Fusion Financials Hits the Spot

Fusion Financials in the CloudMy Oracle E-Business Suite Consultants have been looking at the new Oracle Fusion Financials. Their general comment seems to be that Oracle has got it right at last! Businesses looking for the power and flexibility of a tier 1 finance system but with the usability of simpler tier 2 systems  should certainly consider Oracle’s Fusion Financials. The cloud edition will shortly be available here in Australia and we can’t wait!

Some initial comments from my team:

  • User Guides – complete re-written and understandable (R11/12 are not really).
  • User Interface – standardised across all modules and modern browser views (R12 html screens are still old and slow with the torchs for searching, etc)
  • Reporting  – built in to the application (a shortcoming in R11/12)
  • Analytics  – built in and seem quite useful
  • Customisation – seems to very customisable (R11/12 not. R10 was)
  • Workflow – R11/12 workflow gone and new standard BPM across all apps
  • Cloud – better capability to provision over the cloud
  • MS Office integration
  • Rapid Implementation
  • Invoice Scanning – built into Payables Application
  • Bank reconciliation – finally on one screen you can see System Transactions and bank transactions side by side….
  • End of month  – standardised end of month close across all modules
  • Accounting
    • immediate posting to GL via Sub-ledger
    • on-screen anytime reconciliation of Receivables/Payables accounts (this has been a major pain for business)
  • Accounting/sub-ledger separation – this is evident in inventory costing where you do inventory transaction and seperately the accounting engine does accounting depending on whether its FIFO, Standard, Average, etc

In summary the cloud edition of Fusion Financials seems impressive. Netsuite and SAP Business By Design now have a strong competitor.

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Capitalising on your staff’s Strengths

Capitilise on the Strengths of your TeamOne of the challenges I have in growing my business is finding and retaining great talent. I can across the follwing wisdom from Professor Kim Cameron of the University of Michigan who has been researching businesses for 25 years. It’s common sense maybe but useful to see it confirmed by research.

Capitalizing on Strengths

  • Identifying people’s strengths (and what they do right) and building on them creates more benefit than identifying weaknesses (or what they do wrong) and trying to correct them.
  • Managers who spend more time with their strongest performers (rather than the weakest performers) achieved double the productivity.
  • In organizations where workers have a chance to “do what they do best everyday,” productivity is one and a half times greater than in normal organizations.
  • People who are given feedback on their strengths are significantly more likely to feel highly engaged and to be more productive than people who are given feedback on their weaknesses.
  • Students who are given feedback on their talents have fewer days of absenteeism, less tardiness, and higher GPAs than students who get no feedback on their talents.

Thanks to John Price for sharing this with me.

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Off-the-shelf Oracle database servers

Implementing mission critical enterprise database servers used to be a lengthy process. Configuring server hardware, implementing clustering, and making sure all of the software components are correctly patched and configured can be very time consuming. Oracle seems determined to change that, with the Oracle Database Appliance (ODA) launched recently to huge fanfare.

So why bother with an integrated pre-configured solution?

It really comes down to complexity. The ability to simply unpack an appliance and have the baseline functions work as advertised is a huge improvement.

Of course Dataweave charges clients for complex server installations. But from our perspective, we now have an option we can offer to clients which allows common solutions to be delivered much faster, and with less engineering time. The reduction in complexity and implementation risk offers a huge benefit for both us, and our clients.

Implementation time for a full RAC cluster high availability system is normally 1 to 2 weeks. With ODA it can be done in a single day! It will certainly reduce the quantity of services we need to charge for, but on the bright side that can only make us more competitive and keep our customers happier!

They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Dataweave has already proven that ODA is very tasty indeed.

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We have already implemented ODA as the Database server for an E-Business Suite project for our client Nextgen Distribution. Nextgen Distribution are a start-up company that will be distributing Oracle hardware and software products in Australia. They have aggressive growth plans, and have wisely decided to invest in scalable systems from startup, to avoid scalabilty issues down the track.

Because we have implemented the first Oracle Database Appliance in Australia, I have been lucky enough to meet with the development team and most of the beta partners for this new device at Oracle OpenWorld. Their comments have been interesting and match our own experiences in the Dataweave lab.

The Oracle Database Appliance really packs a performance punch, weighing in at 73kg and 4RU. It arrived in an incredibly robust shipping crate, and unpacking literally took longer than the appliance setup to get the database up and running.

Because we were working with a pre-release version of the appliance, we needed to update the box to the latest software image. From there it was plain sailing. No messing around with SAN configuration, no missing packages in the Linux operating system, and no version mismatches.

Going forward, I think this box has the potential to revolutionise the database market. It has lower maintenance costs in terms of DBA, sys admin and storage engineer time. Even better, it is soft-key re-configurable from 2 core single node to a 24 core dual node RAC cluster. It will be interesting to see how they go!

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OpenWorld – Cadillacs, roach motels, and all things Larry

Every OpenWorld I have attended really revolves around two things – new product announcements, and a chance to see the legendary Larry Ellison perform to a huge audience. This year’s closing keynote didn’t disappoint on either count.

Out of the gate, we heard that the long delayed Oracle Fusion Applications are now live at more than 200 customer sites. After a 2 year development delay, this is a huge milestone for a crucial platform. More than 100 Fusion Applications are now generally available.

Larry posed the question:

Why did we rewrite E-Business Suite, Peoplesoft, and Hyperion? They were already market leading products.

It is simple – Oracle Fusion Applications are designed to run in the cloud.

Oracle decided several years ago to re-architect their portfolio of enterprise applications, building everything on a modular technology stack designed for Internet deployment. The payoff is now available in the Fusion Applications.

The rebuild allowed the use of modern security models, a service orientated architecture, and efficient operation in virtual machine environments. In addition, user interfaces across the product set have been streamlined and made consistent, and analytics are consistently baked into every app.

Larry then made his point crystal clear – showing a screen from SAP R/3 – comparing it to looking at the fins of a 1957 Cadillac. Great technology for the era, but of little relevance to today’s business world.

When I was an Oracle sales rep many moons ago, one of the first lessons that was drummed into me was NEVER “dash to the demo”. First make sure you know what your audience wants to see.

I don’t understand why Larry felt the need to break his own rule, but he decided to run us through a demo of several Fusion Applications. The software tools look great, but boy those auditorium chairs were feeling hard by the end of it! With about 10,000 people in the audience, there were more than a few glazed eyes by the end of it.

One of the most interesting announcements of the keynote was the introduction of the Oracle Public Cloud, a broad set of integrated services that provide customers with subscription-based, self-service access to Oracle Fusion Applications, Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Database. All managed, hosted and supported by Oracle.

The Oracle Public Cloud includes Oracle Fusion Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Cloud Service, Oracle Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud Service, Oracle Social Network, Oracle Java Cloud Service and Oracle Database Cloud Service.

Customers can also take existing standard Java and Oracle Database applications and deploy them to the Oracle Public Cloud without rewriting them, allowing them to take advantage of their existing IT assets and skills. You can move any database into the Oracle cloud and back out again, or shift it to the Amazon cloud. Platform and data portability has always been one of the key strengths of the Oracle database, and these new cloud services stick to that philosophy.

From biblical allusions to tawdry comparisons, Larry was on a roll. Poking fun at Salesforce.com in particular, he singled them out as the standard bearer for all of the current ills afflicting the cloud business model.

Beware of False Clouds.

You can check in, but you can’t checkout. Salesforce is the Roach Motel of clouds.

Rounding out the announcements was the new Oracle Social Network! While Facebook is certainly not going to be shaking in their boots, it could give Microsoft some heartburn.

Designed to integrate fully with Fusion Applications, it allows users to share real-time information and collaborate. It draws heavily on information from the human resources system, and employee’s own private social networks. Tools include personal profiles, groups, activity feeds, status updates, discussion forums, document sharing, co-browsing and editing, instant messaging, email, and web conferencing.

Overall, a great set of announcements, and a strong showing for the new Fusion Applications. Now we just need to wait to see how many of the promised features made it into version 1.0.

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Oracle OpenWorld 2011 – Day 1

It has been an exciting day at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 in San Francisco, which started formally today. The scale of the event is truly amazing. Oracle seems to virtually take over downtown San Francisco, delivering a bonanza to all of the nearby hotels – who have managed to sell out all their rooms, at incredibly high daily room rates.

Oracle OpenWorldThere are more than 45,000 registered attendees from 117 countries. The exhibition takes up an enormous 300,000 sq ft, with 450 partners exhibiting. I am on the look out for new products to bring back to Australia, which means I am going to have very sore feet by the end of the event.

The conference started with the Oracle Partner Forum. In the Asia Pacific territories (which include Australia), 80% of Oracle’s licence revenue is transacted via business partners. Speaking as an Oracle business partner, I would say that is because customers appreciate the value we deliver, especially in terms of expertise and support.

Oracle used the opportunity to discuss their first channel-specific product – the Oracle Database Appliance. But more about that later.

Larry Ellison Announces Exalytics

Larry Ellison Announces Exalytics at OpenWorld

The first day of sessions was capped off with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s opening keynote.

Ellison was in fine form, talking about the secret sauce that makes Oracle’s Database Server Exadata so fast. Built using an entirely parallel architecture – everything from disk through to the database, resulting in 10x faster data movement. In addition to ultra high performance, a 10x reduction in the storage space required is achieved through columnar compression. All together, delivering a 100x reduction in the time needed to process data.

Real customer stories were mentioned, such as Australian Finance Group, who managed an 8 times improvement in performance of their Siebel application.

This extra power and performance can also translate into cost savings. The Commonwealth Bank achieved a 50% reduction in operating cost by moving to Exadata, giving them a 150% ROI. Overall, Oracle announced that they have sold 1,000 Exadatas in the past year – a strong launch for a new enterprise server product.

Exadata and Exalogic are database and application servers respectively. Larry announced the new Sparc T4 based Supercluster, and showed it outperforming IBM’s fastest P7 chip in benchmarks.

Also shown was the Exalytics computer – a parallel in memory Business Intelligence machine that transacts at ‘the speed of thought’. If the product performs as promised, it will calculate sophisticated analysis and reports instantaneously, which will be tremendous for businesses with a lot of data to analyse.

Providing real time access to business analytics could have huge benefits to organisations with call centres, allowing them to give customer service representatives access to instant bill analysis and product recommendations while they are chatting to customers.

I am sure there will be plenty of announcements over the next few days. Hopefully I will also get a chance to see a little more of downtown San Franscisco while I am here.

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Counting the cost of carbon emissions

I know this may come as a surprise – but I think carbon dioxide is rather dull. Fundamental to our planet’s ecology, but dull nonetheless. All those years ago at university when I was studying engineering, I can’t say that I ever put much thought into it (after all its only 0.039% of what we breathe), and I am sure I was not the only engineering student who had other things on his mind at the time.

This week, we saw the Australian federal government finally introduce their legislation for carbon pricing – and when they say carbon, they of course really mean carbon dioxide emissions. No business leader wants to pay more tax than necessary, so pretty soon many businesses will be attempting to measure their emissions.

So while carbon dioxide might be dull – measuring and tracking it can be a seriously interesting technical challenge. Oracle has recently acquired a innovative Australian developed solution in this area – now available globally as  Oracle Environment Accounting and Reporting.

Regardless of the carbon price itself, just think how complicated things might get. Your business clients might start demanding verifiable measurements of your own emissions – at least those relating to the business inputs you provide to them. Tax considerations play a major role in business decisions at an executive level, so this is an area where many companies will need to quickly lift their game.

Transportation related activities are obviously a major source of emissions, and an area where many organisations can perhaps find easy efficiencies.

CIO magazine published an article this week about our client Orix, covering how they used our database support and performance tuning services to get more from their existing ERP application. Orix specialise in vehicle leasing and fleet management. With support  from Dataweave, Orix has been able to shift the focus of their inhouse IT team away from fighting fires, to planning and delivering business improvements.

With our help, Orix has increased the data analysis and reporting performance of their ERP system significantly, enabling them to extract far more value from the information embedded in their enormous volume of monthly transactions. The result of these performance gains was EnviroMotion – a web portal service for their clients, which provides sophisticated vehicle carbon footprint reports, with estimates of CO2 vehicle emissions based on manufacturer specifications, fuel usage, and distance travelled.

The solution now produces exception reports, allowing Orix fleet clients to easily identify ways in which they can reduce both costs and emissions.

To me, this project really highlights the importance of taking small practical steps to improve operational performance, as they can enable enormous business improvements over a longer time frame.

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Preserving the legacy of Itanium

The death of Intel’s Itanium processors has been trumpeted by the media on many occasions over the last 10 years. Produced in conjunction with HP, the processor was intended right from the start to be a radical experiment, focused largely on solving the performance and scalability issues surrounding high availability servers and scientific computing workloads in the early 90s.

Dead EndWhen Itanium first hit the market – very, very much later than originally planned – it became clear that while it had many powerful features, most businesses were more comfortable using low cost generic x86 servers. Leaving Itanium as a specialised server microprocessor, geared towards premium servers trying to deliver mainframe class reliability, availability, and serviceability.

So Itanium has been bucking the market trend for some time, and has been largely irrelevant in server commoditisation, and offered few performance advantages for mainstream enterprise software. As a result, vendor support and interest has dwindled on both the hardware and software side.

The 1990s saw enterprise software vendors typically offer and support several processor and OS platforms for their major products – because the high performance server market was very fragmented. Those days are long gone, with enterprise software vendors now focused almost entirely on developing and optimising for Xeon x86 servers.

While Oracle is taking some heat for recently dropping Itanium from their development roadmaps, they are hardly the first vendor to focus their efforts elsewhere. In 2010, Microsoft announced that Windows Server, Visual Basic, and Microsoft SQL Server would cease future development for Itanium. Intel is still developing new Itanium processors, so Itanium will continue as a hardware platform – but key enterprise software will be frozen at current revisions.

The question for businesses that rely on Itanium infrastructure becomes one of risk management, performance optimisation, and increasingly specialist support skillsets.

Supporting and performance tuning legacy software platforms is part of our daily business at  Dataweave. It is not necessary to instantly junk your infrastructure just because a vendor has decided to stop supporting the platform.

However, if your key business applications depend on Oracle databases running on Itanium hardware platforms, when you have the opportunity to refresh your hardware, I would suggest crossing a new Itanium server off the shopping list. I would recommend considering Oracle’s new and hugely successful Exadata database machine, along with the other usual suspects – Intel x86 commodity servers, IBM’s P series, and Oracle’s SPARC M-Series.

If any business critical legacy platform is achieving service availability goals, then securing support resources and skillsets becomes a key factor for your risk management strategy. As transaction rates or storage needs outgrow hardware capabilities, the ability to smoothly plan and execute migration strategies becomes critical to ensure business continuity.

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