2B and B2C marketers to eliminate costly and complex customer data integration projects by providing a single platform that unifies all customer data and enables it to be quickly and easily activated within existing business processes”.   

Oracle Unity is now said to include “real-time behavioural data collection and personalisation capabilities, which enable marketers to apply machine learning to customer behavioural data to personalise customer interactions across websites, apps and point of sale”.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said in an Oracle statement: “Brands are struggling to aggregate, manage and make sense of their oceans of data spread through the business. Leading organisations seek technology vendors with decades of experience in the data business. Customers and prospects seek more than just a CDP.  They want intelligence capabilities, ecosystem and ability to scale.” 

The supplier also announced updates to Oracle Fusion Cloud Supply Chain & Manufacturing (Oracle Cloud SCM). These include the Oracle Logistics Digital Assistant, to which Miranda referred. This is said to provide “on-the-go access to real-time supply chain information through a conversational interface that responds quickly, improves user satisfaction, and increases business efficiencies”.

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“In addition, users can now easily access order status and shipment tracking remotely without having to navigate through the Oracle Transportation Management application or understand complicated data mappings. As a result, a supply chain manager can be informed of all in-transit orders and receive timely updates on shipments from anywhere, on any mobile device.”

Another feature is an “Oracle AI Planning Advisor”, which is said to use “artificial intelligence capabilities embedded within supply chain planning to display recommendations that optimise new product introduction and enable customers to respond to current and anticipated production disruptions”.

The supplier has also announced updates to Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and Oracle Fusion Cloud EPM (enterprise performance management). 

These include “Intelligent Process Automation”, which is said to “improve financial close and account reconciliation by using configurable and intelligent rules and patterns to automate manual tasks. Automating a large portion of reconciliations allows customers to focus on complex issues requiring human judgement”.

Digital assistance also figures under this heading, including “Project Time Entry”, which is said to predict project time entry, simplify tasks and expenses entry, and reconcile month-end processes for project professionals.

There are also new industry-specific features that support utilities, oil and gas, asset-intensive industries, and professional services.

These include “Joint Venture Management Capabilities for Utilities and Oil and Gas”, said to “support retroactive billing adjustments, partner reimbursements and partner contributions to improve the accuracy of joint venture accounting, shorten the financial close period, avoid costly billing disputes, and reduce project costs”.

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