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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.

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Half of SA mobile phone users avoid data activity

Research shows 87% of South Africans have cellphones, but 50% have data issues and a quarter struggle to find a place to charge them

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A Pew Research Center survey of 11 nations has found South Africans second most likely to avoid doing things on their cellphones because of fears of data charges. The 50% of users who report this fear is second only to Lebanon, where 66% avoid data use.

As ownership of mobile phones, especially smartphones, spreads rapidly across the globe, there are still notable numbers of people in emerging economies who do not own – or even use someone else’s – mobile phone, a Pew Research Center survey of 11 nations finds. However, in this department South Africa scores well, with only 13% not having phones – in line with a median of 6% of adults in the countries polled do not use mobile phones at all, and a median of 7% do not own phones but instead borrow them from others. 

These mobile divides between have and have-nots are most pronounced in Venezuela, where about a third of adults (32%) do not own or use mobile phones, India (30%) and the Philippines (27%).

At the same time, the new findings show that mobile divides also exist among those who own phones. A median of 46% in these countries say they frequently or occasionally have difficulties getting reliable phone connections, 37% say it can be a challenge to pay for their phones and 33% report finding places to charge their phones is a problem at least occasionally. In addition, a median of 42% report frequently or occasionally avoiding some activities on their phones because they use too much data. 

In some countries, mobile owners’ challenges are particularly striking. In Lebanon, for example, 77% of phone owners report having problems getting reliable mobile connections, and about two-thirds (66%) say they avoid doing things with their phones because those activities use too much data. In Jordan, nearly half (48%) report having trouble paying for their phone, while in Tunisia four-in-ten (40%) say it can be a challenge to find places to recharge their phones. 

“The spread of mobile phones brings a variety of benefits to users in emerging economies, and they can clearly spell out what appeals to them about the arrival of a phone in their lives,” says Laura Silver, senior researcher at Pew Research Center. “Still, our survey shows that these devices bring new challenges and headaches to users at the same time they open up new divisions in their societies. It turns out that digital divides take several forms in these countries.” 

Beyond those concerns, there are other issues that can disrupt life for some phone users and sharers. Around three-quarters or more of mobile phone owners in every country except India report concerns about identity theft, and around nine-in-ten or more in Mexico (95%), Colombia (94%), Tunisia (90%), South Africa (89%) and the Philippines (89%) say they are at least somewhat concerned about the issue. 

For mobile sharers, concerns about device security can also play a role in why people choose not to own their own devices. While cost is the primary reason mobile phone sharers give for why they do not personally have a phone (a median of 34% across eight countries reports this), the second most commonly cited reason is that a previous mobile phone was lost, broken or stolen. 

Additionally, a median of 29% of mobile owners in these 11 emerging economies report they have frequently or occasionally experienced problems finding information online in their preferred language. This problem ranges from 17% of mobile owners in Jordan to 37% in South Africa – the highest of all countries surveyed.

Other key findings from the survey include: 

Nonuse tends to be more common among adults with lower levels of income and education. In the Philippines, for instance, 10% of respondents with more education say they do not use a phone, compared with 38% of those with lower levels of education. This pattern exists in all 11 countries surveyed. Similarly, across most of the nations, older people are more likely than younger people to be non-users. 

Non-users are divided over whether they would like to own a mobile phone in the future. Venezuelan non-users stand out for their keen interest in acquiring a mobile phone; 86% of mobile phone non-users in Venezuela say they would like to get a phone in the future. Elsewhere, these numbers vary markedly, from around half or more desiring a mobile phone in South Africa (65%), Colombia (61%) and Tunisia (52%), to fewer than half in Mexico (41%), the Philippines (35%), India (31%) and Lebanon (9%). 

In some countries, issues of technological literacy are particularly pronounced. For example, around a quarter of Indians (26%) say the primary reason they share a phone is because it is too complicated to use, followed by Mexicans (11%) and Filipinos (10%). 

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MUST you buy into Black Friday? The pros and cons

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Black Friday, once only a North American marketing frenzy, has become a critical entry in the calendars of South African retail business owners.

Research published by Stats SA says that historically, the most important month of the year for retail trade is December, when many consumers are on holiday and go Christmas shopping. But December 2018 was a tough month for retail in South Africa with the volume of sales falling by 1,4% year-on-year.

The poor performance of retailers in December followed a fruitful November, when Black Friday boosted sales to 2,9% year-on-year.

Dov Girnun, CEO of Merchant Capital, an innovative fintech funder that provides working capital to retail SME’s across the country, says Black Friday presents a moment in time in the sales cycle, and business owners still need to consider whether the concept will make sense for their business’s growth.

“Small business growth is a delicate balance between doing what works and taking advantage of the right opportunities. Retail business owners should carefully weigh up the pros and cons before being swept away by the Black Friday wave,” says Girnun.

Girnun outlines the following pro’s and con’s that retailers should consider before jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon.

Shopper enthusiasm

Pro: Savvy customers look forward to a good bargain. They actually plan their year-end spending around this one retail event. They believe that they will enjoy savings and great deals which will often prompt larger spending and additional ‘treats’ for themselves.

Con: There was a time when festive season shopping mainly occurred in December. Black Friday has changed this. What was normally a very good festive season trade, can now mean rapidly reduced December turnover. Retailers need to work this new spending habit into their projections and stock flow.

Significant noise

Pro: If you can deliver agile marketing messaging and have a tactical social and email marketing campaign behind you, you may well be able to fight the clutter and up your sales in a meaningful way. 

Girnun says: “In our experience, small businesses use the funds we lend them for anything that will be additive to the growth of their business: to hire more employees; buy new equipment; refurbish their store; buy more stock – and even for marketing – they don’t necessarily have to be elaborate plans, but each funding step is crucial to the next.” 

Con: As a small business you are up against the big guys: large retailers with huge marketing campaigns behind them. Certain larger retailers will even offer loss-leaders to draw in customers.

Shed old stock for small business growth

Pro: Small business growth is often the difference between sitting with old stock or shedding your load. Black Friday is a great way to encourage take-up of old redundant inventory. Making way for the new.

Con: On this day, over any other, customers are price-sensitive. They expect a good deal otherwise will gladly shop elsewhere. Heavy discounts might be the only way to win that sale over your competitor. But this is often a discount that isn’t worth the sale.

Scaling up for traffic

Pro: Black Friday is a marketing vehicle to assist in scaling up your customer traffic. It is a unique opportunity to attract new customers and satisfy existing ones. Just make sure that your store has the capability to restock quickly and check customers out efficiently.

Con: Sub-par in-store or online service can have a negative knock-on effect on your brand. So make sure you employ more staff and security on the day and upgrade your online systems so that they can carry an abnormal load should it arise.

Realising retailers’ eleventh-hour cash needs and taking the rapid evolution of technology into account, funders like Merchant Capital have the capability of assessing and approving a loan in just 24 – 48 hours, offering retailers an opportunity to scale up if need be at lower risk.

What are your competitors doing?

Pro: If your competitors are in the space, this may mean it’s good for your vertical. Simply being there may be a good way to claim your stake in some way.

Con: If you aren’t in the game, you can almost guarantee it will be a bad sales day. But FOMO alone (Fear Of Missing Out), is a dangerous hill to climb. So think clearly and make decisions that are right for your business!

Girnun says: “The jury is out as to whether Black Friday makes sense for all small businesses. But what is very clear is that retailers need to think long and hard about capacity, strategy, bottom-line, and long-term impact before committing to partake in Black Friday.”

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