Monday, December 08, 2014

Treasures From The Road

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I've been.
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again.
If it suddenly ended tomorrow,
I could somehow adjust to the fall.
Good times and riches and son of a b*****s,
I've seen more than I can recall
                      — From Jimmy Buffett’s "Changes in Lattitude, Changes in Attitude"

I’ve been traveling lately.  In fact, since OpenWorld this year, I’ve been on the road around 75% of my time.  All in the continental USA.  From my viewpoint, that’s lots of travel.  But it’s been good - full of variety, working with lots of customers and partners.  Mobile, SaaS applications, BI, UX (including conducting an Oracle HCM UX workshop for Oracle Partners), keynoting at the East Coast Oracle conference (just got the feedback on my talk, and I’m really pleased with it).  I’m not complaining.  Now that I’m done for this calendar year, I have a chance to reflect on the treasures I’ve learned lately.

A really cool thing in all that travel has been talking and working with many of Oracle’s Higher Education customers.  I’m still getting to know that market, so it’s been an enriching experience.  And I’ve gathered some questions posed, observations collected, and commentary about Oracle Cloud Applications that seems to be pretty consistent across those Higher Education users. In fact, they seem pretty consistent in general.  So I thought I’d share them, along with my own thoughts about each, and see what y’all think.

1.  Comment:  My institution/enterprise/organization/firm really needs to get out from under the maintenance costs of our Oracle applications.  We’re continually burning resources with patching and upgrading.  We’re on a very expensive treadmill.  

My Response:  Software-as-a-Service was made for customers like you. With SaaS, Oracle works the patching and upgrading (on your schedule, by the way).  So your resources are now liberated from operational maintenance to work on projects and tasks related to your core mission, whatever that might be.

2.  Comment:  We have unique needs/customers/business processes and we can’t customize in the cloud.  

My Response:  Keep the things that differentiate you or make you unique on-premise.  Take the things that are necessary to do business, but aren’t part of your core mission, and move them into SaaS.  This allows you to stay unique at your core, but gives the operational headaches of the necessary but mundane things to someone else.  This approach is known as a “Hybrid” or “Co-Existence” deployment.  

Optional “Add-On” Response:  Best-practice business processes are baked into the cloud applications.  This is one of the unsung value-adds in SaaS.  It may be worthwhile to take a look at those best-practice business processes and consider whether they might work for you.

3.  Comment:  I’m worried about security in putting sensitive data out on the cloud.  

My Answer comes in two parts:  A) Is data security part of your core business?  It is part of Oracle’s core business.  As a result, they hire platoons of the best “A-Team” security experts to fend off thousands of attacks every day.  So perhaps your data might actually be better protected in the cloud than it is today?  B) Did you know that Oracle does not commingle customer data?  The data of every SaaS customer is physically and virtually separated from every other SaaS customer.  So, in terms of data separation, you won’t sacrifice anything by moving to the cloud.

4.  Observation:  The position of UX in the applications market has changed dramatically over the past year.  

Rather than being an optional value-add, UX is now a basic requirement for a seat at the table.  Ugly, complicated applications just don’t sell anymore.  Basic, packaged applications must meet the standards of elegant, consistent user interfaces and simple paths to results  just to enter the market.  And end users now expect custom, home-grown applications to meet those same standards.  If you can’t punch your UX ticket, you just can’t play…period.

5.  Question:  What’s the difference between Workday and Oracle Cloud Application Services?  

NOTE:  I knew this one would get your attention.  We're playing with fire now ;)

My Response:  I have a great deal of respect for what Workday is doing.  They’re designing and building elegant, clean, simple applications that have turned the entire enterprise applications market on its head.  I’m a fan.  That being said, I think Oracle has a differentiator with a deeper and richer set of features…you’ll find standard features that only exist in Oracle’s cloud applications.  That’s important because it allows Oracle to address a wider and more complex range of use cases and business processes.  There are other factors for and against both Workday and Oracle.  But, in my mind, that’s the big difference.

So those are the big treasures from my recent travels.  Thoughts? Feedback?  Comments please.

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