Dialogues

Launching Business of the Future into the Cloud

Interview with Rick Jewell, the Senior Vice President of Applications Development, Oracle

Cloud computing can be described using various jargons ranging from SaaS and ERP, to AWS and VPC. It can be daunting for any enterprise that is venturing into the 21st century IT landscape for the first time. But cloud computing can be easily understood as computing using the Internet. When you log into your Facebook account and update your status, you are using cloud computing. If you are carrying out a bank transfer on your mobile phone, you are using cloud.

In short, cloud is already becoming the new norm in everyday life. It is only a matter of time before enterprises catch up and embrace this technology. This is why Oracle aims to be at the forefront of cloud technology by offering a comprehensive and fully integrated stack of cloud applications, platform services, and engineered systems.

“It is not a matter of if our customers are moving to the cloud – it is a matter of when. Everyone will eventually move to the cloud,” says Mr Rick Jewell, the Senior Vice President of Applications Development at Oracle.

In an interview with Supply Chain Asia, Mr Jewell shares his thoughts on Oracle’s evolution, opinions on enterprise cloud computing, and a story of his childhood hobby that leads to a lifelong passion.

The complete supply chain cloud

In October 2015, to help manufacturers address the full needs of complex, global supply chains, Oracle announced the expansion of the Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud to include Order Management, Supply Chain Planning and Manufacturing. The entire cloud suite has been designed to support holistic business flows, with fully integrated and consistent processes, while still preserving the ability to deploy solutions in a targeted or incremental manner. During the release, Mr Jewell referred to it as the “the complete supply chain cloud”.

“Why I called it the complete supply chain cloud is because it offers the broadest, deepest and most robust supply chain capabilities available in the cloud on the planet. One main difference I would like to point out is that unlike anyone else in the current software space, we started this development from the ground up. This means we started with a blank piece of paper, unlike our competitors who typically have taken their old outdated on-premise application, provided hosting services and called it a Cloud offering without injecting 21st century technology or 21st century business practices,” explains the senior executive, who is enjoying his 27th year in Oracle.

The company’s unique proposition gives it the opportunity to use its deep pockets and large research and development team to create high-end, sophisticated applications software right from the beginning.

“I know that starting from scratch can be risky because it will take time to develop. But I believe it is definitely more relevant than our competitors that simply updated their software based on their existing outdated platform, which is probably a 25year old software. The tools we are now using are far more productive than the tools we used before. We can build software faster than ever,” says Mr Jewell, who refers to the current set of applications as his third major project under Oracle since joining the company in 1989.

Dinosaurs with wings

Ms Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle, referred to the company as a “dinosaur that has wings” at the recent Oracle’s Cloud ERP analyst day because many in the industry did not believe Oracle has what it takes to transform its business with cloud technology. But is that a true description of the company?

“I think that is fair. Any company that has been successful over time will develop the tendency to want to stay in that state. It is extremely difficult to cross that chasm to innovate when you are already at the top of the game. But Mr Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, was willing to make that call. He was not shy about making a drastic change. He was the one who really saw the importance of cloud eight years ago and pushed us to start developing the software specifically for it. Because of his decision, Oracle now has grown wings,” explains Mr Jewell, who has spent nine years with a large global systems integrator prior to his move to Oracle.

While he believes that it is important for every company to transform itself with the 21st century technology, he does not think that every company has what it takes to take that giant leap. Leaders have to change their mindset and believe in the technology, rather than changing for the sake of change.

“Based on my experience, companies either view technology as a competitive advantage or a necessary evil. Those that belong in the latter category tend to be laggards in the adoption of technology.

When I see companies that have been using a 20-year old software and then suddenly want to leap into cloud technology, I can tell they will not be successful. They do not have the right mentality, and are simply jumping into the newest technology trend every 20 years,” adds the American, who has observed a fair number of companies that collapsed due to their inability to innovate.

Moving forward, cloud will be the company’s main focus, and believes that its transformation into an innovative Cloud company will further cement its status in the industry.

“Our customers know this and will be eager to get on board the cloud business. Five years ago, a global survey indicated only 20 per cent of companies were using applications in the cloud or planning to move to the cloud. Fast forward to 2015, the number has reversed with 80 per cent already in the cloud or planning to shift to the cloud. Cloud is just too compelling,” says the former consultant.

What makes it tick?

Being in the supply chain management software business may not be seen as such a glamourous industry, but Mr Jewell is convinced that it is an inevitability for someone with his unique level of curiosity.

“I was one of those kids who enjoy taking apart toys and examining their parts to understand how they work. Of course, I was never able to put them back together again, but that did not stop me. It got to the point that I spent more time taking them apart than actually playing with them. It was just a natural evolution for me to eventually study industrial engineering.

Up to this day, I enjoy studying in detail how different products work and what they are made of,” reflects the Stanford University graduate.

While he openly admitted that it would probably not be wise to hand him a toy truck when he was a young child, he is now more focused on putting things together than taking them apart. He wants to be a part of the supply chain ecosystem driving towards achieving the perfect order, which is a matrix that keeps tracks of how many right orders are being delivered to the right place, at the right time, in the right condition, to the right customer.

“At the moment, companies are generally only achieving 20 per cent perfect order. I believe that with the adoption of the right technology, the figure can shoot to 95 per cent. When that happens, I think we will almost achieve the nirvana stage of supply chain,” says Mr Jewell.

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