Within the procurement technology arena, Oracle is not as well known as many of its peers with similar market share. There are numerous reasons for this, but in starting with the obvious, we would note that Oracle has so many product lines (and so many procurement products) that any individual application or suite of combined modules is likely to get lost in the brand shuffle (i.e., there is no SAP Ariba of Oracle). In fact, by our count, Oracle has more than 25 individual procurement solutions today that it sells across its Cloud (formerly Fusion), eBusiness Suite, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards product lines.
When thinking of these products, many procurement practitioners will likely conjure up a now somewhat dated perception that getting value from Oracle technology solutions takes time — sometimes lots of time. No doubt, nearly all procurement teams that have deployed — or purchased and not deployed — Oracle’s numerous enterprise software product lines and have personally seen the time-to-value equation for investments lag similar cloud investments they or their peers have made with competitive products.
But there is no longer a need to “wait” for Oracle procurement value. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, Oracle can move at the speed of procurement. But procurement organizations need to be selective on where they focus first to achieve quick value. And when it comes to Oracle, taking a product-line approach to placing time-to-value bets is not necessarily the best answer either. Even with Procurement Cloud, an increasingly powerful integrated suite in its own right, users need to be self-selecting on an individual product basis relative to rival technologies if speed to savings and value realization is a primary selection consideration.
Oracle Procurement Cloud
This is not to say that Oracle Procurement Cloud does not offer faster (and more predictable) suite deployments than the enterprise software solutions it is meant to replace. It does. But even within the Cloud suite, Oracle customers need to understand where they can achieve faster time to value if this is an important consideration in helping prove the overall value of procurement and procurement technology investments.
As context on Oracle Procurement Cloud, we note in a recent Spend Matters PRO vendor snapshot review of the solution (see Background & Solution Overview, Product Strengths & Weaknesses and Summary & Competitive Analysis) that like other ERP vendors:
“Oracle originally set out to own transaction management. Decades ago, when Oracle built its original flagship financial software, data storage and integration were expensive and difficult, so it stayed laser-focused on the financial data that define transactions. But times have changed and so has Oracle with its pivot to shifting its enterprise applications development strategy to a SaaS/cloud-first approach … It is within this context that procure-to-pay (P2P) and source-to-pay (S2P) are now well defined on a modular and functional basis — and integrated with Oracle financial systems and other business application offerings.”
What Modules Can Help Achieve Value Fast
There are many different applications that fall within the broad procurement technology umbrella, and no vendor has sufficient coverage across all modules today.
Oracle Procurement Cloud has decent coverage across some but not all areas, especially those that fall outside of traditional procurement “suites.” From an extended perspective, “adjunct” areas to a core source-to-pay suite are still not Oracle’s strong suit. These areas include supply risk management, commodity management and invoice-to-pay capabilities integrated with trade financing. But in core source-to-pay suite areas, Oracle offers an expanding footprint of coverage that is capable of delivering more than just cloud-based air cover relative to competitors.
Specific modules and capabilities include:
- Oracle Self Service Procurement Cloud (containing traditional e-procurement capability)
- Payables Management
- Social Cloud (collaboration)
- Budget Control
- Spend Analytics
Within these areas, three standout as capable of delivering a fast time to value on either an absolute or relative basis, either as individual modules or as groupings of capability.
The first area is spend analytics. As we previously observed on the subject of Oracle spend analytics capabilities, spend analytics involves many steps, including even “subcomponents” of steps (e.g., how spend classification elements breakdown). Further, as we observe, “not only does spend analysis require (and involve) multiple technologies, but the process requires ‘power users’ and often technical resources (on the back end) with the goal of an eventual hand-off to business users — and this must be repeated again and again. It also, of course, requires the right underlying solutions.” But put the combination of these together with Oracle’s underlying technology, and it’s possible to demonstrate the value of Oracle procurement solutions quickly.
The second area is sourcing. Oracle’s sourcing capability is perfectly sufficient to help procurement organizations achieve value from simple “three bids in a box” bids or foundational strategic sourcing initiatives. Yet how an organization gets value from sourcing is just as important as the capability of the underlying software itself. And this is where procurement organizations — even those which have made investments in sourcing technology in the past — need to get smart on creating a pipeline of planned (strategic) sourcing efforts alongside enabling buyers and even those in the business to run simple bids on their own. But do this right and there is no excuse not to be up and running and realizing (implemented) savings and proving the value of Oracle procurement solutions in months, not quarters or years.
The third area to achieve value quickly — this one on a relative scale — is the ability to blend Oracle Procurement Cloud with existing on-premise investments. We note this is “relative” because many procurement organizations may have made past investments in on-premise Oracle technology alongside their IT organization. And while the “blending” timescale to show value may be longer than analytics and sourcing alone, the ability to salvage the past while keeping an eye on the procurement is something that is possible today, whereas it was not realistically before (especially when Oracle Procurement Cloud did not compare like it does today to market alternatives).
The Expert View
I asked Data Intensity, an Oracle integrator and partner (which also purchased the expert Oracle procurement shop Enrich), for their thoughts on the topic. Here’s what they had to say:
“The key areas to primarily focus to improve P2P processes within any organization are: spend analysis, strategic sourcing, and monitoring PO and contract compliance. Oracle offers best-in class-solutions for each of these areas.
“The full suite of Oracle Procurement Cloud helps businesses streamline their procurement processes; having said that, cloud software can be deployedeither stand-alone or can be integrated with on-premises applications based on business priorities.The software deployed can either augment the procurement processes already in use or can enchance a function specific capability.Cloud enables businesses to make the best use of advanced capabilities at lower risk, since in many cases the pricing model is pay-as-you-go; and requires no significant capital investment at the front end.
“Oracle Procurement Cloud offers many advanced features, functionalities such as mobility, social interaction and online collaboration on par with other competing software. Several customers have already chosen Oracle Procurement Cloud, in most cases as a standalone deployment with a well-defined plan to integrate with on-premise applications down the road. “Speed to value” is the Buzzword.”
The Final Word
In the past, we never associated Oracle with “procurement value” and “fast.” But perhaps it’s time to rethink what’s possible, albeit with the caveat that it’s essential to be selective and realistic about the areas to tackle with Oracle if speed is of the essence.
(Cross-posted @ Spend Matters)