In Part 4 of our Transformation Series, our Founding Director Tom Holmes interviewed Veran's Oracle Programme expert, Phill Lupton to highlight what makes a successful Oracle transformation programme and what mistakes organisations make which cause transformation programmes to fail. Phill has over 20 years' experience in Oracle implementation, making this a useful session that allowed viewers to gain his unparalleled insight and knowledge.
A brief introduction: Why do clients pick Oracle?
The session opened with Tom asking Phill why clients pick Oracle in the first place. Briefly, Oracle were early to realise that Cloud was the way forward, which now means Oracle products are very mature. More crucially, Oracle are the only major organisation that offer end-to-end solutions and are unashamedly desirous of an end-to-end solution in the back office. As Phill observed, this is beneficial because attempting to get previously inputted systems to speak to each other often fails and so Oracle end-to-end solutions means there is less reliance on third party technology. Tom then proceeded to highlight that clients pick Oracle, not only for the fact they offer end-to-end solutions but for their ability to deliver on that promise. Oracle consistently invests in integration of its various systems and rebuilds technology to work in the Cloud in order to back up their end-to-end capability with delivery capability.
The Five Key Areas which cause Oracle Transformation Programmes to Fail
Since Oracle moved to Cloud, clients cannot customize the solution. Rather, the strategy should always be to make an organisation work in relation to the solution that is chosen and to adapt and evolve around the technology itself. In order to do this, businesses must:
1) Be ready for transformation
2) Take change seriously
3) Quickly take ownership of the system that has been implemented
4) Understand and allow for the Oracle product to mature with time
5) Ensure executive sponsorship is consolidated and enforced
1: Readiness for Transformation
Many transformation programmes fail simply because the organisation were not prepared enough or ready enough to start the project in the first place. Often the mistake made is that organisations decide they need a new system and so go out to market to enquire about the hundreds of tech solutions and systems that exist and then choose the product without actually preparing for its implementation, its impact or the change it will drive. Phill suggests that readiness to start a project should start well before the product is chosen. What execs, HR and finance directors should instead is to decide:
"What they need rather than what they actually want. They need to ask what do customers need from them."
This is something we focus on at Veran in our Phase Zero preparation activity. We engage with customers and clients and walk through all of the standard processes of how Oracle works and where the organisation needs to change. For example, many large organisations have hundreds of customizations and so what they need to do in order to implement an Oracle solution is to get rid of those customizations which takes a significant willingness from employees and execs to change. As Phill correctly pointed out it takes a lot longer to change the behaviour of employees and suppliers than it does to implement or install the product itself and so this is where organisations ought to begin as part of the readiness process.
For many HR Directors, Oracle transformation is one of the largest infrastructural changes they will make in their career so they have to think forward as to what it is going to deliver, and what the technical components are. However, this technical transformation is not met with a vacuum, it has to be utilized and optimized through human usage and so directors need to ensure that staff and customers are comfortable with this shift. Phill's top tip: roadmap everything in advance! Roadmaps can be used from a systems point of view in order to track which services are implemented and when. Crucially though, organisational change must also be road-mapped in order to plan the ways in which an organisation will evolve, change and adapt in line with technology and the stages required in order to make that transition smooth, successful and efficient.
2: Taking change seriously
Phill highlighted that 90% of the good an Oracle product does is implement change. Yet with a product itself it only takes a couple of weeks to tangibly implement change from a technological perspective. From a business perspective then, organisations must also take change seriously and focus on it. Tom and Phill then proceeded to highlight the difference between hard/tangible and soft/intangible change. An example of tangible change following an implementation of Oracle would be the need for change in supplier behaviour, as they may need to move and behave in an entirely different way following implementation.
However, aside from the actual implementation itself, many organisations fail to take the less tangible side of change seriously by cutting change and communication teams in order to save money because they need the budget to build the system itself. Essentially approaching implementations and transformations in this way means programmes fail simply because people just don’t know what’s coming. Phill made very clear that:
"Communication is absolutely key as is training ... sometimes change is not tangible, it’s about changing people’s minds"
Here, Phill is alluding to the importance of cultural and behavioural change which organisations often underestimate the importance of. If you don’t take the organisation on the journey you will not see the benefits of the new system. Tom then enforced this by alluding to the stats of less successful transformations and the research stating that the main reason for failure is often a lack of focus on the change required. Yet, importantly, it’s still an area where it feels easier to reduce the activity as well as it still being hard to make the argument for change up front to stakeholders and employees. Phill admitted that he, as a tech implementer, didn’t understand this need for cultural change until much later. He pointed out that whilst he thought the systems he was implemented were brilliant, they become depleted and blunt tools if the clients don't use that system correctly to maximise it's potential.
3: Taking ownership of the system quickly
A major focus of the webinar discussion revolved around transformation failure due to organisations failing to take ownership of the system quickly enough. Phill, for example has observed over the years that many organisations take ownership of the system only once it has gone live. Instead Phill enforced that:
"Ownership should be taken straight away and driven early in the programme. In fact at Veran we encourage that ownership of system is taken almost from day one"
It is one thing to configure the Oracle pod so it works but typically with SI’s they all slip into same mistake. They turn up to workshops, demonstrate the out-of-box process very well, the customer nods and then doesn’t think about the system until the next workshop. One massive benefit of Oracle from this angle is that it is almost unbreakable and so Phill's advice for Oracle implementers and transformation consultants is to ask the customer to operate the system on a day-to-day basis. This not only drives home whether the processes will work for the organisation but it also gets customers into the mindset of change and gets them learning the system early. If customers feel as if they have early ownership and grasp of the system or product then often they are quite proud of the system and evangelize about it to other employees within the organisation, thus speeding up the upskilling process. In this sense ownership early is really key.
4: Allowing the product to mature
A really significant and insightful statement Phill made was that going live with an Oracle product is only the beginning of the journey. It is absolutely crucial that organisations acknowledge that the product changes during the process of implementation and continues to change afterwards with quarterly updates and patch upgrades. In Phill's words, the product is a changing target. This therefore requires its users to change with it and to constantly improve the system whilst also reviewing at how they are operating. Essentially organisations have to mature into a product and continually be ready to grow with it.
5: Secure sponsorship from the exec
On this final point Phill highlighted that most people don’t see change as good for them. In this sense strong sponsorship from exec is essential for any successful Oracle transformation programme. Tom curiously questioned Phill on this point stating that surely if an organisation got the last four things right why does it matter so much. Quickly Phill answered that this is important because people won’t necessarily change or take ownership of the system if the execs do not force them to. An exec has to drive the message home around this because as soon as they don’t and allow one thing or one person to slip through the net, it opens the floodgates for many people to refuse to cooperate and collaborate. Phill's advice is that execs need to understand that some people will be upset by change because people are invested in how they currently work. Sometimes the change won’t be perceived as a good change and so it is very important that they buy into this.
For more information about Transformation and implementing Oracle technology, please visit our website or contact Phill at firstname.lastname@example.org