Apps—in this day and age, we all use them, whether on our smartphones, tablets, or PCs. We rely on them for entertainment, navigation, news, and productivity, and so much more. What many consumers don’t realize, though, is that there’s a whole other category of apps outside of the consumer realm, geared specifically towards the internal operations of businesses. Within this app category called “enterprise apps” are several subsets, which includes Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Human Capital Management (HCM), Customer Experience (CX), and last, but not least, Marketing, Sales and Service apps.
One company I have recently started covering is Oracle who is a major player in enterprise cloud apps that is taking market share from SAP and putting increased pressure on Salesforce and Workday as organizations move away from point solutions and look for a full suite of applications that can support the front and back office. The cloud software company recently unveiled updates to its ERP, EPM, and SCM offerings, which I would like to take a closer look at today. Let us dive in.
Intelligent tools for beleaguered finance teams with updated ERP and EPM
ERP and EPM applications are valuable tools for enterprise finance teams to optimize their business processes. An ERP system, essentially the backbone of any business, seeks to give businesses visibility into their complete financial position, throughout all lines of business. This enables them to unify different data sources, run analyses, and adjust business operations and financial forecasts according to changing business conditions. An EPM system, on the other hand, is designed to help businesses model, plan, and make informed decisions across not only finance, but also HR, sales and supply chain. Additionally, both systems aid in streaming the financial close process.
Big picture, EPM and ERP applications are both designed to save companies money, make them more productive and improve controls. Many financial teams have never stared down the barrel of a bigger challenge than what they face now with the Covid-19 crisis and its associated economic fallout. To help businesses remain solvent and ascertain their path through these dire straits, Oracle unveiled several updates designed to make its Fusion Cloud ERP and Fusion Cloud EPM more intelligent and intuitive.
Oracle’s Fusion Cloud EPM is getting punched up with a new Predictive Planning capability, which leverages AI to identify trends out of financial and operational data, which are then leveraged to make predictions. At data load time, organizations get visibility into any variance patterns in these predictions and forecasts, from which they can make on-the-fly adjustments to, in order to improve the “quality and timeliness of decisions.”
The Fusion Cloud ERP, meanwhile, is gaining quite a handful of new features. Intelligent Code Defaulting utilizes machine learning to provide businesses with recommendations for account codes for processing payables transactions. This should make the process more efficient and accurate, as the algorithm iteratively learns and adapts from past actions. Oracle’s ERP also has a new Intelligent Document Recognition capability, which employs machine learning in the automated extraction of financial information from PDF and other file formats. This promises to cut down on the amount (and maybe in some cases, eliminate) manual invoice entry, a major time suck for financial teams. This algorithm also learns iteratively over time, so that it can acquaint itself with and adapt to any new unfamiliar invoice formats that it comes across. Seriously, where were these tools when I worked for F100 companies?
Embedded Incident Management is also now a part of the Fusion Cloud ERP. This security feature brings “intuitive, embedded incident reporting workflows” to organizations, for the purpose of creating actions, holding investigations, and monitoring and updating the status of reported incidents.
Lastly, Oracle announced a new ERP solution called Joint Venture Accounting, which the company says is targeted towards reducing partner disputes, improving cash flow, and gaining real-time financial visibility, in industries, such as Oil and Gas, where joint ventures are common. Oracle says Joint Venture Accounting will boost transparency and digital collaboration between partners by automating the processing of transactions and providing role-based tools for managing exceptions. With the visibility this solution promises to bring, it should be easier for these joint ventures identify patterns and home in on any strategic opportunities that may arise. I absolutely love this addition having been involved in the management of JVs in a “prior life”.
The updates to Fusion Cloud ERP are also interesting from an overall enterprise applications market standpoint. The reason I say that is the Cloud ERP market is growing rapidly and according to Gartner, which I don’t cite often, Oracle is already a long way ahead of the competition. Literally, Oracle is the only “leader” for Cloud ERP. With updates like the ones I just outlined, the gap between Oracle and the rest could likely get bigger and bigger.
While “what happened to SAP” is not the focus of this article, I am stunned that the company who makes its living on ERP and is trying so hard in cloud winds up getting just an “honorable mention” in “Cloud ERP”. While I don’t agree often with Gartner on its assessments, this seems clear as I believe most SAP customers are sticking with its on-premises offerings and forgoing the cloud. Odd, but true.
In addition to the above enhancements to Oracle’s Fusion Cloud ERP and EPM, Oracle also announced several updates to its Fusion Cloud Supply Chain Management & Manufacturing platform (SCM). Covid-19 has caused significant disruption to the global supply chain—that much almost goes without saying. With much of this country’s manufacturing outsourced to Asia and other regions, what happens on the other side of the world effects all of us. One broken link in the chain can cause costly manufacturing delays. Oracle’s SCM is designed to better connect organizations to their supply network, via Oracle’s integrated cloud business applications suite, so that they are able to anticipate supply and demand, outpace disruptions, improve their resilience, and generally become more agile.
Oracle unveiled a new capability called Replenishment Planning for its Demand Management SCM solution. Essentially, this capability helps businesses anticipate consumption, planning and replenishing accordingly. Oracle touts the capability as being highly automated, completely customizable, manageable, transparent and efficient. In this unprecedented current era of market volatility, I see all these qualities as integral in the effort to coordinate these supply chains and keep operations in motion on down the line.
Also announced was a Backlog Management feature for Oracle’s SCM. While many organizations operate under the “you got here first, so you get it” approach to backlog, this new capability helps businesses prioritize their most important orders so that they can be fulfilled first. Additionally, SCM will now include a solution called Depot Repair, which manages workflows for other businesses’ repair organizations. The solution enables companies to quickly fix and return assets to their customers. Through Depot Repair, repair organizations can debrief the customer on whatever work was performed and bill them (correctly) for it.
One announcement that spans both Oracle’s SCM and ERP is the Product-Driven Supply Chain solution. Basically, this solution gives customers one integrated app for making sure that their supply chains are simpatico with the current business context (which is currently in huge flux). Through this end-to-end solution, Oracle says these customers will be able to “capture, invoice and capitalize project-driven material, manufacturing and maintenance costs.”
Last is Oracle SCM’s new Channel Revenue Management solution, which seeks to automate settlement and processing within the cloud to ease the headache of managing channel revenue during a global crisis. This for sure could help businesses and their partners in terms of revenue, profit, and market share. I ran a channel group and was a CRN Channel Champion in a former life and I will tell you that more times than not, this is done on spreadsheets.
I believe Oracle deserves kudos for identifying these sticky problems arising from the current global crisis and quickly rolling out common sense solutions designed to help customers alleviate them. There are the businesses that are helping consumers adjust to the new normal, and then there are the businesses that are helping the businesses that are helping the consumers. Oracle is very much a businesses’ business, and these useful updates to its SCM, ERP, and EPM enterprise applications should do much to relieve the burden on the financial teams who are struggling to keep the wheels on the tracks. I believe these additions will further enable the company to take market share from on premises ERP provider SAP (it wasn’t even included in the Gartner Cloud ERP report I noted above) and further distance itself from companies like Workday and Infor that are trying to piece together different acquisitions to have a credible shot at the rapidly growing Cloud ERP market.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.