CFOs Lead Transformation with Cloud EPM

Kumar_PraveenCFOs ascend to digital leaders

Digital disruption has been identified as one of the defining trends of the 21st century, creating opportunity and threat in equal measure. CFOs today are expected to embrace technology to strategize and help drive business outcomes. To ensure success (personal as well as corporate), CFOs must reinvent themselves as digital leaders.

CFOs learned much — good, bad and ugly — navigating transformation through the early headwaters, watching and measuring as business units tested the digital waters with shadow IT initiatives. Impressive wins in cloud, mobility and analytics mounted, but so did complexity and risk. CFOs understand that action on the digital front is imperative. Just the same, they know well that digital success hinges on careful, strategic guidance and close fiscal oversight.

While in previous decades the finance function may have been restricted to back-office administration, today finance stands directly at the crossroads of IT strategy and business success, and CFOs are uniquely positioned to lead their organizations’ digital transformation.

This roundup of recent CFO survey findings brings into clear relief the CFO’s new role as strategic advisor:

  • 70% of CFOs say that their overall level of strategic influence has increased over the past three years. (Oracle)
  • 52% of CFOs say their role is now predominantly focused on advising the business on how it can achieve growth goals, and 56% say they’re working with lines of business more closely than ever before. (Oracle)
  • CFOs ranked new revenue growth as a No. 1 priority over generating free cash flow in 2017. (Gartner)

 CFOs demand transformation of finance

Today, many finance teams still find themselves trapped by archaic manual processes that can consume unnecessary amounts of employee time and create redundant work scenarios and system errors. There is a huge opportunity for finance to streamline and automate core, transaction-focused tasks that occur on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

The primary barriers finance organizations must overcome to achieve digital excellence are legacy and disconnected finance systems. Above all, digital success on the finance front requires a single version of the truth and a single, real-time system for transactions and analytics.

Surveys show that CFOs understand that finance operations are in dire need of transformation:

  • As reported in Analytics Magazine, according to a new IBM study, the vast majority of CFOs (82%) see the value of integrating enterprise-wide data, but only 24% think their team is up to the task.
  • According to an Oxford Economics survey of CFOs, 46% say an isolated finance function keeps them from achieving their business goals. Furthermore, 33% of CFOs at large enterprises agree that a disconnected finance function hurts business, according to the survey.

The rise of cloud EPM, Planning, Budgeting & Forecasting

Today, CFOs increasingly rely on enterprise performance management (EPM) systems for their numerous measuring, monitoring, analysis and reporting responsibilities. EPM helps companies use the insight gleaned from business intelligence (BI) systems, as well as other systems and data sources, to align strategy and execution with the aim of improving efficiency and the bottom line. EPM also provides a vital assist to CFOs in closing their books by helping them deal with planning, budgeting, forecasting, allocations, consolidating and reconciling financials, and financial reporting.

EPM marries BI to the planning and control cycle of the enterprise — with enterprise planning, strategic analysis, and modeling or “what-if” capabilities.  Fundamentally, EPM empowers CFOs to manage the operations of the organization on a holistic scale by accessing all of the organization’s data, and strategically using this information to meet the business’ mission and vision.

On-premises EPM solutions remain the dominant use case in today’s corporate environment, but like all core enterprise applications, migrating EPM to the cloud is rapidly becoming mainstream.

The top reason for moving EPM to the cloud, according to a recent Oracle survey, is to reduce IT infrastructure cost (49%). The second most-cited reason (42%) is to avoid an on-premises upgrade, with the desire to take advantage of new features available in the cloud, specifically, social/mobile/analytic capabilities, taking third (25%), according to the survey.

While the top reason for moving EPM to the cloud is to reduce IT infrastructure costs, even closer to the CFO’s heart, moving to the cloud also enables EPM users to innovate and adopt best practices such as rolling forecasts, driver-based planning, and faster reporting and close cycles.

Planning, budgeting and forecasting are core, data-driven activities that every business must execute in some way, shape or form. These activities are also instrumental in achieving a competitive advantage, identifying new revenue opportunities, increasing profitability, improving customer service and driving operational efficiencies — all of which synch tightly with the CFO’s duty as trusted advisor.

In today’s volatile market, there is an urgent need for dynamic planning and forecasting that provides the agility businesses need to respond quickly and drive better financial decision making.

Gone are the days of ‘point-in-time’ pictures, which is why a growing number of CFOs are selecting planning, budgeting and forecasting as ground zero for migrating their EPM processes to the cloud to leverage and benefit from alternate models and ‘what if’ scenarios.

Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS) falls under Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management solutions umbrella and is grouped with Oracle’s EPM Cloud solutions.

Oracle’s EPBCS is based upon the market-leading Oracle Hyperion Planning, but built and optimized for the cloud. EPBCS offers world-class planning, budgeting and forecasting with the simplicity of the cloud, including market-leading “out-of-the-box” capabilities, such as:

  • Fully-integrated financial statement planning (income statement, balance sheet and cash flow);
  • Strategic workforce planning;
  • Capital expenditure planning;
  • Project financial planning (including capital projects, indirect projects and contract projects); and
  • Strategic modeling.

Intuitive business wizards, flexible navigation, and built-in tutorials make EPBCS easy to use (for business users across the enterprise). The solution’s modeling, scalability and built-in predictive capabilities enable business users to create forecasts and long-range financial models to evaluate opportunities and risks. In short, EPBCS empowers CFOs and operational planners with flexibility, scalability and the ownership to plan the way they want, while still offering the transparency and control required for corporate finance.

Contact AST today and let our Oracle experts put the power of Oracle EPM Cloud solutions to work for your enterprise.  Aside from our Oracle EPM Cloud QuickLaunch programs, we can share our successes with both new cloud implementations and migrations from established, on-premise installations.

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Supply Chains for the Digital Era

Madhira_Raman_2017Just a few decades ago, supply chains and the expensive systems that ran them epitomized inefficiency, expense and risk. Operational centers and warehouses were geographically dispersed and technologically disconnected; software “bugs” were commonplace; vendors and suppliers exploited gaps; and disjointed legacy applications made certain that nothing along a company’s supply chain could ever be known with 100% certainty.

Today, supply chains have not only become longer, more complex and more global, but the businesses depending on them are facing fiercer global competition, an increasingly tumultuous global economy, stringent regulatory oversight; customers who expect genuine personalization; and mountains of big data ripe for analysis.

As the cloud, mobility, big-data analytics and IoT collide to spawn a wealth of transformation possibilities for improving supply-chain performance, CIOs and supply chain execs must step up their digital initiatives or risk being swallowed up by the competition.

To be sure, we’ve entered a new era for supply chains and the technologies that power them. Unfortunately, not all supply chain leaders are prepared for the changes, challenges and opportunities ahead.

According to a recent study conducted by The Hackett Group, while 94% of supply chain leaders say that digital transformation will fundamentally change supply chains in 2018, only 44% have a strategy ready.

SCM spending on the rise, and rising to the cloud

The primary growth driver for the supply chain management (SCM) market is the pressing need to manage increasingly complex, global supply chains that often include a mix of global suppliers, contract manufacturers, company-owned plants, third-party logistics providers and a network of transportation providers. Smartly managing this complexity and remaining flexible enough to meet the demanding and dynamic needs of customers is paramount for companies whose core operations revolve around globally-dispersed manufacturing plants and distribution centers.

  • According to Gartner, the  (SCM) market will exceed $13 billion in total software revenue by the end of 2017, up 11% from 2016. Spending on SCM is on pace to exceed $19 billion by 2021, according to the research firm.
  • Between 2017 and 2021, Gartner forecasts nearly $6 billion in total software revenue will be added to the SCM market, and by 2021, Gartner predicts that SaaS deployments will account for more than 35% of total SCM spending.
  • According to MarketsandMarkets, the cloud supply chain management market size is estimated to grow from $3.26 billion in 2016 to $8.07 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 19.8% during the forecast period.
  • P&S Research projects the global cloud SCM market size to reach $11 billion by 2023.

 Digital supply chains – analytics and IoT are key

With B2B ecommerce adoption hitting an inflection point, companies operating global supply chains are moving away from disparate legacy systems and expensive EDI (electronic data interchange) toward ubiquitous and affordable online platforms and cloud-based solutions that reduce costs, streamline procurement and payment processes, and provide visibility across global supply chains. Leveraging advances in cloud, mobility, big-data analytics and IoT, today’s digital supply chains are more data driven and operate faster, better, stronger, and leaner than ever before.

Analytics provide vital types of intelligence that dramatically improve supply-chain performance. Among these are true visibility and accurate estimated time of arrivals, risk identification and avoidance, predictive modeling to anticipate supply chain changes, and insight into improved operational processes.

Gone are the days when backward-looking scorecards sufficed for reporting, and current descriptive analytics solutions no longer pass muster.

As globalization, unpredictability, volatility, complexity and speed continue to increase, predictive analytics, machine learning technologies, demand-sensing and short-term response planning technologies are emerging as supply-chain staples.

As reported by Forbes, 66% of supply chain leaders say advanced supply chain analytics are critically important to their supply chain operations in the next 2 to 3 years.

With product cycles getting shorter and more fluid, and customers pressing for meaningful innovation and quicker product development and delivery, integrating and automating supply-chain processes is essential for survival.

Internet of Things (IoT) strategies enable global organizations to connect their products and processes to ensure real-time, end-to-end reporting and advanced predictive analytics.

As reported in MBT Magazine, IDC anticipates that IoT technologies will be materially affecting the way that all companies manage their supply chains by 2020 — with estimations that the IoT market will reach $1.7 trillion.

 The rise of demand-driven supply chains (and IBP)

Traditional supply chain planning approaches stem from the middle of last century and are dependent on extremely precise forecasts. The problem is that in today’s volatile business world exact predictions of demand are simply impossible, which is why forecasts for most products are more than 50% wrong.

To improve synchronization of supply and demand, most companies adopted techniques such as Sales & Operations Planning. Developed in the 1980s, S&OP has been the standard of doing business for companies that run supply chains and has led to great improvements in efficiency and profitability.

However, too many companies view S&OP as a “supply chain-only” process, creating a “siloed” approach and giving rise to poor communication across internal departments and exacerbating the disconnect with various IT platforms in a company’s extended chain.

Over time, the focus of S&OP has shifted towards a better alignment and synchronization among internal company functions and a better understanding of (and connection to) external environments.

Integrated business planning (IBP) software enables companies to better support their goals and targets by incorporating insights from a wider range of stakeholders. IBP differs from S&OP in that it doesn’t just align demand and supply, it aligns all the key functions – marketing, R&D, operations, logistics, finance, HR and even IT – into one company plan.

The goal of IBP is to tightly align and coordinate all players across the supply chain by offering real-time information on current demand and inventory levels to all supply-chain participants so that they can react quickly and effectively—by revising forecasts given to their own suppliers, for instance, or by altering production or distribution plans—when unexpected changes arise. This allows companies to optimize planning, procurement, production, inventory replenishment, and order delivery for better service, higher sales, and lower costs overall.

In a 2012 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, with IBP finance teams were spending 17% less time gathering data and 25% more time on analysis compared to their peers, and were delivering forecasts in less than half the time.

Oracle SCM Cloud delivered by AST

Built from the ground up for the cloud and the modern supply chain, Oracle SCM Cloud delivers the visibility, insights, and capabilities needed to create your own intelligent supply chain. With capabilities that include product innovation, strategic material sourcing, outsourced manufacturing, integrated logistics, omni-channel fulfillment, and integrated demand and supply planning, Oracle SCM Cloud is the most comprehensive SCM suite in the cloud. Moreover, Oracle SCM Cloud allows you to deploy functionality incrementally, with minimal risk, lower cost, and maximum flexibility—all with the benefit of ongoing functional innovation.

At AST, we understand the importance of software solutions and digital innovation in today’s dynamic supply chains. We also understand the need for an over-arching strategy that ensures full optimization and integration of all cloud-based and on-premise technology investments.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help your organization achieve supply chain excellence in today’s digital era. Or meet with AST Oracle Cloud experts at the Modern Supply Chain Experience conference in San Jose.

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2018 Cloud Predictions

Sider_MelissaAs the primary driver for cloud adoption shifts from economics to innovation, leading-edge companies are stepping up their investment in cloud services to accelerate their digital transformation and lay the foundation for re-imagined business processes and new competitive offerings.

Today’s cloud in its many forms — PaaS, SaaS, IaaS, public, private, hybrid — is the cornerstone of enterprise IT transformation. Recognizing that they must accelerate their digital transformation initiatives or face being left behind, Oracle customers are exploring, developing and implementing myriad cloud solutions at breakneck speed, marking 2018 and the years to follow as a make-or-break period for companies of all sizes and across industries.

Cloud Spending Soars in 2018 (and beyond)

Here is a roundup of recent predictions by industry experts on cloud spending and adoption:

  • According to a Forrester report, clients stated that they plan to move as many as 80% of their applications to the cloud over a five-year timeframe.
  • Gartner predicts the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 18% in 2017 to $246.8B, up from $209.2B in 2016.Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is projected to grow 36.8% in 2017 and reach $34.6B. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is expected to increase 20.1%, reaching $46.3B in 2017.
  • Cloud computing spending grew at 4.5 times the rate of IT spending since 2009 and is expected to grow at better than 6 times the rate of IT spending from 2015 through 2020,according to IDC, who also predicts that worldwide spending on public cloud computing will increase from $67B in 2015 to $162B in 2020 attaining a 19% CAGR.
  • By 2018, at least half of IT spending will be cloud-based, reaching 60% of all IT infrastructure, and 60–70% of all Software, Services, and Technology Spending by 2020, according to IDC.

Migration to the cloud is not a question of ‘if ‘but a complex riddle comprised of when, what, which order, how much and what flavor. There is no cookie-cutter template for cloud migration — each organization must map out a holistic, strategic plan for migration that best suits their specific IT needs and business goals.

For more on cloud migration strategy, read “The Cloud is Your Future – Are You Ready?”

 Cloud ERP

Legacy, on-premise ERP has become too costly, complex and incompatible with the transformational goals of present-day companies. By all accounts, cloud ERP is mature, proven and rapidly approaching critical mass.

  • IDC forecasts the SaaS ERP market will reach $23.8B in 2018, attaining a 17.2% CAGR in the forecast period.
  • By 2020, IDC maintains, 40% of large organizations will have at least 60% of their ERP applications in the public cloud.
  • According to MarketsandMarkets, the cloud ERP market size is estimated to grow from $18.52 billion in 2016 to $29.84 billion by 2021, at an estimated CAGR of 10.0%.
  • According to a 2017 report by Forrester, “[For ERP] the shift to SaaS will accelerate over the next three years and become the preferred deployment option for many types of businesses. For large enterprises, adoption will be more restrained near-term, but solutions are maturing quickly, and we will see significant adoption at scale for complex businesses within five years.”
  • According to a recently published global cloud ERP market report by RnRMarketResearch.com the industry grew at a CAGR of approximately 6.38% during 2011-2015 and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 8.30% during the forecasted period 2016-2021.

For more on cloud ERP, read “The Cloud ERP Imperative – Transform the Core or Suffer Disruption”

 Cloud BI/ANALYTICS

Moving analytics to the cloud satisfies scalability and performance requirements, makes it easier to incorporate new and improved user interfaces, enables faster and more efficient information sharing, eases integration of data from other sources, and dramatically speeds up development cycles for new analytic applications.

Check out what industry pundits are saying about the cloudy future for analytics:

  • IDC predicts that by 2018, new cloud pricing models for specific analytics workloads will drive up to 5 times higher growth in spending on cloud versus on-premises analytics solutions.
  • Gartner expects the majority of new analytics licensing buying to be for cloud deployments by 2020.
  • According to MarketsandMarkets, the cloud analytics market is expected to grow from $7.5 Billion in 2015 to $23.1 Billion in 2020 at a CAGR of 25.1% during the forecast period.
  • Technavio’s market research analysts predict the cloud analytics market to grow at a CAGR of approximately 21% until 2020.

For more on cloud BI/Analytics, read “Analytics for the Masses.”

 Cloud EPM

Like all core enterprise applications, migrating EPM to the cloud is rapidly becoming mainstream.

The top reason for moving EPM to the cloud, according to a recent Oracle survey, is to reduce IT infrastructure cost (49%). The second most-cited reason (42%) is to avoid an on-premises upgrade, with the desire to take advantage of new features available in the cloud, specifically, social/mobile/analytic capabilities, taking third (25%), according to the survey.

Strong spending on cloud EPM is predicted over the years ahead:

  • According to Forrester, cloud deployments will replace most EPM implementations in the next five years.
  • Of the 400+ organizations recently surveyed by Oracle, 74% have now, or will have within 12-24 months, one or more EPM processes in the cloud.
  • According to a recent survey commissioned by Host Analytics and conducted by Radius Global Market Research, 41% of respondents currently have a cloud-based EPM solution, 29% are evaluating them, 23% plan to move to the cloud in the next few years, 5% are planning to move to the cloud in the next two to three years, and only 2% reportedly have no intention to move to the cloud.
  • According to a recent research study conducted by BARC and US-based research firm Eckerson Group, while most organizations have already moved their reporting and dashboarding (76%) and ad hoc analysis (57%) into a cloud environment, the highest demand for cloud deployments can be seen in Corporate Performance Management use cases: Advanced and predictive analytics (53% planned), operational planning/forecasting (44% planned), and strategic planning/simulation (44% planned).

For more on cloud EPM, read “Cloud EPM – What CFOs Want.”

 Cloud HCM

Employers are moving away from legacy point solutions that primarily serve employers to omni-purpose, cloud-based HCM systems designed, first and foremost, to meet the needs of digitally savvy employees. The shift is toward tightly integrated, multi-faceted, cloud-based systems that incorporate recruitment, on-boarding, learning and continuous performance management — all in one place.

The global cloud HCM software market is set to soar in the years ahead:

  • More than half of all enterprises will rely on cloud-based or hybrid solutions for their human resources systems by 2020 – more than double the number that do today, according to ISG Insights. By 2020, more than 75% of companies expect to have migrated at least one HR system to the cloud, ISG finds.
  • As reported in a recent Forbes Insight study, a survey of 798 HR executives from across the globe conducted by KPMG finds 40% intend to replace their existing, on-premises HR system with a SaaS solution in the near future. Specific HR functional areas ripe for cloud adoption include benefits administration (40%), HR analytics (32%), talent review services (32%), time reporting services (32%) and core HR functions (30%).

For more on cloud HCM, read “Not Your Father’s Talent War.”

 Cloud CRM

Today’s digitally savvy consumer is well connected, well informed and extremely empowered.  At ease navigating multiple sales channels and confident in conducting real-time research on competitive offerings, consumers demand convenience and have no tolerance for individuals or organizations that waste their time or money. Modern consumers have set the bar high for seamless, personalized, and immediate experiences.

The cloud offers a smarter approach to customer experience so businesses can meet and exceed the skyrocketing expectations of their customers. Here’s just a few expert predictions on cloud CRM spending:

  • A forecast from Gartner anticipates that, driven by cloud service revenue, the CRM market will be worth over $40 billion in 2018.
  • According to IDC, by 2018, 62% of CRM software will be cloud-based.
  • The global CRM market is projected to reach $48.4 billion by 2020, with the U.S. representing the largest regional market worldwide, according to Global Industry Analysts.

For more on cloud CRM, read “Customers Demand Omni-channel Excellence.”

 Cloud Managed Services

Given the urgency, complexity and skills shortage surrounding cloud migration, an increasing number of businesses are looking to services providers with the requisite expertise, experience and resources to guide their cloud migration strategy, host their applications and provide the end-to-end managed services needed to accommodate dynamic business requirements and aggressive growth goals.

Pundits concur on the strong and growing market for cloud managed services:

  • MarketsandMarkets predicts the cloud managed services market size is estimated to grow from $35.54 billion in 2016 to $76.73 billion by 2021, at an estimated CAGR of 16.6%.
  • A study conducted by 451 Research (as reported in Forbes) finds that 64% of IT leaders predict they will buy cloud management platforms from service providers in 2017, and 57% of IT leaders expect to partner with Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Hosting Providers (MHP) for both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud initiatives.

For more on cloud managed services, read “Managed Services for the Digital Era.”

 Cloud Security

Traditional perimeter-based security tools do little to protect cloud workloads. Securing data and applications that reside in the cloud is increasingly critical as more mission-critical apps and high-value data and intellectual property move to the cloud. Accordingly, experts predict strong spending on cloud security over the years ahead:

  • Growth in worldwide cloud-based security services will reach $5.9 billion in 2017, up 21% from 2016, and will reach close to $9 billion by 2020, according to Gartner.
  • MarketsandMarkets expects the cloud security market to grow from $4.09 billion in 2017 to $12.73 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 25.5%.
  • The cloud security market will grow from $1.5 billion in 2017 to $3.5 billion in 2021, according to Forrester.

For more on cloud security, read “Every CEO/CIO’s Worst Nightmare.”

 Oracle and AST – delivering today’s cloud

Customers in 195 countries are running their most demanding applications on the Oracle Cloud Platform, and organizations worldwide are turning to Oracle at record-rates to build, deploy, and extend game-changing applications and run business-critical workloads in a low-latency, highly available, reliable and secure cloud environment.

To help the company sustain momentum in what is already the world’s fastest growing multi-billion dollar cloud business, Oracle and Oracle partners such as AST will have to redouble their effort and investment in helping companies of all sizes and across industries step up their cloud migration initiatives.

For our part, AST has made significant investments in becoming an Oracle cloud leader. AST has been a pure-play Oracle services partner since our founding in 1995. We are an Oracle Cloud Premier Platinum Partner, and more than 90% of our workforce is cloud certified. With more than 300 successfully completed Oracle cloud projects under our belt, AST is proud to be a trusted partner helping our customers navigate the transition to the cloud — from development of an internal cloud strategy and framework, to full implementation and, ultimately, to post-deployment support and managed services.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help your organization embark on or accelerate your cloud migration journey.

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Digital Reality Check

Brocker_TimThe strong momentum of cloud, mobile, social and big data technologies in the enterprise today is fueling digital transformation at an unprecedented scope and pace. Businesses of all sizes and across all industries are racing to harness the power of these disruptive technologies to cement relevancy among consumers, improve data-driven decision making throughout the enterprise, notch market share and revenue growth goals, and create a culture of innovation that ensures future success.

The era of digital transformation currently underway underscores the essential and indisputable role disruptive technology now plays in business success. The consensus among leading analyst firms is that digital transformation will reach an inflection point in 2018. IDC predicts digital transformation to be a key strategy for 67% of the Global 2000 by 2018 and that by 2017, over 50% of the IT budget will be spent on new technologies. Moreover, by the end of 2019, spending on digital transformation will reach $1.7 trillion worldwide—up 42% from 2017, according to a new report from IDC.

What is digital transformation?

Correctly thought of as the third stage of embracing digital technologies (digital competence, digital literacy, digital transformation), digital transformation signifies the masterful utilization of cloud, mobile, social and big data technologies across all areas of business.

At its core, digital transformation is about capitalizing on the relationship between technology and customer behavior, and leveraging disruptive technologies to close the gap between businesses and their customers.

What digital transformation is NOT

Digital transformation is undeniably complex and often misunderstood. To help you gain an accurate understanding of what digital transformation is, we’ve put together a list of what digital transformation is not:

  • Digital transformation is not new – technologies that drive modern digital transformation have evolved over the past decade, but the maturity of these technologies, the blistering rate of their adoption, and the promise of innovation they hold marks a new era in enterprise technology — one that will continue on for the foreseeable future, creating disruption and opportunity in equal measure.
  • It’s not a single, disruptive technology – it’s the confluence of advances in several, interconnected, disruptive technologies, including cloud, mobile, social, big data analytics, IoT, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • It’s not a new marketing approach to attract customers – it’s a new customer-centric approach to conducting business.
  • It’s not a single, killer app – it’s a platform for creating a continual stream of transformative apps.
  • It’s not a ‘big-bang’ endeavor – it’s an ongoing, iterative, adaptive journey.
  • It’s not simply digitizing old business processes – it’s adapting these processes to take advantage of disruptive technologies, and creating entirely new multi-model processes based on insights yielded by disruptive technologies.
  • It’s not a technical fix – it’s a cultural transformation.
  • It’s not just gaining insight – it’s rapidly operationalizing data-driven insight to drive innovation, revenue and customer immersion.

Disruption: the calling card of digital transformation

Advances in digital technologies have forever altered the playing field, and companies across industries are under constant threat from faster, smarter, more nimble competitors who are leveraging technological advances to streamline processes, reinvent business models, win customers, and grow market share. Disruption is rampant. No one is safe. This is the reality of business today.

As pointed out by WSJ blogger Irving Wladawsky-Berger, death-by-disruption is gathering steam:

“The topple rate, a measure of how rapidly companies lose their leadership position, has increased by almost 40% since 1965. The tenure of companies on the S&P 500 was 61 years in 1958; it’s now 18 years. If these trends continue, 75% of the S&P 500 companies will have changed over the next 15 years.”

And few, if any, industries are exempt, particularly if your industry has a low barrier of entry and/or your business relies on a large legacy business model to generate the majority of your revenue.

The lion’s share of respondents to an annual survey conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates of more than 2,000 C-level executives across 15 industries anticipate moderate or massive disruption in the next 12 months, as reported in Harvard Business Review. In fact, 50% (or more) of execs in the following 10 industries see disruption striking in the year ahead:

  • Media (72%)
  • Telecom (64%)
  • Consumer Financial Services (61%)
  • Retail (57%)
  • Technology (57%)
  • Insurance (53%)
  • Consumer Products (52%)
  • Nonprofit (52%)
  • Business and Professional Services (51%)
  • Education (50%)

Oracle Cloud: ground zero for transformation

Cloud computing and digital transformation go hand in hand. In fact, cloud services, which offer unlimited and dynamic IT resources and allow organizations to scale infrastructure as needed to support changing business priorities, form the foundation of digital transformation.

Oracle officially entered the public cloud space with the launch of Oracle ERP Cloud and Cloud HCM products in 2012. Today, after years of intense work and significant investment, the Oracle Cloud offers complete SaaS application suites for ERP, HCM and CX, plus best-in-class Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) from data centers throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.

From 2012 to the present, Oracle’s traction on the cloud front has been nothing short of spectacular. Customers in 195 countries are running their most demanding applications on the Oracle Cloud Platform, and organizations worldwide are turning to Oracle at record-rates to build, deploy, and extend game-changing applications and run business-critical workloads in a low-latency, highly available, reliable and secure cloud environment.

Oracle Cloud is designed for incremental cloud adoption, which lets customers move to the cloud at their own pace in phases that fit their business model and operational needs. To help make the migration process easier and faster, existing on-premise customers can leverage Oracle’s Customer 2 Cloud Program which enables them to use current support spend to redirect elements of their installed on-premise solutions to Oracle Cloud. For companies and government agencies required by law or regulatory constrictions to keep data on site, Oracle’s Cloud at Customer program provides all of the features, benefits and pricing of cloud delivery via a “cloud machine” that lives in the customer’s data center.

Expert guidance (and focus on business processes) needed

Navigating disruptive change increases in difficulty as digital transformation gathers momentum. In today’s fast changing digital economy, staying on top means staying ahead of the competition in digital-transformation maturity.

More than ever before, the pressure is on Oracle and Oracle partners such as AST to not only identify digital opportunities for customers but to also provide a prioritization framework, best practices, and the infrastructure-to-application capabilities needed to guide a holistic, pragmatic and sustainable digital transformation strategy.

Too often at AST we see companies fail in their digital transformation efforts because they either attempt to do too much — a complete business model change — all at once, or they do too little, paying what amounts to lip service to digital transformation by bolting digital technologies onto existing, rigid and inefficient business processes.

AST believes that the key to a successful digital business strategy is to focus on reimagining specific business processes to simplify and enhance customer interactions. The results are quick and attainable. Organizations see how business insight can best be leveraged to achieve the greatest impact across the entire value chain — creating a clear path to achievable business results.

With more than 300 successfully completed Oracle cloud projects under our belt, AST is proud to be a trusted partner helping our customers navigate the transition to the cloud — from development of an internal cloud strategy and framework, to full implementation and, ultimately, to post-deployment support and managed services.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help guide and manage your organization’s digital journey.

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Customers Demand Omni-channel Excellence

Sirsi_Dharmasagar_2017Black Friday, Cyber Monday by the numbers

Traditionally two of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, November 24th and 26th, did not disappoint in 2017. Shoppers opened their wallets, setting records in online purchases while also hitting the malls in a big way.

As reported in USA Today, shoppers spent $5.03 billion on Black Friday, 16.9% more than on that day in 2016, and a new record, according to Adobe Analytics.   Cyber Monday was also a good day for businesses across the country. In fact, Adobe Analytics ranks it as the largest online shopping day in history, with consumers spending more than $6.59 billion online Monday  — about $1-billion more than last year, as reported by NBC.

The top takeaway for retailers – omni-channel excellence

So what do these numbers vis-à-vis in-store vs. online shopping mean for retailers? No data scientist needed for this one. Today’s consumers demand both; moreover, behavior during the Black Friday-through-Cyber Monday shopping extravaganza illustrates what consumers want most from their daily shopping experience, namely, omni-channel excellence.

Consumers freely turn over volumes of personal data. The return implied is an immersive experience painstakingly accrued over numerous, consistent, accurate, high-quality interactions across all touch points  — the Web, mobile devices, social media, kiosks, call centers, physical locations, etc.

Retailers who fail to provide a personalized, unified experience that presents the right product at the right price through the right channel at the right time are not long for this world.

Caveat retailer — disruption looms

Disruption across all sectors of retail is unprecedented in scale and pace. The cause(s): A blistering speed of technology adoption by established competitors, an unrelenting emergence of smaller, more nimble niche players and — topping all — increasingly fickle, frugal, tech-savvy consumers.

Well-known examples of death-by-disruption in retail include Radio Shack, Circuit City, Aeropostale, Sports Authority, Pacific Sunwear and Payless Shoe Source — to name just a few. Macy’s, J.C. Penney and other venerable brands are hanging in but plan to close more than 3,500 locations.

Contrary to popular opinion, the greatest threat of disruption for retailers comes not from established competitors investing in technology. Nor does it come from pure-play online retailers or new, niche-product players.

No. The biggest threat comes directly from consumers, specifically, from consumers dissatisfied with the sub-par shopping experience a retailer provides.

More than ever before, consumers are in control. They’ve grown accustomed to trading privacy for convenience, and the slightest disconnect between consumer expectation and a retailer’s ability to deliver means not simply losing a one-off sale but possibly losing a customer (or segment of customers) for life.

Here’s just a small sample of the high price you’ll pay for a bad customer experience:

  • 47% of customers would take their business to a competitor within a day of experiencing poor customer service (24/7)
  • 60% of consumers have not completed an intended purchase based on a poor customer service experience. (BI Intelligence)
  • It takes 12 positive customer experiences to negate the poor impression left behind from one unresolved, bad experience (BI Intelligence)
  • Only 15% of shoppers would give a brand or product a second chance after a poor experience (InReality)
  • Only 27% of shoppers would give a physical store a second chance after a poor interaction (InReality)

To remain relevant retailers must successfully navigate today’s digital world and demanding consumers. RFID, IoT, unified commerce, mobile payments, mobile clienting, beacon technology, digital displays, home delivery, in-store pickup and real-time analytics are just a sample of the innovative technologies and processes retailers are investing in. But one-off projects amount to little more than paying lip service to customer-centricity. In the end, only seamless integration of myriad technologies — connecting core systems to all customer touch points — will have a lasting and positive impact on the shopping experience and, ultimately, a retailer’s success.

Oracle CX Cloud delivers omni-channel bliss

Modern consumers have set the bar high for seamless, personalized, and immediate experiences. Oracle offers a smarter approach to customer experience so you can meet and exceed skyrocketing expectations. Oracle CX Cloud Suite is an integrated set of applications that spans the entire customer lifecycle from marketing to sales, and commerce to service.

Oracle CX Cloud delivered by AST empowers retailers to tap a customer’s individual profile, past buying behavior and relevant product information, and based on lightning-fast analysis of this information at the point of transaction, offer an incentive such as matching an online price, or waving shipping costs, or bundling product offerings, etc.

In addition to understanding customer behavior and individualizing the customer experience, a selection of additional capabilities of Oracle-based solutions for retail by AST includes predicting purchasing trends, identifying new sales opportunities, maintaining inventory control, streamlining supply chain operations, and, of course, seamlessly unifying multiple channels.

At AST, we invest in Oracle innovations to ensure that our retail customers always get the most from their Oracle investment.  We invite you to engage with us to help you define and execute your strategy for providing omni-channel excellence.

Contact AST today.

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5 Things CIOs are Thankful For

Zechariah_ShajiCIOs and cloud-rush angst

CIOs tasked with migrating their organization’s many applications to the cloud are feeling the pressure. For many, issues such as unexpected costs, interoperability, security gaps, unanticipated application rework and lack of visibility and control are creating significant obstacles.

Mistaking mandate for strategy, many organizations, too many, rushed into the cloud pell-mell with ‘shadow IT’ initiatives, where line-of-business leaders provisioned point solutions from external cloud providers without consulting IT, leaving CIOs to deal with potential security breaches, data-governance issues, multiple contracts, varying SLAs and runaway cost and complexity.

As CIOs run out of cloud quick wins — non-mission-critical apps such as web service tools, email/collaboration tools, app development/testing environments, etc. ­— they begin to realize (somewhat painfully) that prevailing cloud-first orthodoxy is not quite the cost-and-complexity panacea they had hoped it would be.

Instead of realizing the promised benefits of cloud computing (lower costs, increased flexibility, faster delivery, etc.), many are burning time and resources establishing data governance, building bridges that connect their various cloud solutions and integrating their cloud solutions with existing, core on-premise systems to facilitate faster and more efficient process orchestration. Demonstrable ROI on the cloud is becoming increasingly elusive, and the closer CIOs get to mission-critical applications such as ERP, the more hesitant they are to pull the cloud-migration trigger.

Oracle (and AST) to the rescue!

Cloud computing has been the most exciting and disruptive force in the tech market in the last decade — and it will continue to disrupt traditional computing models through 2020 and beyond.

With the primary driver for cloud adoption shifting from economics to innovation, leading-edge companies are stepping up their investment in cloud services to accelerate their digital transformation and lay the foundation for re-imagined business processes and new competitive offerings.

CIOs feeling overwhelmed by the blistering pace and vast scope of cloud adoption should take comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Most respondents to a new Fugue survey of more than 300 IT operations professionals, executives, and developers believe that the cloud is not living up to expectations. Only 1 in 5 surveyed say they are getting “the most” out of the cloud, while 80% feel they are failing to do so.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 things CIOs can be thankful (to Oracle) for as they embark upon or accelerate their cloud journey.

1. Oracle’s Complete Cloud

By far the most comprehensive set of applications in the cloud available from any vendor in the world, Oracle Cloud includes complete suites for ERP, CRM, HCM, SCM, CX, IoT and Analytics. With deployment options ranging from the public cloud to your private data center, Oracle provides cloud services across Software as a Service (SaaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Oracle has invested many years and billions of dollars in R&D and strategic acquisitions to offer the most comprehensive, modern, flexible, and secure cloud on the planet. Oracle re-engineered its entire product line for the cloud. Moreover, from the ground up and covering the complete stack — database, middleware, applications, network, etc., all components of the Oracle Cloud are engineered by Oracle to ensure seamless interoperability and peak performance.

 2. Migration Options (and incentives)

Customers want to migrate to the cloud at their own pace and in a strategically sound manner that aligns with their unique business needs and growth goals. For most, this means a hybrid mixture of on-premise and cloud (public and private) applications. By offering the broadest array of cloud applications and covering all delivery models (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and DaaS), Oracle provides customers the flexibility and choices they need in mapping out a cloud migration strategy that works best for them.

Oracle cloud solutions are designed for incremental cloud adoption, which lets customers move to the cloud at their own pace in phases that fit their business model and operational needs. To help make the migration process easier and faster, existing on-premise customers can leverage Oracle’s Customer 2 Cloud Program which enables them to use current support spend to redirect elements of their installed on-premise solutions to Oracle Cloud. For companies and government agencies required by law or regulatory constrictions to keep data on site, Oracle’s Cloud at Customer program provides all of the features, benefits and pricing of cloud delivery via a “cloud machine” that lives in the customer’s data center.

3. Integration Ease

Connecting cloud applications with on-premise systems, as well as with other, disparate online apps, can be complicated by many factors, including standards and protocols, gateways and firewalls, and issues with multi-tenancy. Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS) is a cloud-based integration application designed to perform integrations between cloud-based applications – but also has capabilities that extend beyond that, to performing integrations with your on-premise applications. ICS simplifies how you build integrations in the cloud, letting you connect securely to applications and services both in the cloud and on-premises. Features include: An environment pre-loaded with connections to all Oracle SaaS applications you have subscriptions to; best-in-class SaaS adaptors to accelerate integration with your cloud assets; and a simple and extensible architecture for creation of new adapters.

 4. Security Covered

A longtime leader in information security, Oracle’s security solutions align people, process, and technology with integrated, defense-in-depth security features at every layer of the computing stack, providing a complete approach to security that incorporates preventive, detective, and predictive controls, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable actionable security intelligence. At Oracle OpenWorld, Oracle announced the first Autonomous Database Cloud for data warehouse workloads. The solution eliminates human labor (and error) associated with tuning, patching, updating and maintaining the database, delivering unprecedented availability, performance, and security. Oracle’s complete, integrated, next-generation identity management platform provides breakthrough scalability with an industry-leading suite of identity and access management (IAM) solutions for on-premises or hybrid cloud, and Oracle’s Identity-based Security Operations Center (SOC) framework provides comprehensive monitoring, threat detection, analytics, and remediation tools across hybrid environments that include on-premises and cloud resources.

5. Partner Power

AST has made significant investments in becoming an Oracle cloud leader. AST has been a pure-play Oracle services partner since our founding in 1995. We are an Oracle Cloud Premier Platinum Partner and more than 90% of our workforce is cloud certified. Most recently, AST was recognized by Oracle as an Oracle Cloud Managed Service Provider (MSP). The Oracle Cloud MSP program recognizes AST as a partner with the skills and expertise to build, deploy, run, and manage the Oracle Cloud Platform for both Oracle and non-Oracle workloads. The program enables AST to offer a complete managed service solution for Oracle Software as a Service (SaaS), Oracle Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS) and DevOps management on Oracle PaaS.

With more than 300 successfully completed Oracle cloud projects under our belt, AST is proud to be a trusted partner helping our customers navigate the transition to the cloud — from development of an internal cloud strategy and framework, to full implementation and, ultimately, to post-deployment support and managed services.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help guide and manage your organization’s cloud migration journey.

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Not Your Father’s Talent War

Papanasam_Uppili_2017Understanding millennials to maximize their potential

As reported in AssociationsNow, according to the annual CEO Challenge 2016 survey conducted by the Conference Board, the failure to attract and retain top talent is the leading concern among corporate CEOs, presidents and chairs.

The millennial generation (also known as Gen-Y and Echo Boomers includes births from approximately 1977 – 2000) will represent 40% of the total workforce by 2020, as reported by Forbes, making it the largest age group to emerge since the baby-boom generation. In the next ten years, according to Forbes, 75% of the workplace will be millennials. Additionally, according to DMR, there are 83.1 million millennials in the U.S. today.

PwC reports that millennials want a say in the design of their contracts, working arrangements, rewards and benefits packages. They want flexibility and mobility, continual feedback on their performance, and easy access to massive open online courses (MOOCs).

A survey conducted by PwC sheds additional light on defining characteristics of millennial workers:

  • Nearly 60% will deliberately seek employees whose corporate responsibility behavior reflects their own.
  • 72% made compromises to get into a company.
  • 52% said good opportunities for career progression made an employer attractive (the top response).
  • 66% feel they need to gain international experience to further their careers.
  • Less than one third of millennials expect to work regular office hours.

The mantra for millennials seeking employment is a resounding “make work-life better.” Putting a finer point to it, millennials believe more in “life” than in “work-life balance”.

According to Fidelity Investments’ Evaluate a Job Offer Study, when asked how much of a pay cut they would be willing to take for an improved “quality of work life” (such as career development, purposeful work, work/life balance, company culture), millennials report they are willing to take, on average, a $7,600 pay cut.

Furthermore, when asked which is more important when evaluating an offer – financial benefits or improved quality of work life – 58% choose the latter.

The Fidelity Investments’ survey also revealed that millennials are always on the lookout for a new opportunity, with 41% expecting to start a new job in the next two years. Even with 86% of millennial professionals currently happy at work, nearly half (49%) are either actively looking, or open to a new opportunity.

Additional characteristics unique to millennial workers include (Source: DMR):

  • Enter the workforce at a later age than prior generations
  • Strongly expect employers to invest in employee training and growth
  • Spend 18 hours on their smartphone each week (86% of U.S. millennials own a smartphone)
  • Are likely to quit job if employer has substandard technology

The emergence of a new generation of workers presents an entirely new set of challenges, and talent management will become a key strategic tool, which places great responsibility on the shoulders of HR.

As masters of digital technology and natural-born multi-taskers, millennials are primed for success.  The onus is on HR to employ digital tools and strategies that effectively harness the massive energy and unbridled potential of millennial workers.

HCM shifts to the cloud to put employees first

Historically (circa 2000), typical core HR systems focused on payroll, ran in-house and were complex, expensive to maintain, highly-customized and difficult to use.  Nonetheless, these ‘systems of record’ served companies well by automating complex, time-consuming payroll and employee benefits processes. Fast forward to today. Employers are moving away from legacy point solutions that primarily serve employers to omni-purpose, cloud-based integrated HCM systems designed, first and foremost, to meet the needs of digitally-savvy employees.

(As a refresher, HCM is an umbrella term encompassing everything from recruiting, on-boarding, performance management, workforce management and learning to core HR functions (personnel administration, benefits, compensation management, payroll).)

The goal is not only to cut costs and streamline service delivery, but also to strengthen employee loyalty. In line with this, creating a corporate culture that fosters talent development, team collaboration, and continuous learning is essential. Millennials want to work for an organization that shares their values and shows interest in their personal and professional development.

Unfortunately, many HR departments are still saddled with older technology that is ineffective and costly. According to Mercer’s 2016 Global Human Resources Information Services study, the vast majority of HR departments’ human resource information systems are antiquated, disparate and redundant.

Nonetheless, today’s mandate is clear: HR must embrace digital technologies to reinvent the workplace and create an employee experience that mirrors the best customer experience, an experience that is human-centered, personalized and compelling.

The shift is toward tightly-integrated, multi-faceted, cloud-based systems that incorporate recruitment, on-boarding, learning and continuous performance management — all in one place.

HCM’s strong (and cloudy) growth

By all accounts, the global HCM software market is set to soar in the years ahead and has rapidly ascended to the cloud:

  • As reported in AppsRuntheWorld, the worldwide HCM applications market will reach $17.8 billion by 2020, compared with $15 billion in 2015, at a CAGR of 5%.
  • The HCM market will grow at a CAGR of 9.2% from $14.5 billion in 2017 to $22.51 billion by 2022, according to MarketsandMarkets.
  • The global HCM market is forecasted to grow from $12.59 billion in 2016 to $19.88 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 9.6%, according to RnR Research.
  • As reported in TechTarget, the HR management software market was $19 billion in 2016 and is forecasted to grow to $21 billion in 2017 and $24 billion in 2018.
  • In 2017, TechTarget reports, SaaS HR software surpassed on-premises systems for the first time, accounting for 56% of installed HCM systems, up from 36% in 2013.
  • More than half of all enterprises will rely on cloud-based or hybrid solutions for their human resources systems by 2020 – more than double the number that do today, according to ISG Insights. By 2020, more than 75% of companies expect to have migrated at least one HR system to the cloud, ISG finds.
  • As reported in a recent Forbes Insight study, a survey of 798 HR executives from across the globe conducted by KPMG finds 40% intend to replace their existing, on-premises HR system with a SaaS solution in the near future. Specific HR functional areas ripe for cloud adoption include benefits administration (40%), HR analytics (32%), talent review services (32%), time reporting services (32%) and core HR functions (30%).

Humanizing HR with Oracle HCM Cloud delivered by AST

Oracle HCM Cloud spans and integrates the entire HCM landscape, including on-boarding, social networking and collaboration tools, a learning management system (LMS), as well as modules for recruiting, performance management, payroll, benefits administration, succession planning, talent management, employee wellness and HR analytics.

Across the board, leading analyst firms recognize Oracle for its excellence and continuous innovation across the entire suite of cloud-based HCM solutions.

At AST, we see it every day: Nowhere in business has the impact of cloud computing been felt more keenly than in HR.  Decades spent implementing — and customizing — on-premise software have created considerable cost, complexity and rigidness, holding companies hostage to legacy processes dating back to the ‘70s (and beyond).  The inability of disparate, legacy point solutions to meet today’s challenges is driving the demand for holistic, integrated, cloud-based HR solutions.

Today, Oracle’s mature cloud-based systems are available for all core HR functions. AST improves and accelerates deployment of human capital management solutions in the cloud through our deep partnership with Oracle. We provide businesses in all industries with an affordable, low-risk hybrid or pure-cloud solution that is typically implemented significantly faster than other approaches.

We’ve invested heavily in pre-configured templates with built-in best practices, project accelerators, data migration tools, bundled offerings and HCM specialists that allow our clients to significantly decrease HCM implementation timelines and costs.

Understanding that customers need to realize maximum value from existing investments, we specialize in guiding our clients through their complete HCM journey ­– from on-premise to hybrid to pure cloud delivery.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help your organization better attract and retain top talent by accelerating its cloud HCM journey.

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Every CEO/CIO’s Worst Nightmare

Kumar_ShyamMost organizations today are data-driven to one degree or another.  Companies that excel at creating value from their data are well-positioned for growth and prosperity. While data provides many insights that can benefit a business, that information comes at a price. A big chunk of corporate data includes personal, and often sensitive, information that belongs to others — customers, partners and employees.

To be sure, data is fast becoming a centerpiece of corporate value creation, and while it is difficult to quantify the precise monetary worth of data, — a data breach could cost them their jobs and take down their businesses.

Want to know what keeps CEOs and CIOs up at night? Start with cyber threats and data breaches.

Cyber threats and data breaches abound

Securing on-premise servers, networks, applications and systems is difficult. Today, increasing use of the cloud, ubiquitous mobility, emerging trends and technologies such as Cloud Environments, Internet of Things (IoT), Bring-Your-Own-Application (BYOA) and Bring-Your-Own Devices (BYOD) makes security infinitely more challenging and complex.

Cyber attacks and data breaches are on the rise this year, thanks in large part to the proliferation of affordable, customizable and accessible tools for cyber criminals. As reported in WSJ, the number of U.S. data breaches jumped to a record 791 in the first six months of 2017, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center and data security firm CyberScout.

High-profile breaches at household-name companies such as Target, T.J. Maxx, Home Depot, Sony, and most recently, Equifax (among many others) have catapulted data security to the top of the board-level worry list.

Findings from a recent survey of security professionals published in CIO Insight illustrate the concern over the increasingly varied and numerous types of cyber threat:

  • Unauthorized access: 67%
  • Data leakage/external sharing of data: 65%
  • Denial of service attacks: 52%
  • Insecure interfaces/APIs: 48%
  • Posting confidential data by insiders: 33%
  • Foreign state-sponsored cyber-attacks: 32%
  • Abuse of cloud services: 32%
  • Malware injection: 31%

The high costs of cyber crimes

It’s not easy to pinpoint the total cost of cyber crimes, in part because industrial espionage and other crimes often go undetected or unreported for years. When crimes are identified, there are numerous indirect costs to calculate on top of the direct damage organizations suffer. And those indirect costs, such as post-attack revenue loss, may go on for years. With that said, estimates of the costs of cyber crimes are now reaching into the trillions of dollars — and rising.

  • According to the British insurance company Lloyd’s, cyber attacks cost organizations as much as $400 billion in 2015.
  • Juniper Research predicts that data breaches will cost $2.1 trillion globally by 2019, which is almost four times more than in 2015.
  • The impact of cyber threats is rising in the US, with the average cost of a data breach now over $7 million according to research by the Ponemon Institute, as reported in BusinessInsider.

Spending on security soars

As the number of reported data breaches continues to blitz companies around the globe, IT budgets are ballooning to combat what corporations see as their greatest threat:

  • According to a CRN survey, 80% of CIOs plan on increasing spending on security technology in 2017.
  • A survey conducted by Nomura Holdings, an Asian financial services group with a network spanning the globe, found that 82% of CIOs cite security as the main investment priority this year (CIODive).
  • According to Gartner, worldwide spending on Information Security will reach $90 billion in 2017.

Traditional perimeter-based security tools do little to protect cloud workloads. Securing data and applications that reside in the cloud requires a different approach than a traditional on-premise environment. It is increasingly critical to apply new security approaches as more mission-critical applications and high-value data and intellectual property move to the cloud. Accordingly, experts predict strong spending on cloud security over the years ahead:

  • Growth in worldwide cloud-based security services will reach $5.9 billion in 2017, up 21% from 2016, and will reach close to $9 billion by 2020, according to Gartner.
  • MarketsandMarkets expects the cloud security market to grow from $4.09 billion in 2017 to $12.73 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 25.5%.
  • The cloud security market will grow from $1.5 billion in 2017 to $3.5 billion in 2021, according to Forrester.

Oracle is getting bigger on security (cloud and otherwise)

A longtime leader in technology and information security, Oracle’s security solutions align people, processes, and technology with integrated, defense-in-depth security features at every layer of the computing stack, providing a complete approach to security that incorporates preventive, detective, and predictive controls, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable actionable security intelligence. Oracle provides a complete identity and security solution for secure access and monitoring of any hybrid cloud environment and addresses governance and compliance requirements.

Oracle Security products incorporate powerful preventive and detective security controls, including transparent data encryption, encryption key management, privileged user and multifactor access control, data classification and discovery, database activity monitoring and blocking, consolidated auditing and reporting, and data masking. Oracle security solutions deliver an identity SOC providing actionable intelligence and bi-directional control through a combined offering of various security solutions –  Database Security, Identity and Access Management, Governance, IDaaS, API Security, Entitlement, SIEM, UEBA and CASB.

At OpenWorld 2017, Oracle announced that the first Autonomous Database Cloud for data warehouse workloads will be available in the calendar year. The Autonomous Database Cloud eliminates the human labor (and error) associated with tuning, patching, updating and maintaining the database, delivering unprecedented availability, performance, and security — at a significantly lower cost.

Oracle’s complete, integrated, next-generation identity management platform provides breakthrough scalability with an industry-leading suite of identity and access management (IAM) solutions for on-premises or hybrid cloud, making leading security technologies available everywhere to organizations large and small and enabling organizations to implement and manage consistent security policies across hybrid data centers.

Oracle’s Identity and Access Management-as-a-Service (IDaaS) solution, Identity Cloud Service (IDCS), was rated at the top of the industry within a year of its launch and was featured as the leader in Gartner’s latest MQ for Access Management. The product is an Oracle home-grown, open and standards-based solution,  is easy to integrate and is extremely price-competitive.

Oracle CASB Cloud Service is a multimode cloud access security broker (CASB) that provides advanced threat analytics using user behavior analytics (UBA) and third-party feeds, configuration seeding, monitoring and alerts, and Shadow IT discovery. It provides features such as Threat Detection, Predictive Analytics, Automated Incident Response and Security Configuration Management. Oracle CASB adoptions are extremely high for other Cloud applications such as Salesforce and AWS.

Oracle Security Monitoring and Analytics (SMA) Cloud Service is an integrated SIEM and UEBA solution for rapid detection, investigation, and remediation of a broad range of security threats and attacks across IT. Oracle’s Identity-based Security Operations Center (SOC) framework provides comprehensive monitoring, threat detection, analytics, and remediation tools across hybrid environments that include on-premises and cloud resources. Oracle security cloud services are designed to unify threat, user, and operational data from multiple sources.

A managed security operations center (SOC) is in your future

Corporate thinking on public cloud security has pretty much reversed over the past few years. IT executives once viewed this shared computing and storage infrastructure as their least trustworthy option. But now they see it as the safest choice, as evidenced by both the rate of public cloud adoption and the increasing mission-criticality of cloud workloads through Cloud IaaS, PaaS or SaaS.

This only makes sense given the vast wealth, resources and expertise public cloud providers have at their disposal to apply to security, not to mention the motivation that comes with the realization that their very existence hinges on their ability to secure and protect customer data. It is no surprise that world-class security has become a core competency and value proposition of most major cloud providers.

In the past, CIOs were reluctant to move their companies’ sensitive data to the cloud because of security concerns. Now security is a compelling reason to move it onto the Cloud.

But here’s the rub: With increased cloud use comes increased anxiety over security, as CIOs come to grip with the fact that traditional security solutions either don’t work at all in the cloud or don’t work to satisfy the company’s required needs. In addition, there’s a glaring resource and skills gap. According to a recent CIODive survey, concern among IT leaders about the lack of resources and expertise in cloud security grew from 27% in 2015 to 32% in 2016.

While trust in cloud providers is growing, faith in internal IT’s ability to provide ironclad security and governance in a hybrid and multi-cloud environment is waning.

Moreover, employee-related security risk — which is beyond the purview of cloud providers — remains a top concern.

According to a new survey reported in DarkReading, more than half of organizations attribute a security incident or data breach to a malicious or negligent employee. 66% of the 601 data protection and privacy training professionals surveyed say their employees are the weakest link in their efforts to create a strong security posture.

According to leading industry and government reports, as reported by Identity Management Institute, over 90% of all cyber attacks are successfully executed with information stolen from employees who unwittingly give away their system ID and access credentials to hackers.

More than ever, today’s cloud-heavy IT environments require security-trained, certified professionals and innovative security tools to address the concerns of unauthorized access, data and privacy loss, and compliance.

Overwhelmed by the proliferation of attacks and attack vectors, confused by the array of vendor security solutions, and stymied by their inability to find and hire security experts, CIOs across industries are turning to third-party service providers such as AST for answers, and peace of mind.

Top reasons for engaging a managed services security partner (MSSP) include cost savings, access to skilled professionals, 24/7/365 protection, and proven security expertise.

A well-functioning security operations center (SOC) can form the heart of effective detection, enabling information security functions to respond faster, work more collaboratively and share knowledge more effectively.

At the core, a successful SOC is a strong foundation for operational excellence driven by well-designed and executed processes, strong governance, capable individuals and a constant drive for continuous improvement to stay ahead of cyber adversaries. A good SOC is one that supports business objectives and effectively improves a company’s risk posture. A truly effective SOC is one that provides a safe environment for the business to deliver on its core objectives in line with its strategic direction and vision.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help your organization better protect itself from cyber threats and data breaches by running a secured enterprise.

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Analytics for the Masses

Raina_AbhiBig data, big business, big value

The promise of big data is both compelling and straightforward — crunch large data volumes (operational, transactional, structured, unstructured) to unlock insights (correlations, trends, outliers, etc.) that inform timely decisions that boost efficiency, the bottom line and competitiveness.

Topping the list of the many significant benefits of big-data analytics is customer intimacy, faster, smarter decision-making, greater productivity and sustained competitive advantage. But the prerequisites to achieving big-data analytics are formidable — from ensuring data quality and seamless systems integration to extending analytics throughout the enterprise and incorporating the latest advances in machine learning, AI and IoT.

IDC forecasts worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) will reach $150.8 billion in 2017, an increase of 12.4% over 2016. Commercial purchases of BDA-related hardware, software, and services are expected to maintain a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9% through 2020 when revenues will be more than $210 billion.

The verified, enormous value hidden in big data is driving strong business interest in big data analytics solutions. McKinsey reports that retailers effectively tapping big data can increase operating margins by as much as 60%. Walmart used big data analysis to drive a 10–15% increase in completed online sales for $1 billion in incremental revenue. According to a survey conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review, top-performing organizations are twice as likely as lower-performers to apply analytics in their operations.

The analytics boom continues

Analytics — predictive, historical, diagnostic, reporting, analysis (and other kinds) — are all the rage in business today, and for good reason. The unprecedented data available on your customers and business operations holds the key to not only strengthening customer loyalty and improving core operations but also to driving unparalleled productivity gains, launching new business models and upending entire industries. Organizations that effectively harness analytics will be able to create significant value and differentiate themselves, while those that stall on the analytics front will find themselves increasingly losing ground and trying futilely to catch up. The chasm between the two will only become more pronounced as technological advances in analytics continue and adoption of analytics reaches critical mass.

Across the board, industry experts are predicting big spending on analytics software and services in the years ahead:

  • As reported in Forbes, according to one leading analyst firm, the global analytics market will be worth $18.3 billion by the end of the 2017, representing an increase of 64% since 2015.
  • As reported in InformationWeek, another leading analyst firm predicts that the sales of big data and business analytics applications, tools, and services will increase more than 50%, from nearly $122 billion in 2015 to more than $187 billion in 2019
  • According to IDG Enterprise 2016 Data & Analytics Research, July 5, 2016, improving customer relationships (55%) and making the business more data-focused (53%) are the top two business goals or objectives driving investments in data-driven initiatives today. 78% of enterprises agree that collection and analysis of big data have the potential to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next 1 to 3 years, according to IDG.

A sunny future for cloud analytics

Just a few years ago, on-premise was by far the dominant model for deploying business analytics software. Fast-forward to today, and adoption of cloud analytics is rapidly taking hold.

The obvious reason for the strong growth in cloud analytics is quicker time-to-value, lower technology, maintenance and administration costs, and elasticity.

Most importantly, cloud analytics foster pervasive use of analytics by more people throughout your organization, and while the monetary gain of pervasive analytics/BI might be difficult to measure, more people making better, faster, data-driven decisions is a vital component of success that none would argue against.

In addition, moving analytics to the cloud satisfies scalability and performance requirements, makes it easier to incorporate new and improved user interfaces, enables faster and more efficient information sharing, eases integration of data from other sources, and dramatically speeds up development cycles for new analytic applications.

Check out what industry pundits are saying about the cloudy future for analytics:

  • IDC predicts that by 2018, new cloud pricing models for specific analytics workloads, will drive up to 5 times higher growth in spending on cloud versus on-premises analytics solutions.
  • Gartner expects the majority of new analytics licensing buying to be for cloud deployments by 2020.
  • According to MarketsandMarkets, the cloud analytics market is expected to grow from $7.5 Billion in 2015 to $23.1 Billion in 2020 at a CAGR of 25.1% during the forecast period.

Oracle has cloud analytics covered

A recognized leader in analytics/BI solutions, Oracle has stepped up its big-data analytics game considerably over the past few years, most notably by launching Oracle Analytics Cloud in 2014, the most comprehensive analytics offering in the cloud, combining business intelligence, big data analytics, and embedded SaaS analytics.

Oracle Analytics Cloud combines all analytics capabilities — including planning, predictive analytics, reporting and business intelligence (BI) — in a single SaaS solution. Users can take advantage of a modern, intuitive user experience and save time by planning, analyzing, predicting and collaborating in context. As a true SaaS solution, Oracle Analytics Cloud offers scalability, accommodating everything from small, nimble departmental deployments to global implementations.

Expert guidance needed to win at cloud analytics

Oracle’s analytics/BI strategy is designed to help businesses get beyond limited desktop tools and move to a modern, built-for-the-cloud analytics/BI solution that is accessible to (and easily consumed by) all employees throughout the enterprise.

Bringing this strategy to fruition requires support from third-party service providers with deep expertise in cloud architecture/delivery, extensive application/systems integration capabilities, and a proven track record across the entire spectrum of analytics/BI solutions.

The data required for effective decision making resides in numerous places throughout the enterprise – databases, data warehouses, operational applications, transactional systems, the Internet/Intranet, etc. Realizing the promise of analytics/BI necessitates pulling all of this disparate data together in real time without disrupting business.

For our part, the depth, breadth and flexibility of AST’s Oracle-based analytics solutions combined with our extensive systems integration expertise enables customers of all sizes and across diverse industries to embark upon or accelerate their cloud analytics journey.

At AST, we are committed to helping our customers unlock the potential of their data – wherever it resides, and make better, faster, more informed decisions throughout their organization with Oracle-based analytics solutions.

In working toward this goal with our customers, we leverage the latest cloud, mobile and data-visualization technologies, along with present and future Oracle-based BI and analytics solutions, and increasingly hybrid (on-premise + cloud) delivery models.

When it comes to meeting the analytics needs of our customers, AST’s overarching goal is three-fold: make analytics more affordable; make analytics more efficient and easier to use; and extend the reach of analytics to more business users throughout the enterprise.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help your organization embark on or accelerate an enterprise-wide analytics strategy.

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Managed Services for the Digital Era

Ganguly_SubhasisIs your managed services vendor a trusted transformation partner?

Let’s be honest, management services for supporting enterprise applications have never been a sexy component of the IT world. Typically outsourced, managed services have historically been viewed as ‘keeping the lights on’ work. As soon as an existing application enters a ‘stable state,’ it’s handed off to a managed services provider for ongoing support, reducing the cost of ongoing maintenance and freeing up internal resources to focus on more innovative and strategic initiatives.

Today, however, when we consider the proliferation and ascension of technology in business, the accepted truism that every company is now a technology company, the blinding speed with which technology evolves, and the wholesale business transformation being driven by technology, managed services vendors must do much, much more than ‘keep the lights on’ to remain viable.

The standard approaches to application development and management no longer suffice as the drive to be more agile and deliver solutions faster with higher quality at a lower price becomes stronger. The onus today is on outsourced managed services providers to work in concert with their customers to investigate new technologies and trends, define potential business opportunities, and continuously and quickly deliver transformative applications that delight end users and advance business. Change is constant, the stakes are high, complexity reigns and missteps at any point along the IT value chain can be disastrous.

Given these transformation pressures, it is no surprise that outsourcing of application management services is on the rise. Grand View Research valued the global application managed services (AMS) market at $52.99 billion in 2015 and forecasts it to reach $86.60 billion by 2025. According to Technavio, the global AMS market reached $83.16 billion in 2016 and will experience CAGR of 4.75% to reach $105.02 billion by 2021.

 Cloud complexity and the new role of managed services

As discussed in our last installment of Oracle Cloud Insights (The Cloud is Your Future, Are You Ready?), migrating core business applications to the cloud is the future for organizations of all sizes and across industries. However, knowing where you are going is not the same as knowing how best to get there. There is no cookie-cutter template for cloud migration. It is a highly-complex process fraught with difficulties that should not be embarked upon lightly.

Yet, the truth is many (probably most) organizations rushed into the cloud pell-mell with ‘shadow IT’ initiatives, where line-of-business leaders provisioned point solutions from external cloud providers without consulting IT. While the upside of this practice is speed and in some cases ‘islands of efficiency,’ the downside includes potential security breaches, data-governance issues and runaway complexity with multiple clouds services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) spanning all delivery models (public, private, hybrid).

According to recent data from Cisco Systems (as reported in WSJ), CIOs today estimate their organizations use 91 separate cloud computing services, on average. A more accurate average, according to Cisco, is 1,120.

There are consequences for not carefully considering vital questions such as where will data reside, how will multiple point cloud solutions connect to each other, who will manage this sprawling environment, and how will it serve moving forward as a value driver?

Instead of realizing the promised benefits of cloud computing (lower costs, increased flexibility, faster delivery, etc.), many organizations are burning time and resources establishing data governance, building bridges that connect their various cloud solutions and integrating their cloud solutions with existing, core on-premise systems to facilitate faster and more-efficient process orchestration.

A recent survey of more than 1,071 IT managers and professionals conducted by ScienceLogic, (as reported in Forbes) finds that fewer than one-third have the visibility and control they need into their cloud environments to keep things in check. In addition to security, there is concern about unnecessary and duplicated costs from unused and underused service subscriptions.

Most respondents to a new Fugue survey of more than 300 IT operations professionals, executives, and developers believe that the cloud is not living up to expectations because of compliance and security concerns, unexpected downstream costs, and the glut of cloud management tools available in the market. Only 1 in 5 surveyed felt they are getting “the most” out of the cloud, while 80%feel they are failing to do so.

As IT organizations move toward a more agile, cloud-delivery approach, existing personnel often lack the experience and skills to effectively monitor and maintain a cloud environment. As reported in DigitalByDefaultNews, a survey of 250 IT and business decision-makers conducted by the Cloud Industry Forum in February 2017 revealed that 55% believe their organization does not have the skills required to adapt to digital transformation, with the top three sought-after digital skills being: strategy (37%), digital roadmap for implementation (37%) and cloud specialists (35%).

Similarly, in a recent study by Technical University Munich 64% of companies surveyed said that they do not have the people with the skills necessary for digital transformation, as reported in Forbes.

Given the urgency, complexity and skills shortage surrounding cloud migration, an increasing number of businesses are looking to services providers with the requisite expertise, experience and resources to guide their cloud migration strategy, host their applications and provide the end-to-end managed services needed to accommodate dynamic business requirements and aggressive growth goals.

Pundits concur on the strong and growing market for cloud managed services:

  • MarketsandMarkets predicts the cloud managed services market size is estimated to grow from $35.54 billion in 2016 to $76.73 billion by 2021, at an estimated CAGR of 16.6%.
  • A study conducted by 451 Research (as reported in Forbes) finds that 64% of IT leaders predict they will buy cloud management platforms from service providers in 2017, and 57% of IT leaders expect to partner with Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Hosting Providers (MHP) for both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud initiatives.

Check out AST’s latest webinar to learn why an IaaS backbone is vital to your organization’s success in the cloud.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Cloud experts can help guide and manage your organization’s cloud migration journey.

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