As I listened to Oracle's recent industry analyst briefing on the future of Oracle Cloud Customer Experience (CX), Oracle's front-office software, I couldn't help wondering whether we have finally resolved the ongoing debate about seeking out best-of-breed applications for every function versus going with an integrated suite. I get this question across all my company’s advisory practices in software, services and yes, even hardware.
It’s just a fact that the best-of-breed approach can become an integration effort, with a separate upgrade cadence for each software package—potentially followed by integration troubleshooting each time around. There really are no “magic APIs” for large enterprise apps. Enterprises need to weigh a potential order of magnitude value-add in a point product versus these challenges outlined above. I’m not saying it’s never worth it, but it better be.
Oracle has a suite and issues software upgrades quarterly, and because the underlying software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform is unified, enterprises can immediately consume the new features without additional application updates and integration testing.
For many, the debate is over, and Oracle, with an integrated suite of front- and back-office applications (Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications) running on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), has carved out one of the most unique positions in the market as a leading enterprise applications suite. Trust me, all major enterprise software and services members are headed in this direction and investing capital to get there. Oracle is already here.
With the backdrop of changes to the CX division in the last year, I wanted to confirm that the state of the Oracle nation under Oracle Founder and CTO Larry Ellison was still strong.
Consumer expectations favor an integrated approach to CX
I agree with the logic behind a unified approach to CX. Consumers want to choose the channel, whether mobile, online agent chat or in-person, and they want the ability to jump effortlessly from one channel to another without losing the context of the interaction.
Consumers also want to be able to purchase products and services across any channel. The consumer is concerned about safety and privacy, but is willing to trade some insight into their digital identity in exchange for the perfect customer experience.
Companies must respond to these trends by managing data from multiple sources in a scalable and secure way to respond to consumers with one voice across the organization. A solution with a cloud-based integrated approach will provide the appropriate risk mitigation and cost controls without sacrificing the needed capabilities.
Traditional approaches to CX will likely not work in the future
In the past, bespoke processes covering a specific function, such as sales or a call center, often led to many single-purpose applications. In new markets, this makes perfect sense. Over time, many of these single-purpose solutions are unsustainable because every company needs to focus on reducing operating costs through simplification. There’s also the notion of over-serving needs, too. I believe that fully meeting customer expectations requires reliably orchestrating information and data across front- and back-office systems, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), human capital management (HCM), supply chain and manufacturing (SCM).
Oracle believes that single-purpose CX technology is not sustainable. Its efforts to modernize CX involve leveraging the Oracle Fusion Applications platform for infrastructure, operations, security and data to support end-to-end flows and native cloud services. The integrated approach enables its customers to break down organizational silos, standardize and automate processes, and manage financial, supply chain, HR, and customer experience data on a single integrated cloud platform.
A CX process that facilitates going from a sales opportunity or a service escalation directly to a Zoom video conference, for example, I believe, can unlock people’s ability to solve problems in different ways and locations. The value obtained from an integrated system is even more appreciated in light of new work habits as the workforce becomes less urban and more distributed and global.
Integrated CX suites enable innovation
I think sales automation can be significantly enhanced by connecting it with the back-office functionality and data stored in Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP, enabling sales to spend more time selling rather than forecasting.
To take another example, a recommendation engine can use customer data to inform a salesperson of prospect profiles that share key traits with customers who have previously bought a particular product. The recommendation engine not only identifies which prospect companies should be approached next, but also automatically launches targeted digital advertising. The automated lead qualification and generation system can also generate a proposal for the customer. The system keeps track of all products and relevant references, while machine learning and AI identify the best sales opportunities for a given product.
Innovation like this cannot happen without integrating the complete suite of applications from sales to service to marketing and advertising, and from front-office to back-office.
Oracle tailors integrated products for specific industries
Oracle is at the next stage of maturity for integrated suites, which is to tailor them to specific industries. For example, an integrated package of sales, service and marketing automation, known as Digital Experience for Communications, is now available specifically for the communications industry.
Oracle offers a hybrid solution where both legacy technologies and modern systems coexist. The legacy system serves as the system of record until the business is ready to replace it with a modern cloud-based system. Given its scope and history as an application and technology provider, Oracle is uniquely positioned to shepherd the migration from legacy to modern solutions.
For example, Oracle cites an example from the telecommunications industry. During the pandemic, Telefónica needed to adjust its service routing processes in order to be even more efficient and spend less time inside a client’s home. This is important considering the company responds to over 50,000 calls per day in Brazil. Service and maintenance also requires a large inventory of parts and skilled technicians. Oracle demonstrated the complex but seamlessly orchestrated flows across digital engagement channels, IoT service, field service, logistics and repair. This made for a streamlined flow representing one view of data across CX interactions that included the logistics of parts and getting technicians out into the field—all of which made life easier for one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world.
Is the debate over on “best-of-breed” versus a suite? I think people will still debate it, but enterprises want and need functionality that look, feel and operate like integrated suites. You can get there with a lot of integration work entailing many people and time or you can adopt a suite. Those are the choices.
As markets, consumers, and employee expectations mature, companies must have a moment of introspection and extrospection to see if all the extra work is worth the perceived benefits of “best-of-breed”. Do employees and customers really need that 500th new feature? Is the need being over served? Are employees just comfortable using the same tool for a decade without significant, incremental ROI? If not then enterprises need to strongly consider moving from integrating and maintaining fragile collections of disparate applications to more cost effective, efficient and innovative products that seamlessly connect front and back office business processes.
With a best-of-breed approach, there would be separate ERP, HCM and CRM systems with multiple suppliers to manage. Updates from several suppliers typically result in complicated, expensive, and error-prone integrations. There are no magic APIs, but I wish there were for hard core enterprise apps. Oracle delivers Fusion Applications through a SaaS model, and upgrades are released every ninety days, and it does all the integration testing. I am not cheerleading here, just pointing out facts.
In summary, Oracle’s CX development focus is on next-generation solutions for sales and service, supported by an integrated applications platform running on OCI. The bet is that the modernized version of the integrated suite will retain Oracle’s existing customers at the same time it attracts new customers challenged with existing investments in best-of-breed solutions.