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Three things this week have individually and collectively really made me think I was seeing something both interesting and important. Two of them are down to Oracle and the third was at the Open Group meeting in San Francisco. Let's start with a press release by Oracle last week, which as far as I can see didn't make any headlines in the industry press. I guess that's because being the huge operation that is Oracle today, it announced so many upgrades and new versions of its massive product portfolio that individual notices get lost, or as in this case the significance gets overlooked.

The title of the press release was “Oracle Announces Oracle Utilities Mobile Workforce Management 2.1 and Oracle Utilities Mobile Workforce Analytics”. The upgraded Utilities Mobile Workforce Management simplifies the complicated and complex job of scheduling the right people with the right skills to the right jobs with cost, time and other management objectives. There are now tools for collaboration and sharing between the field staff using a variety of digital devices to take photos, record strange noises and share experiences etc. A really nice example of the shift towards mobility and big data outside the firewall, or 'outside-in' as we call it in the new Capgemini Point of View , which shows how clouds, mobility and big data create a new set of business capabilities outside the firewall of conventional IT.

But look at the second product in the announcement. This adds the ability to take the 'big data' that the workforce creates and analyzes it for new 'insights' to provide performance improvements. What Oracle have done is, on one hand, 'orchestrated' the workforce to create new streams of previously unavailable data on the realities of their work, and, on the other hand, created the ability to use this data to improve the performance and management of those same workers. Brilliant! This creates a real virtuous circle of continuous process improvement. It's a real win-win of a type that I presume Oracle will continue to introduce into other releases as well.

The same joined-up thinking was present in the Oracle webcast around 'reinventing the customer experience' that took CRM to the stage of a completely integrated front office incorporating its acquisition of Cloud CRM company the RightNow. Mark Hurd, President of Oracle, introduced the webcast stating that “it's core to us” and talked about the “reinvention of CRM” by bringing together the RightNow CRM applications with other Oracle applications for eCommerce, customer analysis, natural language search, etc to populate operational maps. These were produced to illustrate how all the front office processes should be integrated to work together cohesively. The opening statement said it all: “in a very real sense the basic rules of business have changed” as “Globalization has increased customer choice and supply exceeds demand for most products” but “consumers will pay extra for great customer service”. PC World captured the general outline of the webcast very well on their website.

It's worth taking some time to look at the materials from this webcast to see their process flow charts for the front office as it's one of the first maps I have seen of all the major processes. And that links to the Open Group event whose mission statement is the creation of the capabilities for improved business effectiveness through 'boundaryless information flow', leading to their role in creating the widely accepted industry standard approach to Architecture, TOGAF, The Open Group Architecture Framework.

The opening plenary presentations included Lauren States, the IBM CTO for the Cloud and High Growth Markets, placing a firm marker on this whole shift in capabilities that the combination of clouds, with mobility and the use of big data bring to create a new front office revolution in doing business with the external world. It was well presented and argued material, and together with a plenary of my own on the same topic, (plus those from an MIT Sloan Business professor and the global CIO of Renault Nissan), resulted in Allen Brown, the President and CEO of the Open Group, calling this an 'inflexion point' in both business and technology.

The result, as I understand it, will be an extension of the mission statement to include external boundaryless information flows between businesses. And therefore it's an extension of TOGAF into providing what I think will be the first move to actually create what is required to make the capabilities into real business solutions, i.e. an architectural framework for cloud-based services. Yup, three really thought-provoking moves towards using technology to really make a difference in a new way in the business and it's only the start of this week so far! Wonder what else could happen in the rest of the week!

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