The coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented situation globally casting doubts on business continuity across industries. However research shows that embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and other emerging technologies can help businesses stay afloat in times of crisis. In a recent conversation with CXOToday, Adrian Johnston, Senior Vice President of Cloud Applications (SaaS), Japan and Asia Pacific, Oracle Corporation talks about how emerging technologies are enabling growth and business continuity in organizations in today’s uncertain conditions.
CXOToday: Can you tell us how Oracle is helping enterprises achieve business continuity with the help of its entire spectrum of SaaS solutions including ERP, SCM and HCM?
Adrian Johnston: As companies are finding new ways of operating in today’s business environment, their employees need to take many steps to ensure the transition is smooth with the least disruption possible. For example, finance teams in Asia Pacific have had to shift their way of working from their offices to working from home for the first time and have to deal with the crucial task of closing their books remotely. We observed that finance teams in companies that rely heavily on cloud-computing technology to automate accruals, adjustments and internal transactions could be in for a smoother close than those who use on-premise technology on virtual private networks or enter data into spreadsheets manually. This is because companies that have not adopted cloud technology are finding that virtual private networks are not optimized and built for speed, thus causing spreadsheets to incur errors more often than not. When finance systems are delivered via a SaaS model, it provides an inherent advantage. Not only can finance teams access the system remotely, they can work via their mobile devices. They have one set of shared data, integrated workflows, and always-up-to-date technology. They also don’t need to worry about security.
A good example is Hindalco Industries Ltd. The aluminium and copper manufacturing major in India used to face multiple challenges when it came to seamless collection of data from various locations and then filing financial reports on a real-time basis. The ability to close books quickly – with quality, accuracy and in full compliance with regulatory standards is a critical challenge that can impact a company negatively, if standards are not met. To simplify their processes, Hindalco adopted Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud and streamlined their financial management and regulatory reports by utilizing the power of data and smart automation in a cost-effective manner.
CXOToday: Coming to finance, one of your key verticals, how do you see technologies like AI and Machine Learning transforming the finance function and the role of the CFO?
Adrian Johnston: Oracle recently published a Competitive Edge Report with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) that found that emerging technologies have passed the adoption tipping point. Now they are exceeding expectations and creating significant competitive advantage for organizations. The report, based on a global survey of 700 finance and operations managers, and executives across 13 countries, revealed that 85% of respondents believe AI and Machine Learning are “catalysts for change” needed for finance organizations to transform from reporting on “what” is happening in the business to “why” things are happening. Secondly, 83% of CFO respondents agree that AI will help them rethink outdated business processes and strategies by completely automating them. Thirdly, 74% of respondents agree intelligent automation will be critical for them to keep pace with rapidly shifting regulations.
CXOToday: One of the key focus areas for Oracle last year was AI. Are there any meaningful business achievements and best practice cases coming from it?
Adrian Johnston: Embedding AI, machine learning, and smart chatbots into core applications means customers’ day-to-day business processes run more smoothly, compliance and security risks decrease, decision-making improves, and their teams have more time and mindshare for strategic thinking. Take for instance, Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company that adopted Oracle Transportation Management (OTM) Cloud in India to leverage AI and IoT to make data-driven decisions. As a result, the company has succeeded in better management of vehicles required for transportation and optimisation of their routes, which resulted in reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The company is also using AI to combine internal and external data, and build models that help it predict the weather or traffic patterns.
CXOToday: Also SaaS is becoming a necessity for business continuity today. Can you tell us how Indian enterprises are leveraging SaaS based solutions for growth and business continuity?
Adrian Johnston: We have some fascinating customer stories to tell across spectrum. Our customer base consists of customer of every size and from every sector. We have some well- known brands like Airtel, SBI Card, Unilever, Hindalco, Apollo Tyres, Wipro Enterprises, Transworld, TATA Sky, TATA Trusts, Grasim, Taj Hotels, Safexpress, Bajaj Electricals, Reliance Capital and Thomas Cook etc. On the other side, we have start-ups like Klay Play Schools, Oyo Rooms, Ola Cabs and Cure.fit. Our customer list includes almost every major player from every major industry- telecom, financial services, manufacturing, IT/ITeS, pharma or other services industry. We are seeing traction across all these industries for our SaaS based solutions. Over last three years or so, we think that we are well on our way to be the market leader as far as SaaS is concerned in a matter of just a few quarters from now. We have a robust portfolio of customers and we see a strong demand in the market, and Oracle is the only vendor that provides solutions across the spectrum of SaaS that integrated and makes life so much simpler for our customers.
CXOToday: Finally, Oracle acquired CrowdTwist, the cloud native customer loyalty solution last year. How will this strengthen and work for your CX?
Adrian Johnston: Oracle has acquired CrowdTwist, a cloud-native customer loyalty solution to empower brands to offer personalized customer experiences. In today’s environment, this transaction can help organizations of all sizes deliver personalized engagement and extend loyalty and reward programs. Ultimately, this helps them keep their customers.