We tend to think of change management as a series of events that impact customers when they make a significant technology shift. That's only partially true. Consultants in the Oracle ecosystem also have to make significant changes. Here's what I'm seeing at Oracle OpenWorld.
Conversations with customers and partners at Oracle OpenWorld 2015 have been dominated by discussion around the urgent need for change management in the Oracle ecosystem as more customers transition to Oracle cloud solutions.
There is no shortage of 10, 15 or 20 year experienced Oracle e-Business Suite consultants. But a combination of circumstances is crimping the ability of new SI entrants in delivering solutions.
Speaking with Debra Lilley, VP of Certus cloud services and a long time Oracle consultant, told me that getting the right skills is a challenge. On the one hand, Oracle Consulting Services is maintaining a tight grip on consultant certification but even then, newly minted consultants often have little real world experience that can be usefully applied to new projects. On the other hand, e-BS trained consultants do not understand the new reality of deploying cloud applications:
I dread seeing a long term e-BS project manager. They turn up with rigid methodologies that are irrelevant in the high speed cloud world. I can create a general ledger in a matter of days and then push out to the client for challenging around the detail. We can then configure accordingly and be in production really fast. That's a foreign concept to most Oracle consultants.
But then customers have their own challenges. HCM for example is usually bought by line of business. Couple that with CFO interest in finance --- an increasingly common combination in the deals Lilley sees, and suddenly IT wants a piece of the action.
This is creating some interesting dynamics around project ownership. Line of business folk have often never had to deal with IT at anything other than a peripheral level --- and vice versa.
However, some companies are looking beyond the immediate challenges to the benefits they see coming through from enhancements. In a customer SaaS panel, which included customers who are operating at limited ERP scope, all speakers acknowledged elements of challenge but saw that as mostly connected to speed of adoption, connected to the Oracle cloud solution release cycle.
In a post-panel conversation with other consultants, I heard similar stories to that relayed by Lilley only with an emphasis on the integration issues that customers face. One consultant, who preferred to remain anonymous said:
Even though the main modules like finance and HR are integrated, that doesn't get you away from the many other services customers are using that feed into those applications. Payroll for example, is not a fully done deal.
Where are tomorrow's change management and implementation consultants going to come from?
My sense is that Oracle will need to encourage the smaller, new, cloud only consulting businesses, rather than attempting to force fit into the established consulting groups. Oracle need to offer fast track but focused training that can be quickly applied in the field. In Certus' case, they are taking graduates that have some social savvy and training them from scratch. This is not without risk. According to Lilley, Oracle is concerned to ensure the maximum levels of success.
Oracle is worried that project failure will reflect badly on them at this stage and so they're keeping an iron grip on resources. We don't have time to retrain the e-BS people we could tap into, we might as well take younger people who don't have a history or implementation baggage. That's the right approach.
Despite the challenges, Lilley reports that Certus is doing well, having doubled its complement of consultants in the last eighteen months and now regularly seeing seven figure deals that include subscription and implementation.
Tomorrow, I am meeting with Steve Miranda, EVP Oracle applications. I will be raising these topics with him to get the Oracle reaction.
Disclosure: Oracle is a premier partner at time of writing and covered most of my travel costs for attending OpenWorld.