Accelerating (and Fast-starting) the SME Business at Oracle (and SAP) - Part 2

Part 1 of this blog series outlined Oracle’s recent (and seemingly genuine) change of heart and approach towards partnering and catering enterprise applications to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The analysis then moved onto the Oracle Accelerate program, which was launched about three years ago to allow partners to sell a greater number of smaller projects with fixed time and price.

Oracle Accelerate is not only a partner program, but also Oracle’s go-to-market approach to provide business software solutions to midsized organizations. Part 1 described the main constituent parts of the approach, while Part 2 will talk about the program’s current state of affairs.

The Current State of Affairs for Oracle Accelerate

Oracle Accelerate started as a way to deliver on-premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to midsized organizations with limited budgets but with unlimited aspirations to compete, grow, and be agile. These companies, which Oracle refers to as “gazelles,” were seen as a good fit for an industry-specific package of low-cost applications and services provided by partners, combined with Oracle Business Accelerators (OBAs) for rapid implementation. Since the launch of Oracle Accelerate in early 2007, Oracle has added more than 7,000 midsized applications customers for a total of over 25,000.

Yet, both Oracle and SAP are still regarded as providers for the largest businesses only. In fact, overall, across all of its burgeoning products, Oracle has over 190,000 midsized customers, which are the companies that still have (or had, at the time of the sale) less than $500 million (USD) in revenues. Along similar lines are misperceptions related to SAP (and these are likely a source of frustration for the vendor) due to the often-neglected fact that 65 percent of SAP customers are SMEs too (although, last time I checked, SAP counts the companies with revenues of less than $800 million (USD) as SMEs, which is more “liberal” and “inclusive” than Oracle).

In any case, while 2007 was the launch year for Oracle Accelerate (with the first seven Accelerate solutions unveiled in February 2007 and a solutions factory opened in June 2007), 2008 was the year of building more of everything (i.e., solutions, partners, and customers), whereas 2009 was slated to be the year of achieving critical mass.

To that end, in late September 2009 Oracle announced new capabilities for its Oracle Accelerate program for midsized companies, including new Accelerate solutions and OBAs, new financing options, and more deployment methods. New capabilities of the program are as follows:

In summary, currently there are more than 300 Oracle Accelerate solutions (including Business Accelerators developed by partners and certified by Oracle) provided by more than 180 partners in over 75 vertical industry sub-segments in nearly 40 countries. Oracle admits that its Accelerate ecosystem had strong but measured growth in 2009, and that 2010 should be marked as the year of “Three R’s: ROI, Readiness, and References.”

Oracle Accelerate partners are proven experts in deploying Oracle applications and in using business accelerators, and are also well-attuned to specific geographies and vertical industries. There are currently 166 ERP partners offering 257 accelerated ERP solutions. As noted earlier, ERP has been the primary focus since Oracle Accelerate’s launch and is a mature business today.

The recently added OBAs for Supply Chain Management (SCM), CRM, PLM, and BI/EPM products are focused on expansion and cross-selling opportunities. Currently, 27 partners offer 48 Accelerate solutions that are adjacent to ERP in their functional scope. All OBAs are available to certified partners at the “” site that has four levels of authorization (secure access).

Region-wise, the Americas continue to contribute the majority (50 percent) of midsize applications revenue, with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) contributing 35 percent, and Asia-Pacific the remaining 15 percent. The net new customer acquisition is also balanced across geographies: 58 percent in the Americas, 27 percent in EMEA, and 15 percent in Asia-Pacific.

There has been growth across a broad set of industries in 2009, such as in professional services, financial services, retail, industrial manufacturing, high-tech, travel and transportation, and life sciences. Industry-based revenue was also balanced between existing and new customers. Application-wise, Oracle EBS contributed 37 percent of midsize applications revenues, followed by Siebel CRM’s 12 percent, Hyperion’s 10 percent, JD Edwards’ 9 percent, and so on.

The OBA’s “Secret Sauce”

Oracle gladly offered me contact information for global Accelerate service providers that are the furthest along in their Accelerate programs. Some names in alphabetical order are as follows: Alfa SistemiBizTechCD GroupDataWeaveDAZ Systems Inc.E-nnovative Solutions SA de CVInfosysInoapps LimitedLucidity Consulting GroupMitra Integrasi Informatika (MII)Pyxis Consulting group, and Terillium Inc.

Curiously, IBM Global Services (IGS) offers 15 Accelerate solutions globally, which are not only based on Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne (given the long-term alliance between IBM and former J.D. Edwards and IBM’s technology within the product), but also Oracle EBS in North America. Somewhat strangely, while Larry Ellison was ratcheting up the rhetoric against IBM and challenging it in terms of server performance benchmarks during his Oracle OpenWorld keynote address, an IBM-er was soon after presenting a successful implementation of an Oracle EBS Accelerate solution at a Canadian customer in a breakout session. Talk about strange bedfellows and co-opetition.

In any case, these Oracle Accelerate partners strike me as an optimistic group who are pleased with their business so far. For example, DAZ Systems has had about 70 go-live deliveries in last three years.  These partners are also excited about the Accelerate program’ opportunities and new best-of-breed products beyond Oracle EBS and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne.

Specifically, Oracle partners emphasize OBAs as a great help in the sales process. Traditional implementations go through long serialized processes, whereby these processes are subject to the dreaded so-called scope creep, unforeseen complexities, and additional product purchases in the midstream. Consequently, promises are often made in the sales cycle that cannot be met for the agreed-upon price and timeline.

In contrast, using OBAs in the sales cycle helps to scope the project correctly – not just the application installation, but also all the needed business flows and necessary configurations. One possibly unique timesaving trait is the ability to start configuring the application’s instance during the sales cycle. In other words, implementations (e.g., setting up the master data, such as flex-fields in the chart of accounts [CoA], suppliers, customers, etc.) can start immediately on the site based on the requirements gathered and customers’ selections of provided options during the sales cycle.

This represents a low-risk approach to enterprise applications procurement owing to a clearly defined project scope. The scope is “contained” in the sales cycle by confirming all the necessary business processes and applications using OBAs. Standard business process functionality (without touching any source code) can go live within an accelerated timeframe, and there is a rigorous tracking of weekly milestones.

The implementation scope can be extended later on if required, and most of this incremental configuration is also handled via OBAs. The prospective customer and the service provider must also agree beforehand on any contingency fund for additional services, e.g., data migration.

To be more accurate here, let me make clear that OBAs cannot be used to configure the application once the final instance has been laid down. The applications can certainly be configured further and differently after the installattion. Additional configuration is usually required then, but this is typically light, though, compared to the amount of configuration that is done using OBAs prior to installing the final version of the software.

The Oracle Accelerate program is based on dedicated project teams motivated by a sense of urgency. Since many other Accelerate customers are using similar solutions, Oracle partners are able to provide relevant references and tout a track record of success.

The OBA-based Implementation Approach

The OBA-based sales and implementation process starts with reviewing and selecting available business flows from the specific Oracle Accelerate solution to implement. OBAs are replete with templates for discovery purposes, so that customers can uncover their issues and opportunities quite early. For each of the business processes required to deliver the desired solution, OBAs have “leading practices”-based process flows, typical issues and benefits, and clear definitions of what will be delivered, as to possibly highlight any remaining functional gaps.

After selecting the processes that support the prospect’s business model, the next step is to answer a plethora of the system setup questions in a Web-based questionnaire. The questionnaire offers a set of sample/default values, which provides a starting point (jump-start) for setups. The prospective customer can change from the default values only what needs to be changed to accommodate their business needs.

Many Oracle Accelerate partners have praised the questionnaire that forms the basis of the eventual client’s product instance (installation). The questionnaire is not only an instrumental component to initial prospect conversations that helps to garner interest in an Oracle Accelerate solution versus other offerings under consideration, but is also where the “rubber meets the road.” Namely, this is the abovementioned “moment of truth,” when the actual implementation can start early in the sales cycle, which compresses the implementation time.

The next step is to run the setup tool that loads the user-configured setups into the initial application instance, which can take a few days. The step is completed by manually performing post-setup fine-tuning system tweaks, as required. This leads us to the ultimate goal of a configured system instance.

The Four Accelerated Implementation Phases

A typical Oracle Accelerate solution’s implementation would go through the following four phases: Prepare, Configure, Test, and Deploy. The tasks and activities during the “Prepare” phase are as follows:

  • Review and confirm key project documents

  • Confirm the requirements and scope

  • Conduct the implementation workshop

  • Conduct user familiarization training as needed

  • Configure hardware

  • Complete Oracle’s software installation

  • The project team orientation and kickoff

  • The OBA preparation

  • Business process questionnaire (BPQ)

The client focus areas during this phase are to procure the necessary hardware and software, allocate a document collaboration environment, validate key project documents, plan and allocate the project resource personnel, arrange the project team’s workspace, co-develop, approve and distribute the project scope, objectives and approach deliverables, and to participate in the user familiarization training. Needless to say that all these steps are not done in a vacuum but in a rather intertwined manner, and with a close collaboration between the customer and service provider's teams.

The tasks and activities during the “Configure” phase are as follows:

The client focus areas during this phase are data cleansing and conversion, to participate in CRP activities, maintain the issues and risks log, create the system integration test scripts, project planning participation, to participate in development of end-user and system test scripts, and to coordinate internal/external communications.

The tasks and activities during the “Test” phase are as follows:

The client focus areas during the system testing phase are to participate in the super-user training, to perform user acceptance testing, and to design and develop the end-user training materials.

Finally, the tasks and activities during the “Deploy” phase are as follows:

  • Set up the production applications instance

  • Load production data

  • Go live

  • Decommission the legacy systems

  • Post-go live support

  • Construct and deliver the project summary

The client focus areas during the go-live phase are the end-user training, technical training, help desk training, further data conversion, and to create the transition support team for post-production system maintenance and support.

Part 3 of this blog series will analyze the program’s latest partner-enablement developments as well as the inevitable room for improvements, especially in light of SAP’s SME offerings. In the meantime, what are your views, comments, opinions, etc. about Oracle’s improved partnering approach, and about the Oracle Accelerate program per se? If you are the program reseller and/or recipient, I would appreciate you sharing your experiences with the offering and the provider.
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