The world is moving to the Cloud – whether it is a small app or a large enterprise application like Oracle ERP, there has been an acceleration towards making them “Mobile First” and in the “Cloud”. Customers/ End Users love the convenience and experience of doing things while on the move- making the organizations more productive and efficient. Oracle has been a leading provider of this service in the ERP space, now it has gained momentum in the Supply Chain and other related applications.
As consultants and solution architects, you have been providing the best of the solutions when it comes to implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)/Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems that were “on premise”.
However, in the new paradigm of “Mobile” and “Cloud” – are you aware of all the features, tools and services needed in the Oracle Supply Chain Management (SCM) Cloud for a successful implementation?
As the world moves their ERP, SCM to the cloud, the question arises.
How can you achieve the same or similar results in the Cloud environment?
Many of us may feel constrained by the limitations the Cloud applications bring along. We cannot change the underlying application logic or the code base. There is a solid reason for that – because they are built using world’s leading business processes. Changing the application logic was easier in the days bygone – where you could tell the technical teams to change the logic as per what the customer wanted – as you had access to the code and were able to effect the changes. This, of course, remained at one customer’s and your brilliant solution could not be replicated elsewhere as “Intellectual Property” right laws would apply. Fair enough!
So, what are the useful features that you would typically need in an implementation?
- Store more data – this could be on the master data or transactional data
- Create custom reports for your business users
- Trigger an action in the application based on business events
- Integrate other applications with Oracle Cloud
- Create custom forms and user interface
- Upload data in a custom format that the business wants
- Extract custom reports via SOAP/REST API calls
If you are implementing Oracle Cloud SCM for your customers and are faced with the above tasks – then this is the time to learn more about what the Oracle Cloud can offer and how to make your life easier and help your customers win.
There are various features, tools, services that can be leveraged to provide a satisfying Cloud SCM solution to your customer and delight them. I will be sharing the top 5 that I have found extremely useful during the implementations I was part of. They are:
- Extensible Flexfields (EFFs)
- ORDS + SOAP/REST APIs + Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence(BI)/Business Intelligence Publisher (BIP)
- PaaS/ IaaS / DBaaS – Platform, Infrastructure and Database as a Service
- Integration Layer – Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) or Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC)
- Third Party Software
1. Extensible Flexfields
We know about Descriptive Flexfields (DFFs) and we have used them all throughout our E-Business Suite implementations. While the DFFs are retained even in Cloud – there is a new feature called Extensible Flexfields or EFF in short, that has been introduced. This is available in the Product Information Management (PIM) and Order Management (OM) modules of the Cloud SCM currently.
This exists as a separate entity and can be extended almost unlimited to cover any business requirement out there. This feature provides a table type structure to store the attribute values.
As an example, a toy maker wants to store the “number of beads” as an attribute on the toy items. However, this number would vary with the color of the beads for each toy. He wants a table structure where he can specify the color of the beads as well as the number, yellow beads – 50, red beads – 100 and so on.
With the above requirement, it is quite clear that ‘color’ and ‘number’ would be two different attributes in the case of DFFs and does not really serve the purpose – as it would allow you to store only one color and number combination. However, this requirement becomes easier to satisfy using EFFs.
2. ORDS + SOAP/REST APIs + Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI) / Business Intelligence Publisher (BIP)
- Oracle REST Data Services (ORDS) – can perform Create, Read, Update, Delete (CRUD) operations on your Cloud/On Premise Oracle Database using REST. For better performance, fast and secure Database Management via API – ORDS is the way to go. This is a middle tier Java application bridges the Database and HTTPS.
- Oracle SCM Cloud offers several REST APIs out of the box and the number keeps going up. This facilitates easier integration with any external application or 3rd party software – on cloud or otherwise.
- While OTBI give you real time multi-dimensional views of your business data that you can build reports with, the BI suite provides the ability to query up the entire database and use it to create custom reports, labels and more for your organization.
- The inherent ability of a BI Publisher(BIP) report is that it becomes available as a SOAP API call instantaneously. While this serves a limited purpose of data retrieval,Oracle REST Data Services tool just makes it so powerful that it would enable orchestrations richly when combined with the power of the other features discussed in this article.Just wins the day for you!
Case Study: A parcel/courier handling company had to check if an address existed in their Address Master database – and accordingly use that or create a new one to accept the parcel. This then had to be sent to the Oracle Transportation Management (OTM) – to plan for and arrange the transport. Duplication of addresses in OTM was also to be avoided. How did we achieve this? Using BIP – a simple query to check if the Address exists or not in OTM – as a SOAP API call – just made the parcel booking a breeze. Note that this is not a heavy duty integration where large data volumes are moved.
3. PaaS/ IaaS / Autonomous Database (DBaaS)
Today, the availability of Platform-as-a-service, Infrastructure-as-a-service and Database-as-a-service enables development of simple custom applications to complement the Oracle SCM overall solution strategy.
Oracle Visual Builder is a relatively low code “platform” that uses drag and drop UI to create web and mobile applications. This can be used to provide
- Business solutions
- Business Intelligence
- IoT components
- AI and Machine Learning
IaaS and Autonomous Transaction Processing (Autonomous Database –earlier DBaaS) – provide similar capabilities to host your own technology components or store and process files in lieu of a content management solution respectively freeing up valuable time from your DBA and technical resources.
Case Study: Requirement was for a Retail store – to create customer records that wanted home delivery of the items. To store the Ship-To address – they would have to create a customer record in the “Receivables” module and the Finance team was wary of providing access to that module UI to employees in the Retail store as it would involve security risks. This constraint led the way for architecting and designing a “Customer PaaS” solution which was developed on VBCS and integrated with Oracle Receivables using the Trading Community Architecture (TCA) APIs.
4. Middleware / Integration Layer
SOA – the middleware that has been around for some time. This was the de facto choicefor E-Business Suite and JD Edwards (JDE) customers. Of course, they were prone to faults and have evolved over time.
SOA Cloud Service (SOACS) – the first step of moving the SOA suite to the cloud. A Service catalog was introduced which meantmore control, making complex transformations feasible. The addition of XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation) made it more powerful.
Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC) – simpler and easier to develop and deploy. With every release, more and more features got added- Bulk data transfer, FBDI, ADFDI, Connector. All these came with inherent security making it the new de facto for Cloud deployments. Transformation powers of SOA are also being brought into the cloud.
A common feature is that “Orchestration” is possible in both – this gives great flexibility in terms of architecting solutions.
5. Third Party Software
There are certain peripheral features – like, label design or an RF Scanner that you might end up purchasing outside of Oracle. The reasons could be many – you may want to continue using some of the legacy software avoiding training costs or the flexibility/features offered by some of them. There are many such “plugin” kind of software available in the Cloud – that work efficiently with Oracle Cloud SCM. I had an opportunity to work on two of them – “RF Scanner” and “WalkMe”. They provide phenomenal features that can be clubbed with your SCM cloud solution and make it more robust, fit for purpose and highly productive.
Case Study: A manufacturing company wanted to do a physical inventory of their yard – that included packed and multi-packed finished goods. The RF scanning device offered ability to identify packs and use the standard REST APIs to check the contents and log the entries for the physical count – rather than open the pack and scan the items individually.
Are there other tools or features that could help deploy a cloud solution? Certainly! Features like Import Maps, Supply Chain Orchestration (SCO) and other enterprise CRM like Salesforce that have marketplace for custom plugin apps, there is always something new, something to learn every day. Oracle itself has a quarterly release of its Cloud Products and it is always a good idea to check what’s new before deciding on the approach.
There is no doubt that the recent technological advancements have movedthe enterprise software from “customize and control” to “collaborate, converge and conquer”.
Questions to ponder on
- Are we maximizing the capabilities already out there to provide a better solution to our customers?
- Are Integrations becoming easier to build/maintain with Cloud applications?
- How can we build more using less (“less code”)?
- Has the SCM Cloud offering from Oracle matured now? Can large enterprises embrace it?
- Can the front end (CRM) and the back end (ERP, SCM, Service) work seamlessly – are we at the inflection point?
Disclaimer: This article is intended for consultants/architects/practitioners of Oracle Cloud SCM. The above mentioned factors may vary from customer to customer and environment to environment. The above are based on my experience and not representative of Oracle.
About the Author
Oracle Supply Chain Product Strategy Leader |Product Hub, Inventory & Warehouse Management Solutions Specialist | Expert in Cloud SCM Products
Ashwin Lakshman is an Oracle Supply Chain Product Strategy and Implementation leader with deep expertise in Product Hub, Inventory and Warehouse Management Solutions.
He has helped several companies optimize their supply chain – including their inventory and warehouse processes leveraging state-of-the-art Supply Chain Management technology. He has successfully led several large scale, global Supply Chain implementations in the cloud as well as on premise in countries like US, UK, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand.
He has solid understanding of Product Inventory and Warehouse operations from a business point of view also has in-depth knowledge of Oracle supply chain product portfolio, its strengths and limitations, with particular expertise in Oracle SCM (Inventory Management, Warehouse Management, Product Hub. He brings in a consultative approach to solving business problems and has established a strong reputation for solving and troubleshooting supply chain related problems. He understands the needs of global customers due to his work experience in global corporations like Infosys, Oracle, IBM and Accenture.
He holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka (Surathkal).
He can be reached at
e-mail : [email protected]