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Oracle’s new strategy: cloud apps that learn

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At its recent Openworld conference, Oracle unveiled a strategy for Software as a Service cloud offerings that blend third-party data with real-time analytics and behavioural inputs to create cloud applications that adapt and learn.

The result: intelligent cloud applications that automatically offer individualised recommended actions and streamline the tasks of business users, such as human resource or finance professionals.

Called Adaptive Intelligent Applications, these cloud offerings are based on the insights contained within Oracle’s Data Cloud, which is a collection of more than 5-billion consumer and business profiles, with over 45 000 attributes. When activated, these new Adaptive Intelligent Applications use Oracle’s web-scale data and apply advanced data science to learn and ingest data about an organisation’s users and their behaviours to deliver targeted information to customers and employees. The insights from these deep analytics build a knowledge base that helps improve business results across organisations.

R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research said: “There is a huge opportunity to monetize digital business through machine learning applications and analytics, and Oracle’s large corpus of data, strong expertise in data science, massive compute power, industry and domain expertise, and breadth of application solutions make it well-suited to be a leader in the quickly growing space.”

“A company’s data is its most valuable weapon. To remain competitive today, companies must access their information in real time to intelligently forecast and grow,” said Steve Miranda, Oracle’s executive vice president of applications development. “Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications leverage anonymized information from our extensive Data Cloud to optimize existing Cloud Application functionality. When this is combined with a company’s own data, we are able to provide unparalleled customized insights to help enhance business performance.

Oracle provided the following information:

Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications have direct benefits for functional business units, providing them with actionable business and customer insights to make more informed decisions:

  • Finance professionals can nimbly negotiate best supplier terms, while optimizing cash flow needs and balancing costs – especially during critical financial events such as the end of a quarter or for a high volume of payables.
  • Human Resources recruiters can automatically identify best-fit candidates in the shortest time and HR managers can create job descriptions that will help candidates more efficiently find the best and most well-suited positions.
  • Marketing and Commerce managers can drive higher conversion rates, lift, repeat purchases, and ultimately, revenue, with smart, contextual offers and recommended actions for individual consumers.
  • Supply Chain managers can automatically find the best options to distribute goods around the world, while optimizing costs and price for both the buyers and the transporters to provide the best value freight and transportation options for enterprise shippers.

“Within the foreseeable future, every enterprise application will be a smart application that intuitively learns from interactions with an enterprise’s data. Oracle’s new Adaptive Intelligent solutions take this value proposition a step further. They are set apart from others by allowing the intelligent applications to learn from billions of anonymized consumer and business profiles available from Oracle.” said Dave Schubmehl, research director of cognitive systems and content analytics for IDC.

Building on its industry-leading suite of Cloud Applications, Oracle further expanded its SaaS portfolio with additional new Cloud Applications and enhancements that span sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and other areas of business. Some of the new offerings include:

·       Oracle Engagement Cloud, part of Oracle’s Customer Experience Cloud portfolio, is a new offering, which combines Oracle’s sales and service capabilities in one, providing a unique combination of sales automation, service request management, knowledge management, and customer self-service. Oracle Engagement Cloud enables organizations’ employees to deliver both sales and customer services from a single screen, powering a one-stop customer experience. Oracle Engagement Cloud helps improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, while increasing up-sell opportunities, particularly for organizations providing high-touch and high value customer engagements, such as wealth managers, enterprise sales reps, or managers who need access to service request in industries such as financial services, high tech and industrial manufacturing, consumer goods, and communications.

·       Oracle Financial Consolidation and Close (FCCS) Cloud, part of Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management Cloud portfolio, enables Chief Financial Officers at organizations of all sizes to minimize risk, provide transparency, and ensure accurate results of the close. Able to rapidly deploy in weeks, Oracle FCCS provides CFOs the operational agility they need to effectively communicate their financial results to internal and external stakeholders, to quickly consolidate the operating results of an acquired business to help ensure compliance, and to scale globally without a need to re-implement core financial processes or systems.

·       Oracle Revenue Management Cloud, part of Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud, increases visibility into the status and value of contracts, delivers compliant revenue recognition, and creates configurable and auditable revenue entries. The solution allows companies to adhere to the ASC 606/IFRS 15 core principles, accelerating the transition to the new accounting standards. Oracle ERP Cloud’s new enhancements deliver new support to Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and their organizations with revenue recognition standards and multi-period accounting capabilities. Driving efficiencies and controls, Oracle ERP Cloud also enables organizations to scale globally with multi-language, multi-GAAP, multi-currency, and localization extensions that can transform finance organizations. As the most complete, modern, and proven ERP Cloud solution, Oracle ERP Cloud’s rapidly expanding customer base includes strong momentum in the public sector and with state and local governments.

·       Oracle Student Cloud’s new Oracle CX for Higher Education uses Oracle’s intuitive mobile technology to help recruiters boost their pipeline by targeting and qualifying best-fit prospects via social, email, and SMS CRM capabilities. Oracle Student Recruiting Cloud’s embedded analytics also help improve forecasting and monitor and optimize recruiters’ performance in their territories. Student Management Cloud is Oracle’s first application of student information systems (SIS) in the Cloud. It provides a student management roadmap and the foundation for nontraditional university functionality in a comprehensive, next-generation SIS that supports changing academic models by managing flexible academic structures, personalized learning, just-in-time intelligence, and BYOD access.

·       Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud’s latest release provides healthcare solutions to manage complex labor rules and contractual terms that enable customers to define eligibility rules for core Human Resources and criteria for benefits, absence, time, and labor and payroll. Oracle also helps provide an added layer of auditing, which can be easily managed in the Cloud. Additional global and industry extensions for higher education, retail, manufacturing, public sector, and professional services, also make it easier for multinational organizations to deploy and configure the solutions with expanded localizations for 99 countries.

·       Oracle Internet of Things Cloud collects data and conducts analysis in real time. Line of business users, such as Manufacturing Plant Managers, can monitor real-time quality control, get early insights into predictive maintenance needs, improve worker and equipment safety, and optimize yield through Oracle’s IoT Cloud Applications.

·       Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud updates enable increased flexibility, reduced costs, and improved performance and visibility across the business. This comprehensive foundation allows forward-thinking organizations to optimize their global supply chains from ideation to design, to order capture, to manufacturing and planning, to shipping and logistics. Leverages the additional insights available through capabilities such as the Internet of Things and Oracle Data Cloud, Oracle offers the Intelligent Supply Chain.

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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