Hands up all those who've met an Oracle Cloud Financials customer? Mine just shot in the air.
Jokes continue about how long it took Oracle to get Fusion Apps now dubbed Oracle Cloud into the market in any credible way. The last 18 months or so, Oracle has been quietly beavering away building a reference portfolio that rarely gets showcased in the public domain. So it was with a degree of surprise that I recently met John Harris, CFO of 100-person company Credo Mobile who told me about his route to adopting Oracle Cloud Financials. That followed a panel of CXO types at Oracle OpenWorld, more of which in another story.
Credo's story is unusual. It is a mobile operator with an activist orientation. From its own blurbs:
Founded in 1985 as Working Assets, CREDO has created a unique business that integrates excellent consumer services with activism and philanthropy. We give progressive consumers a powerful alternative to doing business with huge corporations whose conduct is antithetical to the political, environmental and social values we share.
Make no bones about it, Credo is politically active, taking strong positions on controversial topics. It celebrated 30 years in business with four million 'activists' and donations of over $80 million.
My experience of organizations of this type is that they run extremely lean operations on account of needing to funnel as much by way of revenue into servicing their philanthropic mission. Credo is not so different except that it is run as a private for profit business. With that in mind, when Harris said the company is shifting around off Sage to Oracle Cloud I was more than a little surprised. Harris had a straightforward rationale:
We had a version of Sage which was woefully inadequate and almost out of support...I like to think of us going from worst of class to best of class in the span of about 16 weeks.
Such was the need to get a replacement that Credo scheduled the implementation of basic GL, AP, AR and budgeting (as part of the Oracle enterprise performance management suite) slated for a full cutover on January 1st, 2017. Supply chain follows in February, 2017. That is a fast track implementation by any standards but the job is made easier by the fact that Credo has less than 1,000 account codes with five segments and is only carrying over two years full accounts history. Asked if the account code hierarchy can be easily changed, Harris said:
We smart coded the chart of accounts to provide us with plenty of flexibility. One of the mistakes that companies make is not allowing enough room in the sequencing of codes to allow for growth. We've set up divisions such that we can spin out new companies very quickly.
As part of this refresh, Credo outsourced its entire IT support to a third party and outsourced its complex billing to IDI.
Focusing on the reasons for selecting Oracle, Harris said that he looked at many suppliers including SAP, NetSuite, Microsoft AX and GP. One of the key decision topics is the monthly close.
We have been able to go down from 21 days to 10 days and once we're fully running with Oracle then I'm expecting to close within 2-3 days at month end complete with a 20 odd page report that is fully automated. Some of the other vendors could do what was needed but it involved customizations and I know from experience that becomes expensive. We needed to keep with standard configurations and we can do that with Oracle.
That wasn't the only factor. According to Harris, the system integration costs were much better than expected, working out at less than the contracted value on a fixed bid basis. In this case, Credo was prepared to sign an agreement that runs for six years rather than the normal three years. In turn, that helps the company strike the kind of deal with which it is happy and which includes a cap on any renewal uplift.
Selecting Oracle might raise eyebrows since it is considered to best serve large enterprises. This wasn't something that bothered Harris based upon several decades of experience working with Oracle.
What is interesting is that they treated me as if I was at a GE, a Marriott or a Pepsi. It really has ben a consistent experience in terms of responsiveness and attention to walking us through the things we need to understand.
Going forward, Harris wants to be in a apposition where the whole of the routine accounting is automated and paperless, which he believes will form the groundwork for applying some of Oracle's next generation smart applications.
If you think about your typical ERP you've got this triangle where you might have 5% that you can dedicate to supporting the business. I'm looking forward to flipping that triangle so that may be 10-20% of the time is spent on transaction processing. the reporting comes out at 5% so that leaves most of that time for decision support around pricing, around churn and projecting what the business is going to do as opposed to waiting 21 days by which time the data is almost irrelevant. We've spent time to figure out the kinds of graphical information that business users can relate to and I believe that style of reporting will make a significant difference.
The Credo story is interesting at multiple levels. It is for instance noteworthy that Harris has many years experience of dealing with Oracle. He knows how to get the best out of the relationship he has with the company. At the same time and despite dealing with people he had not met before, Harris found a consistency in handling the client relationship that offers an important degree of comfort.
Credo's vision for the future of the finance office requires a more expansive view of accounting than a simple lift and shift from an on-premise system to one that operates in the cloud. Having said that, Harris has clearly thought through where he wants to be in a specified timeframe, understands what needs to be done and has the right delivery team.