Thursday, July 19, 2007

What's In It For Me?

In my role as a Co-Chair of the OAUG Fusion Council, I have the opportunity of listening to Oracle Applications users from around the globe. In listening, I consistently hear the same types of questions about Fusion Middleware and Fusion Applications: “What will all this spiffy technology do for my enterprise? Will it lower my costs? Increase my sales? Will it allow me to improve the quality of the products or services I deliver? Can I run my business smarter or more efficiently? How about shortening my delivery or product development lead times?” To summarize, customers are asking “what’s in it for me?”

Any C-level executive will tell you that the days of buying and implementing technology for technology’s sake are long gone. Technology has to be justified in business process terms: better quality, faster deliveries, lower costs, or increased sales.

The Challenge

I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with Oracle’s Markus Zirn, a co-author of the BPEL Cookbook. Markus is now a Sr. Director of Product Management for Fusion Middleware and is very focused on getting the value proposition message of Fusion Middleware out to Oracle Applications users. Markus recently pointed me to an Oracle whitepaper, Bringing SOA Value Patterns To Life. It’s a pretty good paper, well worth the read, which summarizes three value propositions that served as a foundation for the BPEL Cookbook:
  • SOA-based integration
  • Modern, composite application development
  • Modernizing legacy and mainframe applications
To an IT professional, these three points sound good and make sense. However, explaining their value to a CFO who neither knows nor cares about the difference between BPEL and butter, these value propositions by themselves offer no traction.

Selling Fusion To The Business People

I recently presented a 5-year technology roadmap to an executive team in my own company. Many of the folks in the audience were business people, most of whom care passionately about the outcome or net benefit, but don’t care much about the details of the technology or the tools. A crucial component in the roadmap is a migration from the Oracle E-Business (11.5.10.2) to Fusion Applications, with a move to Release 12 on Fusion Middleware as a backup plan. The move will cost us in terms of capital, equipment and labor. Selling the benefits of the technology in terms that mattered to them was one of the toughest challenges in developing the roadmap. So, for this audience, the value propositions consisted of the following points:
  • We have an important need to improve the quality of business intelligence available to our managers, so that we can make better strategic and tactical decisions about operating our enterprise. The significant obstacle to be addressed is the fact that we have independent silos of data throughout the institution. Moving to a Fusion architecture will allow us to consolidate those data silos and deliver integrated, tailored business intelligence on a real-time basis to the people making the decisions.
  • We also have an important need to automate critical business processes across different technology stacks. For example, consider our employee termination process. When an employee leaves, we have a complex business process that cuts across our HR department (using Oracle E-Business), our office property group (using an Oracle database but not E-Business), our security office (using MySQL and PHP), and our projects business systems (built on both Cold Fusion and .NET technology). Most of this integration is currently done via “sneaker net” – somebody walking to physical locations with papers in hand. Moving to a Fusion architecture will allow us to maximize the automation of integration between the various technology stacks, freeing up our “sneaker net” people to do other, higher-value tasks.
  • Quite a bit of our component manufacturing is performed by our supplier community. Fusion architecture will allow us to automate the flow of communication, products, services, invoices, payments, etc. up and down the supply chain, regardless of the technology utilized by our various suppliers.
  • Many of our users could perform their jobs more efficiently if we changed the application forms. Although we have made some inroads here lately, Fusion Applications will allow us to modify the user interface in ways that make most sense for our specific users.
  • We manage our enterprise according to horizontal business processes. Fusion Applications will be organized around horizontal business processes rather vertical application modules. With Fusion Applications, Oracle is finally coming around to our way of thinking. Our ERP software will now be a much more accurate model of the way we do business.
These are just a few examples from the presentation I made. In a nutshell, rather than attempting to explain the technology to the business people, I focused on end-state use cases tailored for my specific company. You'll also note that, without too much stress on the brain, you can relate all these use cases back to one of the three basic value propositions from the BPEL Cookbook I mentioned earlier. My approach worked – my audience understood and I “closed the deal.”

Summing Up

In considering whether a move to Fusion Applications and/or Fusion Middleware makes sense for your enterprise, keep in mind that the technology is not an end unto itself but is a means to an end. So start by figuring out what end or ends you’re attempting to achieve. Build the use cases and attempt to make the arguments in terms of higher quality, increased throughput or lower costs…things that matter to business people. That’s how you’ll know whether it makes sense for you. That’s also how you’ll sell it to your business people if you decide that moving does make sense for you...and without their buy-in, you don’t have a project. In short, the first step in moving to a Fusion architecture is figuring out what’s in it for you!

1 comment:

John Stouffer said...

Another great article. Keep up the good work.