Monday, February 16, 2009

Hot Tickets In A Cold Market

It’s a cold market out there right now. I could go into the technical economic details of it (near-zero liquidity, substantially decreased currency velocity, etc.), but it’s nothing you haven’t already heard from the talking head of your choice (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or whatever - they're all talking about it, because misery seems to sell advertising time). The bottom line is that most companies and people have significantly decreased the amount of money they’re spending. The basic concept is to store up cash and ride out the economics storm. Simple terms: in tough times, folks hold onto their money. They squeeze that currency until the eagle (or dead president or king or flag or whatever image happens to grace your particular currency) starts to grin.

In a market like this, whether you’re selling hardware, software, or services (including services as a consultant, employee, or potential employee), the value proposition rules. Nobody will part with their cash to buy what you’re selling unless they see significant value from doing so. In both private and public sector companies, that comes down to propositions with low costs that lead to a substantial increase sales volume, reduce costs, or establish compliance with important regulations. What sells best when money is tight are quick, low-cost projects that clearly promise large returns (preferably tangible, or at least measurable, returns).

As I watch the Oracle applications marketplaces for software and services, my observations seem to be pretty consistent with the preceding paragraphs.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen several companies put their E-Business upgrades to R12 on hold (in fact, my own shop seems as though it may head in that same direction) due to concerns over the cost of the upgrade. Enterprise-wide SOA projects are definitely in the tank. New customers for the E-Business Suite (or PeopleSoft or Siebel or JDE) seem few and far between.

On the upside, there is some demand in the E-Business Suite space for functional skills with the Supply Chain apps. It seems companies are also interested in narrowly-focused integration of apps on different technology stacks. Expanding existing enterprise apps systems with better reporting or business intelligence has some traction. Anything involving virtualization is still hot (although not quite to the degree it was last year). Green IT is building momentum. And there is always a need for good maintenance skills, especially in the area of database administration.

So now let’s bring this down to a very personal level. Let’s say you’re an employee or a consultant with Oracle skills who is nervous about keeping your job in this economic climate. If you’re a salesperson, which products or services are selling in this economy? What skill sets do you want in your toolbox should you find yourself in a position of hunting for another job or engagement? My two cents is as follows:
  • Project Management talent is in demand (although the pressure is up and the compensation is down), especially with experience in short-term, small team, low cost projects. Having your PMP is also helpful.
  • OBI EE and BI Publisher; I see good demand here, even on the job boards, especially with OBI EE.
  • Functional expertise with EBS Supply Chain apps. Of those Oracle customers who are expanding or coming on board as new customers, many seem to be utilizing Supply Chain (my perspective – yours could be different).
  • BPEL skills, with a specific focus on using BPEL for integration. ADF and WebCenter skills are also good to have, as many of these projects may require composite app front-ends.
  • If you’re a DBA or System Administrator, work with virtualization is a great background to have right now. Any experience with Green IT is good; if you don’t have any experience here, get some. Also in demand are the maintenance basics: managing tablespaces, applying patches, etc.
So, that’s my perspective. In fact, I’m currently working to build up some skills in a few of these areas. What’s your opinion? Any thoughts on the matter? What products or skills are you building up these days? How are you Oracle gurus (especially the apps gurus) keeping the bread on the table? Find the comments.


Your OCP Advisor said...

Hi Flyod:
Either you are the Nostradamus of Oracle space or you have moles in every company who provided you this industry information. Indeed, everyone of your trends and recommendations are happening here.
[1] Only the 'Must Do' projects for external efficiency and compliance are in the works. The 'Should Do' projects would only see the light of day in 2010 if the business climate improve.
[2] Hiring of external consultants and contractors is greatly reduced with only those in the Supply Chain/Order To Cash tracks still billing.
[3] The opportunity to do more with the same set of people does open new opportunities like Project Management. Personally, I am on track to leverage the recent project management experiences to complete my PMP certification
[4] Oracle BPEL and virtualization using VMWare are intiatives still in the works
[5] New projects are starting to replace multiple/diverse reporting tools with OBIEE
I think 2009 is only a 'Pause' button for new projects and one can use the next 10 months to prepare well and be ready for 2010

psRoy said...

I just thought I would chime in on the subject with a slight PeopleSoft variation and perspective honed through riding out several previous economic downturns. It looks to me as though permanent positions are definitely declining. Adding headcount is almost impossible in the depth of a recession. On the other hand demand for short contracts seems to be expanding. Either something absolutely, positively needs to be done OR the work actually cuts costs or improves productivity.

fteter said...

@Your OCP Advisor: trust me, I'm no Nostradamus...see my poor predictions of Fusion Apps release dates for more on that ;) However, I do admit to know a lot of people. Thanks for the validation. I too look for 2010 to be a better year, at least in the 2nd half.

@psRoy: Yup, seeing the same thing. The only game in town seems to be for short contracts. And most of those contracts are for projects to reduce costs. Also seeing some activity in the public sector for resolving regulatory or audit issues...but the contracts are still of the 3 month variety.