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.

Posted in Cloud Benefits Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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.

Posted in HCM Cloud Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Posted in Enterprise Security Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Posted in Data Analytics Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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.

Posted in Managed Services Tagged with: , , , , , ,

The Cloud is Your Future – Are You Ready?

Patel_NikenMigration 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.

Cloud Spending Soars

There is no denying it, the cloud is here, and cloud adoption rates will continue to accelerate over the coming years. 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.

The Cloud is No Panacea for Complexity

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.  Migrating the core applications that power your organization’s vital business processes is a highly complex process fraught with difficulties, and should not be embarked upon lightly.

Serious questions (and confusion) abound when it comes to:

  • Which business applications are appropriate for the cloud;
  • The order in which applications should be ported to the cloud;
  • Which applications will require redesign and which can be moved as-is to provide quick return;
  • Which platform is most appropriate for each business application;
  • What integration work will be needed to ensure that applications, systems and processes operate well together;
  • What security and compliance concerns should be addressed; and
  • How to avoid disruption of day-to-day operations during the migration process.

On-premise apps and cloud-based apps are not apples-to-apples. Cloud workloads must be designed to run on the cloud. A thorough evaluation of the workloads and the components in the application stack is required before selecting an app for cloud migration.

Last, but not least, there’s the very large question of which vendor or vendors’ cloud solution(s) you should adopt. Be certain that the cloud solutions you select are mature, proven for your business and industry, and will continue to evolve and be supported in the years ahead.

A Hybrid (On-premise & Cloud) Model is Probably in Your Future

Public clouds serve an increasing number of use cases for enterprises today, both for net-new applications and for migrating pre-existing workloads. Despite this peaked interest, for many companies the enterprise data center and certain on-premise applications are not ready or ideally suited for porting to the cloud.

The hybrid model — which integrates on-premise and cloud-based applications (private cloud or public cloud or both) — is emerging as the de facto standard for enterprises today. It is uniquely suited to help businesses redesign their IT operations in a strategically sound way that solves the cloud-migration riddle while protecting and extending existing IT investments.

Analysts and experts agree that the end-state of the current digital revolution is an architecture heavily supporting the hybrid model — an architecture that facilitates non-disruptive cloud migration and enables organizations to deliver applications and vital services through a combination of seamlessly integrated private clouds, public clouds and on-premise systems.

Here’s a sample of predictions on the future of the hybrid model:

 Oracle’s ‘All-in’ Cloud Game

Despite the claims of uninitiated analysts and media types, Oracle is not new to (or late to) the cloud game. Those who have been around Oracle long enough may remember deploying Oracle applications to an Internet browser back in the mid to late 90s (e.g., Forms Server).  Also, there was “Oracle Outsourcing” (circa 2002) an off-premises solution based in Austin, Texas, renamed “On Demand” in 2004. It was 2008 when Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO for 37 years, bemoaned that “Cloud Computing” was a fashionable name for what Oracle was already doing – but enough on marketing semantics.

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 database 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. In 2016, Oracle sold $2.9 billion in cloud annually recurring revenue. As reported by Oracle in it’s Q4 2017 financial results, released in June, total cloud revenues for the year reached $4.7 billion, growing 68%. Oracle reports that SaaS was $3.4 billion, growing 70%, PaaS and IaaS was $1.4 billion, growing 63%.

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.

As reported in ZDNet, Oracle expects roughly 80% of its 400,000+ customers will embrace cloud in the next decade. Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO, Larry Ellison recently stated his strong belief that Oracle has “[…] a fighting chance to be the first cloud company to reach $10 billion in SaaS and PaaS revenue.”

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.

Special Breed of Service Provider Needed for Oracle Cloud Migration

Service providers that are going to advise and guide you to the Oracle Cloud need to have the following characteristics:

  • Comprehensive product capabilities: Most companies are breaking up large monolithic applications — Oracle eBusiness ERP, Siebel, SAP, Peoplesoft, etc. — and migrating a few modules to the cloud at a time. Also, several cloud applications they are migrating to are those from acquired companies/products.  This has created a plethora of service providers who provide one-off Oracle Cloud solution capabilities. But when it comes to applications critical to business operations, customers want to work with a service provider who can cover Oracle’s complete portfolio of cloud solutions—Oracle Cloud, Oracle ERP Cloud, Oracle EPM Cloud, Oracle SCM Cloud, Oracle HR Cloud, Oracle Customer Experience Cloud, and Oracle Analytics Cloud.
  • Experience across cloud delivery options: Apart from application expertise, your advisor should be able to help you make a decision that compares a lift-and-shift approach versus a re-implementation with a cloud application approach. This makes it critical to have a partner who covers the entire range of cloud delivery options—public, private, hybrid and the entire ‘as-a-service’ stack—applications (SaaS), platform (PaaS), infrastructure (IaaS), data (DaaS). Only a true end-to-end service provider can develop the cloud architecture right for your business, presenting an unbiased approach to the cloud based on true expertise and your specific needs.
  • Integration & data management capability: Given the proliferation of the hybrid cloud model, the growing importance of connecting all core applications — SCM, CRM, HCM, ERP, etc., and the ever-present need to integrate with applications of customers and business partners, a service provider’s value proposition stands in direct proportion to their depth of integration expertise. As well as the expertise they bring to you around data management and analytics. As a customer overhauls their IT architecture with cloud applications, the impact on their enterprise data and integration strategy is significant. Proven systems integration experience and the ability to wrest strategy and value from complexity is vital.
  • Security, security, security: Across the board, data security reigns as the top concern for cloud adoption, with security concerns growing in direct proportion to the mission-criticality of the business app (and the data they contain) migrating to the cloud. Businesses today migrating core processes to the cloud need a service provider that delivers advanced and innovative technology solutions and services that empower clients’ business ambition by combining industry insight, IT and applications know-how, and governance/security expertise.
  • Industry experience: Understanding industry best practices and vertical processes have always been a big value add from a service provider to a customer. And in the cloud world, it is even more relevant since customers are looking for recommendations on which cloud modules can handle the complexity, scalability and functionality of their industry. A service provider delivers enormous value to customer precisely at the intersection of vertical knowledge and a multi-pillar cloud strategy.
  • Mobile expertise: As mobility cannot be cleaved from the cloud, today’s popular mantra ‘mobility-first’ presupposes a sound cloud strategy. As the applications exposed via mobility extend deeper into core, mission-critical systems, it becomes increasingly imperative that your cloud services provider is as competent with all facets of mobility — infrastructure, app development, user interface, etc. — as they are with cloud delivery, and vice versa.
  • Research and development: Seek a service provider that has invested heavily in Oracle cloud and related technologies — templates, accelerators, frameworks/methodologies, etc. Your cloud services provider should have a demonstrable history of building and bringing to market industry-specific, out-of-the-box solutions pre-configured with best practices that integrate Oracle and non-Oracle solutions.
  • Change management expertise: To ensure your organization realizes positive short- and long-term results, make sure your service provider has a deep, understanding of how people and processes will change, and can help you structure a communications and action plan that covers the entire migration process.

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

Posted in Cloud Readiness Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Making it Rain with Oracle Sales Cloud

Kapadia_PareshWork smarter, not harder, with SFA

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. With the buyer firmly in the driver’s seat, overburdened and under-supported sellers saddled with outdated technology are unable to meet heightened expectations and provide a satisfying experience.

Poor sales performance, an expanding sales force, missed opportunities, long sales cycles and inability to accurately forecast sales are top indicators that your organization could benefit from sales force automation (SFA) software. Putting pressure on your sales organization to throw more bodies or more hours at the problem won’t get the results you need. Not in today’s dynamic market replete with fierce competitors, complex products and empowered consumers. The secret for success, it turns out, is to work smarter, not harder, by leveraging sales force automation (SFA) solutions.

A subsection of CRM, sales force automation (SFA) is an umbrella term for software designed to eliminate many of the necessary – but time-consuming – tasks associated with selling, including order processing, contact management, information sharing, inventory monitoring and control, order tracking, customer management, sales forecast analysis and employee performance evaluation.

By improving the productivity of all members of your sales force, particularly, your frontline sales representatives, SFA increases both leads and win rates, reduces sales cycles, provides reliable forecasting and, most importantly, improves the customer experience.

A brief history of SFA

As a tech-spending category, sale force automation software has been around for twenty years or so. As the original name for what became known as customer relationship management (CRM), SFA’s origins began with an exclusive focus on sales processes but rapidly evolved and expanded to include all present-day CRM functionality.

It can be argued that SFA began in the ‘80s with ACT!. Billed as contact management software, ACT! was essentially a digital rolodex. In the ‘90s, Siebel Systems was born from Oracle’s internal sales application, and quickly emerged as the leading SFA provider on the market.

In the ‘00s, the .com bubble burst and the SFA market (generally known by then as eCRM) was decimated. Interoperability with legacy software became a major focus, and large vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle (via Siebel acquisition) and SAP entered the CRM fray. In 2007, Salesforce created the next big change by introducing the world to cloud-based CRM.

Today, cloud-based and SaaS CRM solutions continue to gain popularity, largely due to their lower initial cost, around-the-clock availability, integration with back-end systems, support for mobile devices, and capacity to incorporate social technologies as well as, most recently, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). As reported in Forbes, by 2018, 62% of all CRM software will be cloud-based.

 Investing in SFA is strong (and pays off)

According to Gartner, the sales force automation market grew 12.8% in 2016 to reach $5.6 billion and will reach $9.4 billion by 2019. The global SFA spend in 2016, according to Technavo, was $7.2 billion and is expected to reach $11.5 billion by 2021.

SFA implementations are a considerable investment, according to Gartner. Respondents to a recent survey report spending an average of $276,440 each on SFA solutions in their most recent fiscal year, compared with $153,970 on non-SFA sales applications. According to the survey, it appears that money spent on SFA is well spent, with 89% of the respondents claiming to be “very satisfied” or “completely satisfied” with their SFA solution.

Findings from another survey conducted by IDC underscore the significant and measurable benefits of SLA, including:

  • 30% increase in deal closures
  • 18% reduction in sales cycle
  • 14% reduction in sales administration time

When these figures are applied to a multi-million dollar financial institution, the overall productivity and profit increase can be quite substantial.

Research firm Aberdeen Group determined that best-in-class adopters of SFA systems saw their deals increase in size by an average of 27%. In addition, these top SFA adopters decreased the sales cycle by 16% and cut the time-to-quota by 15%, the report found. Using SFA systems, these organizations’ customers’ revenue – and, therefore, buying power – grew 26%, while their sales administrative time was slashed by 14%, Aberdeen Group reported.

 It’s not about making more rainmakers, it’s about making more rain

All hail the rainmakers! Those select few, natural-born sellers who invariably meet or exceed any sales quota placed before them. Historically, the term “rainmaker” was applied to any person who brought clients, money and respect to an organization based solely on his or her individual effort, skill and associations.

This may have sufficed during the age of Willy Loman, but we should never forget that Arthur Miller’s fictional character appeared in a play aptly named “Death of a Salesman.” The reign of rainmakers, if such a time ever truly existed, came to an end with the advent of technology in business.

Today, every sales rep has to face new challenges including fragmented customer data, increasingly bigger and better competition, and more dynamic deals. Customers are also more worldly and wise and have higher expectations. Purchasing departments use algorithms for routine buys, enabling pure economics to trump personal relationships. Corporate buyers frequently request complex, customized, end-to-end solutions that — to close the deal and successfully deliver — require a team of product and industry specialists, timely incentives and extensive back-office support.

The days of lofty, often arbitrary sales quotas handed down by aggressive but uninformed business leaders are a thing of the past. As are the days of sales force leaders indiscriminately spreading quotas across territories with blind faith that their few rainmakers would somehow, once again, save the day.

As Forrester points out, “there is no singular role of salesperson. In today’s world, sales roles can include sales development reps, account executives (field and inside), customer success managers, sales operations, and many more.”

To win in this new age of empowered consumers, the entire sales approach must be re-invented. A more data-driven, team-oriented and technology-enabled approach is called for. It takes an expansive and highly-collaborative team executing an intelligently-conceived, comprehensive, seamlessly-orchestrated strategy to advance sales in business today.

The goal isn’t to replace rainmakers, but to increase the productivity and effectiveness of all members of your sales force by automating time-consuming tasks, better managing territories and opportunities, forecasting intelligently and empowering your entire sales team. In doing all of this, SFA makes every day a rainy day for your organization.

 Not all SFA solutions are created equal

As a centralized, automated business software solution designed specifically for sales professionals, SFA can help businesses across industries. Cloud delivery makes SFA available to organizations of all sizes. But with hundreds (maybe thousands) of competing SFA products on the market today, selecting the one that’s right for your business can be a formidable challenge.

In addition to pricing, ease-of-use, and the requisite feature/benefits catalogue, you want a mature, proven SFA solution that meets your organization’s unique needs (immediate and future), is configured precisely for your industry and supports your sales processes, can incorporate data from throughout your organization, has superior analytics capabilities, supports the latest social and mobile technologies, and has the flexibility and scalability to react and grow in lockstep with your business.

You also need an implementation partner who knows the product inside out and, equally important, has in-depth understanding of your industry and your business.

Oracle Sales Cloud leverages Oracle’s comprehensive product portfolio to offer pre-configured solutions to meet essential industry-specific requirements. The solution’s innovative mobile capabilities help sales reps complete tasks quickly for maximum productivity. Sales Cloud is central to Oracle’s unified customer experience (CX) offering, which includes products for CPQ and marketing automation, among others. Sales Cloud takes advantage of Oracle’s best-in-class cloud portfolio to offer a complete array of sales tools, and an integrated SaaS platform allows organizations to tailor the UI, extend and build as they see fit.

Oracle Sales Cloud is widely recognized and acclaimed by leading industry analysts. Most recently, based on the performance of it Sales Cloud product, Oracle was named a ‘Leader’ by Gartner in its Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation.

According to Gartner, “Oracle has the deepest set of native core and near-core SFA capabilities of the leading SFA vendors [and] one of the deepest vertical-specific product offerings of any vendor in the market.”

AST has more than 20 years of experience working exclusively with Oracle solutions and has 300+ successful Oracle Sales and Oracle Sales Cloud implementations under its belt.

Contact AST today to learn how our Oracle Sales Cloud experts can make it rain for your business.

Posted in CX Cloud Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cloud EPM – What CFOs Want

Callahan_PatrickCFO – From bean counter to trusted advisor

Chief Financial Officers are relatively new to the C-Suite — fewer than 10% of the major companies in the U.S. had CFOs before 1978, compared to 80% or more each year after 2000. Just the same, of all the C-level positions, arguably none have seen their role and responsibilities change as dramatically or their importance to the organization grow as significantly.

Today, CFOs are extending their functional scope from directing finance-centered accounting activities to leading cross-functional teams that link sales, distribution, marketing, finance, customer service, and other critical areas. They are broadening their focus from reducing costs and ensuring governance and control to driving transformation and growing revenue. In short, CFOs are elevating their role from backroom cost managers to boardroom strategic advisers.

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

  • More than 70% of over 380 finance executives polled say supporting decision-making is their number-one goal for 2017. (Kaufman Hall)
  • 40% of CFOs identify strategic planning as one of their biggest priorities. (Grant Thornton)
  • 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)
  • 96% of respondents ranked formulating strategy with the business “high” or “critical,” and 78% ranked improving the effectiveness of company decision-making “high” or “critical.” (Hackett Group)
  • CFOs ranked new revenue growth as a No. 1 priority over generating free cash flow in 2017. (Gartner)

CFOs’ growing influence over IT (and growing reliance on EPM)

In tandem with their transition from accounting and finance leaders into trusted business advisers, CFOs are becoming increasingly influential over IT spending.

A recent Gartner study shows that CFOs (at 32%) have more influence over IT spending than any other executive alone.  As reported by ComputerWeekly.com, more than 40% of respondents to a survey conducted by Forrester Research said that CFOs will gain more influence over technology spending during the next 12 months.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It may be a cliché, but that does not make it any less true. For decades, CFOs had no recourse other than to slog through a sea of spreadsheets in order to report on how their organization (or any aspect thereof) was performing. Not an enviable or effective task by any measure.

Surprisingly, despite tremendous advances in the tools available to finance and accounting departments, spreadsheet madness and disparate point solutions still hamper the CFO’s ability to gain visibility into performance across the enterprise.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Host Analytics and conducted by Radius Global Market Research, spreadsheets remain ubiquitous in finance departments with 43% of respondents reporting that Microsoft Excel plays a significant role. Today, Excel is also being used as an integral part of their strategic financial processes, with a full 57% of survey respondents using it to meet EPM requirements in planning/budgeting, financial reporting/disclosure, and analytics, either on a standalone basis or in conjunction with other tools.

From a technology perspective, according to the survey, 50% of respondents cited a lack of systems and tools and 48% cited difficulty in accessing the necessary data or reports.

EPM to the rescue

Today, CFOs increasingly rely on enterprise performance management (EPM) systems for their numerous measuring, monitoring, analysis and reporting responsibilities. Also known as corporate performance management (CPM) or business performance management (BPM), 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.

Cloud EPM on the rise

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.

Aside from a consensus of positive experience with the cloud, key benefits of cloud EPM cited by Oracle survey respondents include:

  • Staying current on technology/upgrades (75%)
  • Faster deployment (71%)
  • Improvement in service received (66%)
  • Improved flexibility (62%)
  • Access for more users (61%)
  • Better data governance (59%)
  • More accurate numbers (50%)
  • Industry-specific capabilities (48%)
  • Improved security (41%)

Given its increasingly vital role, it is not surprising that strong spending on EPM is predicted over the years ahead, with cloud EPM steadily gaining market share.

  • The EPM applications market is expected to reach $2.8 billion by 2020, compared with $2.2 billion in 2015 at a compound annual growth rate of 4.8%, according to AppsRunTheWorld.
  • 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 intentions 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).
  • According to Stratistics MRC, the global financial analytics market is projected to reach $10.34 billion by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 12.2% during the forecast period.

Planning, Budgeting & Forecasting – ground zero for cloud EPM

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 adviser.

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.

According to a new survey by the consulting firm Kaufman Hall, as reported in CFO Magazine, less than 23% of CFOs are very confident about their company’s ability to maneuver past unforeseen business obstacles, due in part to outdated financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tools and processes. More than 50% of CFOs say they take longer than three months to complete a budget, according to the survey.

A lot can happen in three months. Guiding a business’ performance using annual or even quarterly financial snap shots is akin to rear-view mirror driving, and any business leader worth his/her salt knows that this method is completely unacceptable in today’s fast-paced, dynamic, data-rich, increasingly global, and fiercely competitive market.

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” modules, 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.

Oracle EPM Cloud accolades

According to AppsRunTheWorld, in 2015, Oracle led the EPM pack with 26% market share and $580 million in EPM product revenues. Oracle is ranked a leader in the Forrester Wave: Enterprise Performance Management, Q4 2016 report, and has more than 1,500 EPM cloud customers, according to Forrester.

Last year, Gartner split its Corporate Performance Management Magic Quadrant into two separate reports — strategic CPM (SCPM) and financial CPM (FCPM). This year, Gartner inserted the word “cloud” into its reports, ostensibly, to acknowledge the growing importance and adoption of cloud-based EPM.  Given their new role as strategic advisors, CFOs might take issue with Gartner’s bifurcation/delineation of “strategic” and “finance,” but they can take comfort in knowing that Oracle is named a leader in both Gartner MQs.

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-premises installations.

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The Cloud ERP Imperative – Transform the Core or Suffer Disruption


Digital disruption abounds

Digital transformation has been all the rage for some time now, and for good reasons. Advances in cloud, mobile, IoT and big-data analytics 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%)

Transforming the core

Digital transformation began a decade or so ago as isolated, one-off, departmental projects typically classified as “shadow IT” initiatives. Today, digital transformation is an enterprise-wide, mainstream endeavor — mandated by Boards, supported by C-level execs, and executed continuously by IT and business users working hand in hand.

The piecemeal edge innovations of the past no longer pass muster. To survive and thrive in our current, highly disruptive and volatile business climate, core business processes that drive operations must be completely re-imagined — from the consumer to the core — if your business is to remain relevant and viable.  This means re-examining and questioning everything we think we know about the enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that have powered companies since the 1990s.

Though commoditized by a saturated product mix and ubiquitous deployment at companies large and small, ERP remains the backbone for most companies. ERP is indispensable not only because it automates the back office, but also because, by integrating all data and processes of an organization into a unified system, it enables enterprise-wide analytics to support decision making at all levels. At the same time, legacy on-premise ERP is rightly perceived as static and incompatible with the transformational goals of present-day companies — in addition to being too costly and too complex!

The extensive integration of vast data, information, and applications fuels scope creep and drives up implementation costs. Decades of customization (particularly among early adopters in the energy, manufacturing and distribution industries) exacerbate complexity and add time and cost to upgrades. Myriad, bolted-on legacy apps slow performance and stifle flexibility. Variable ERP pricing models with multiple pricing engines tied to numerous KPIs make it difficult, impossible even, to accurately predict TCO.

Driven by a desire to reduce costs, remove complexity, and increase flexibility and responsiveness, a growing number of businesses are looking to migrate their ERP system(s) to the cloud. In fact, general consensus among industry pundits is that cloud ERP will be the norm within 5 to 10 years.

Key benefits of migrating to cloud or SaaS ERP include fast implementation time; quick access to functionality; reduced IT efforts and costs because both hardware and software operation and maintenance are the provider’s responsibility; flexibility due to subscription rather than licensing contracts; and cost-efficient scalability by way of “pay-what-you-use” concepts.

Cost savings are what most business leaders focus on when considering migrating ERP to the cloud, probably because TCO is readily measurable. According to a 2016 study conducted by Nucleus Research, the average expense for companies to set up their on-premises ERP systems—including software, hardware, consulting, personnel, and training—is about $8 million. Setting up ERP apps in the cloud, according to Nucleus Research, costs just $2.6 million.

Operational costs for on-premise ERP are also higher than cloud ERP. According to Nucleus Research, cloud reduces ERP operational costs by more than 50%.

While these very real and measurable monetary drivers for cloud ERP adoption are compelling, at AST, we believe that infusing our customers’ business with the core transformational power that only cloud ERP can deliver yields the greatest value by far and should rank first in green lighting a cloud ERP initiative.

According to a recent APQC survey, 76% of business leaders said their current ERP system is unacceptable due to a lack of usability. This level of dissatisfaction with a core technology that plays such a vital role in day-to-day operations is completely unacceptable. Period.

Though more difficult to quantify, the ability to adapt to change, make accurate, real-time, data-driven decisions, expand quickly into new markets, accelerate innovation and monitor the entire business from a single cloud platform are real-world benefits that trump mere cost savings.

Oracle ERP history flyby

Oracle has been in the ERP game for three decades, nearly as long as there has been an ERP game to speak of. Oracle E-Business Suite started life as Oracle Financials in 1987. In 1988, Oracle released its first ERP (general ledger) product called Oracle Applications. In 2000, Oracle shipped Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i, the industry’s first integrated suite of enterprise applications, and by 2005, Oracle had completed its acquisition of PeopleSoft (and PeopleSoft’s acquisition JD Edwards). Adding to the company’s arsenal of ERP products, Oracle Fusion Applications became generally available in 2011. Oracle officially entered the public cloud space with the launch of Oracle ERP Cloud and Cloud HCM products in 2012.

To be sure, Oracle is bullish on all of its cloud offerings, but particularly on the future of Oracle ERP Cloud, and for good reasons…

Oracle ERP Cloud is a complete, innovative, proven and modern suite to manage accounting, financial planning, procurement, projects, and more. Its functional breadth and depth supports organizations of all sizes and across all industries. A highly scalable architecture makes it perfect for large, complex, global, and transaction-intensive industries, and embedded analytics with role-based dashboards enable data-driven decision making at all levels. Native contextual social collaboration and mobile accessibility add to Oracle ERP Cloud’s transformational power.

Oracle ERP Cloud’s impressive traction

The active base of Oracle ERP Cloud customers is on track to reach 4,000, and if the company’s latest quarter is any indication, this milestone will be notched and surpassed sooner rather than later.

Oracle’s third-quarter fiscal 2017 results opened some eyes, to say the least, as the company reported 564 new cloud ERP customers (excluding Netsuite). While 120 of these were expansions by existing customers, 50% were first-timers to Oracle ERP Cloud, highlighting the company’s strong momentum in gaining cloud ERP market share.

Oracle has received acclaim from all leading analyst firms for its cloud prowess in general and for cloud ERP in particular. Most recently, Oracle ERP Cloud was named a Leader in Gartner’s 2017 “Magic Quadrant for Cloud Core Financial Management Suites for Midsize, Large and Global Enterprises” research report.

Accolades from analysts are nice, but Oracle has its sights set sharply on dominating the bourgeoning market for transformational cloud ERP solutions. With demand growing among new and existing customers, and support from dedicated partners such as AST, Oracle’s gains in the cloud ERP market are certain to accelerate in the years ahead.

ERP’s strong (and cloudy) future

By all accounts, spending on ERP is expected to be strong over the next several years and adoption of cloud ERP is forecasted to grow dynamically during this period.

Check out this roundup of recent ERP predictions from leading market research firms:

  • According to Apps Run the World, the ERP applications market is expected to reach $84.1 billion by 2020, compared with $82.1 billion in 2015 at a compound annual growth rate of 0.8%.
  • According to Market Research Engine, the market for ERP is predicted to be worth more than $49.50 billion by 2020.
  • Projections from Allied Market Research place the anticipated ERP market growth at approximately $41.69 billion in sales by the year 2020. And between 2014 and 2020 they expect the market to register a growth of 7.2%.
  • In 2017, Gartner predicts enterprises will spend $30+ billion on ERP.
  • According to Gartner, ERP is the single largest category of enterprise software spend, at $31.4 billion in 2016. In the last five years, SaaS ERP growth has exceeded 25% per year.
  • By 2018, according to Gartner, almost a third of service-centric companies will move the majority of their ERP applications to the cloud.
  • 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.
  • Allied Market Research forecasts that on-premise ERP software will continue to hold a majority of market share by 2020, occupying up to 57%. However, cloud-based ERP continues to rise in popularity, with a projected growth of up 10% by 2020.
  • 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%.
  • 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 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.”

Cloud ERP migration – strategy, expert guidance needed

Given the vital role ERP systems play as the transactional backbone of a company, the myriad, intelligent ways of migrating ERP to the cloud, and the knowledge that migrating ERP to the cloud is not a question of ‘if’ but rather questions of ‘when’ and ‘how,’ it is no wonder that pulling the trigger on ERP cloud migration is not done lightly. Nor should it be.

For net-new Oracle customers, Oracle ERP Cloud is a no brainer. For existing Oracle ERP customers (E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards) Oracle ERP Cloud is your future. While the Oracle Applications Unlimited promise to continuously support and innovate current applications remains unchanged, economics and competitive pressure make migrating ERP to the cloud an imperative for which all companies should be actively planning (if not already executing).

Oracle ERP 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.

There is no cookie-cutter tool for ERP cloud migration. Each company has its unique ERP environment, market forces, corporate objectives, industry imperatives, customer expectations, and enterprise IT priorities — which is why, at AST, we provide a prioritization framework along with an arsenal of best practices, pre-built templates, project accelerators, and above all, the deep industry and business process expertise needed to guide our customers along their unique ERP cloud migration journey.

But laggards beware — Oracle ERP Cloud is sure to be a disruptive force in the years ahead, giving first movers and early adopters a significant competitive advantage not easily matched.

Contact AST today and let our Oracle ERP Cloud experts put the power of transformation to work for your business.

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