Automated Accountants: Personal Assistant Technology

robot-accountantIn my house, Alexa (aka Amazon Echo) is part of the family.  My young children check the weather whilst eating their breakfast, see how their favorite sports teams are doing, get some jokes, movie times and anything that pops into their head they will just “Ask Alexa”.  They also have a lot of fun seeing how Apple’s Siri and Alexa answer the same questions and which works better for what.  Observing these interactions and interacting myself has been a very good hands on research exercise and I have been thinking for a while of enterprise applications.

We can use personal assistant technology bots to use context and intelligence to provide a natural interface and increase participation in our cloud applications.We can increase participation on two groups of users

  • Casual Users
    • They have infrequent and limited interactions with the applications and do not have the time, or the training and familiarity with the capabilities to participate effectively.  They don’t know what information they can get, never mind how to get it.
  • Power Users
    • For these users it is about reducing the time it takes to do highly repetitive or UI intensive tasks.  This is like me at home getting sports scores or weather from Amazon Echo, I could easily look it up on my phone but it is easier to just say “Alexa, weather” whilst I am pouring my coffee.

I put together a team to enter a hackothon by our UX innovation team last month and we tried to focus on the former use case.  A high level manager who is very busy, runs a team of 50-100 people and manages to budgets but does not have a secretary.  We imagined her wanting to know details of budgets and implemented three flows

  1. Inquiry on remaining budget
  2. Details of who spent a budget on what
  3. Transfer funds from one budget to another (say from travel to computer hardware)

We spent a lot of time trying to make the interactions as natural as possible, so getting the natural language trained correctly was key and we also wanted to use Amazon Echo, IM and SMS messages to interact with the live data in an ERP Cloud environment.

It was a great experience and we learned a lot technically. but probably more of a revelation was the different design strategy for these types of interaction.  The other teams also did some amazing things(read the event review here) so we were pleased to pick up third place overall and the People’s Choice Award (voted on by all the participants).

I fully expect Automated Personal Assistants to be a key interaction model for Enterprise applications going forward, just as we are seeing them start to take off in the consumer space.   Exciting times.

The Times They Are A Changing

I am focusing on some new things here at Oracle.  I’ll be dedicating a lot more of my time looking into emerging technology trends and how we should be applying them to the enterprise ERP or financial management space.

So how does this effect this blog?

I’ve been blogging for many years on Intercompany, Financial Management and ERP, mixing in some general technology posts.  Now I plan to start writing about new technology trends a lot more.  I have always been interested in this, but now I have more time to get deeper into it and I find blogging about things helps me understand them better and get feedback and insight from others, so it is a win-win.  I have enjoyed all the comments on the blog and words of encouragement that people have given me in person, that has been a huge motivation to continue writing (even tho I have been posting as frequently as I would like the last few years) and respond to comments.  I hope that feedback will continue.

So now I have got this announcement out of the way, I can get started… watch this space.

Oracle OpenWorld 2016 My Cloud ERP Sessions

  • oow-logo-2015

    OpenWorld is this month, so time to start planning your agenda.  I’ll be presenting at a few different sessions this year with a focus on Financials Cloud (Part of the ERP Cloud) and E-Business Suite.

    I’m busy preparing for the first two sessions, hope to see you there.  Check out the content catalog for more details and to add them to your agenda.

    How Oracle E-Business Suite Customers Have Achieved Modern Reporting in the Cloud [CON7313]

    David Haimes, Senior Director, Financial Applciations Development, Oracle
    Sara Mannur, Financial Systems Analyst, Niagara Bottling
    This session discusses how to leverage powerful modern reporting tools with no disruption to your existing Oracle E-Business Suite implementation. You will learn the steps required to start using the cloud service. Customers who have implemented Oracle Fusion Accounting Hub Reporting Cloud Service share their implementation experiences and the business benefits they have realized.
    Conference Session
    Tuesday, Sep 20, 12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. | Moscone West—3016

    Oracle ERP Cloud UX Extensibility: From Mystery to Magic [CON7312]

    David Haimes, Senior Director, Financial Applciations Development, Oracle
    Tim Dubois, Senior Director, Applications User Experience, Oracle
    The user experience (UX) design strategy of Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning Cloud (Oracle ERP Cloud)—including financials and product portfolio management—is about simplicity, mobility, and extensibility. Extensibility and admin personalization of Oracle ERP Cloud experiences include a range of tools, from a simplified approach for rebranding the applications, to match your company culture and image to page-level admin personalization and extension, to building your own simplified cloud application in platform as a service using the UX Rapid Development Kit (RDK). In this session, learn about RDK code samples, wireframing tools, and design patterns. Get a view into the RDK roadmap and where Oracle is going next. .
    Conference Session
    Thursday, Sep 22, 1:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. | Moscone West—3001

    Meet the Experts: Oracle Financials Cloud [MTE7784]

    Do not miss this opportunity to meet with Oracle Financials Cloud experts—the people who design and build the applications. In this session, you can have discussions regarding the Oracle Applications Cloud strategy and your specific business and IT strategy. The experts are available to discuss the value of the latest releases and share insights into the best path for your enterprise, so come ready with your questions.
    Meet the Experts Session
    Wednesday, Sep 21, 3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. | Moscone West—3001A

Financial Apps Collaborate 16 Sessions

We’re just two days away from the start of Collaborate and there are so many session I want to get to, my focus is on Financial Applications both Cloud and E-Business Suite.  I already listed sessions where you can find me presenting, but here are ones I think will be interesting, I will attend as many as I can

Firstly two cloud customers(Alex Lee and Westmont Hotels) talking about their experiences implementing cloud financials.

Fusion Financials Implementation Customer Success Experience

Monday April 11th 12:45 PM–1:45 PM – South Seas J

Derrick Walters, Corporate Applications Manager at Alex Lee

How Westmont Hospitality Benefited by Leveraging Cloud ERP
3:15 PM–4:15 PMApr 11, 2016 – South Seas I
Sacha Agostini Oracle Functional Consultant at Vigilant Technologies, LLC.

Next some AGIS, Legal Entity and related topics on E-Business suite.  In these areas that have been out for some time, I generally learn something about innovative uses of the products.  Our partners and customers are very smart.

Intracompany, Intercompany, AGIS – Unraveling the Mysteries!
2:15 PM–3:15 PM Apr 10, 2016 – South Seas A
Bharati ManjeshwarMs at Highstreet IT Solutions, LLC

Master Data Series – Legal Entities From 11i thru Cloud
9:15 AM–10:15 AM Apr 12, 2016 – Breakers F
Thomas Simkiss Vice-President of Consulting at Denovo Ventures, LLC

Its Not too Late! How to Replace Your eBTax Solution After You Have Upgraded
10:30 AM–11:30 AM Apr 11, 2016 – South Seas I
Mr Andrew BohnetDirector ateBiz Answers Ltd

General Ledger and Financial Accounting Hub – A look at a Multi-National Structure
3:30 PM–4:30 PMApr 10, 2016 – Jasmine H
Bharati ManjeshwarMs at Highstreet IT Solutions, LLC

Finally, there are sessions called Power Hours, which are strangely two hours, but i really like the experience last year and based on the fact they are back i assume others did too.  they are not a traditional lecture format, they are more interactive and allow people to discuss their experiences and learn from each other.  If you have not tried one, I highly recommend them.  Here are a couple that jumped out at me
Power Hour – Coexistence – On Premise and Cloud Together and In Harmony
3:15 PM–5:30 PM Apr 11, 2016 – Mandalay Bay C
Mohan Iyer Practice Director at Jade Global, Inc.
Power Hour – eBTax Hacks – Your Questions Answered
9:15 AM–11:45 AM Apr 12, 2016 – Mandalay Bay C
Mr Andrew Bohnet Director at eBiz Answers Ltd
Alexander Fiteni President at Fiteni Enterprises Inc
Dev Singh Manager at KPMG LLP Canada
Power Hour – Master Data Structures in EBS and Cloud
12:45 PM–3:00 PM Apr 11, 2016 – Mandalay Bay C
Mohan Iyer Practice Director at Jade Global, Inc.

Catch Me at Collaborate in Las Vegas

The OAUG Collaborate conference kicks off in Las Vegas on Sunday April 10th.  This conference is organized by Oracle user groups and is packed with content from customers, partners and Oracle have some sessions too.  If you follow this blog you will know I am a big fan of the conference, I learn a lot from our customers and try to give back as much as I can by sharing information and answering questions.  The twitter conversations are already starting, follow #C16LV now and certainly during conference week to see what people are talking about.

I will be presenting a session on Accounting Hub Reporting Cloud Service for Oracle E-Business Suite

1:00 PM–2:00 PM Apr 12, 2016 – South Pacific I

Register now for that one, I will leave plenty of time for questions because this cloud service is generating a lot of buzz.

I will also be at the OAUG GL SIG Meeting 

3:00 PM–4:00 PM Apr 13, 2016 – South Seas J

I’m also planning to attend Meet the Experts: Oracle E-Business Suite Financials 

2:15 PM–3:15 PM Apr 12, 2016 – Breakers G

I will help take questions, you can decide if that qualifies me as an expert or not.

I’ll also be attending Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle Cloud Solutions: Update, Strategy and Roadmap
Nadia Bendjedou, Sr. Director, Product Strategy, Oracle
Monday, April 11, 2:00 – 3:00 PM – Banyan A

I am combing through the sessions to identify others that I want to go to and learn from, I will share those later, watch this space.

What is FAHRCS?

FAHRCS (pronounced farks) is the de facto acronym for the officially titled Accounting Hub Reporting Cloud Service.  It Stands for Fusion Accounting Hub Reporting Cloud Service, which is quite difficult to say.  I have got pretty good at saying F.A.H.R.C.S quickly, but I think “farks” is probably the easiest.

If you are wondering what FAHRCS actually is, you can follow @FAHRCS on twitter, or check out https://cloud.oracle.com/en_US/accounting-hub-reporting-cloud for official documentation.

I’ll be presenting about it at the Higher Education User Group Conference, Alliance16 in March and again at OAUG Collaborate16 in April.  So I hope to see you there and help you learn more about FAHRCS.

A week with Apple Watch: From Cynic to Believer

I had convinced myself the Apple Watch was an overpriced fitness band and that it wasn’t for me and was set to get a Garmin to track my running instead.  Then out of the blue I was given an Apple Watch.  So you can certainly put me down as a cynic, but I certainly like to think I am open minded, so here are my thoughts after a week with the watch.

The experience of getting it set up was surprisingly frustrating, I had to upgrade my phone to iOS 8 before I could activate the watch and that meant deleting things to free a few Gb of memory (to upgrade my Operating System, really?).  So everything had to wait until after I got home and backed up my phone.

First I got this rather cool visual on my watch to scan with the phone and then it was paired and I got this screen telling me the model that I had bought.  OK so I still could not get the time from this watch and I have had the thing all day, I’m getting a little impatient at this point.

watch pairingwatch pairing 2

After waiting about 5 minutes for it to synch, suddenly a load of my apps, including my email, texts, calendar, twitter fitness apps and more are available on my watch.  This is about to get interesting.

The first thing I noticed is that it is actually really easy to ready and see at a glance the notifications that are sent to your watch, such as Calendar reminders, text messages and Oracle Social Network updates (glad to see we are quick to the new platform with our own mobile apps).  This is good for me, I get a lot of these alerts and I found a glance at my wrist was much nicer than pulling out my phone and unlocking it and starting at it.  This sounds like a very small thing, but it is these small improvements in frequent interactions that make for a great user experience.  I also agree with Jeremy Ashley about the huge value in being able to retain eye contact, notifications on my watch are far less obtrusive and the glance at my wrist it is a great experience.

So I wanted to try using it for some different things so I decided to test out text messages first, a quick SMS to respond to my wife’s text ‘ETA?’ to let her know what time I am planning to get home.

My wife and I prefer very efficient communications.

My wife and I prefer very efficient communications.

So I tap once on that nice Reply button

IMG_0027

I can now either pick from a set of pre-defined responses and they would be sent without any other interaction from me. However I like the personal touch, this is my wife after all, so I decide I will click on the microphone icon to dictate a response.  I speak in my answer and see the sound wave at the bottom and the text comes up perfectly first time.

IMG_0028

So now I click done and get a really option to either send the audio or to just tap on the text and send that.  This is a great feature if maybe the voice to text didn’t work properly and I don’t want to waste time correcting it or speaking it again.

IMG_0021

After tapping on the text I am now done.  The whole interaction was very fast and felt very natural.  At this point I am really starting to like the Apple Watch.  In the next few days I try driving directions, twitter, my calendar, a variety of fitness apps and more and pretty much across the board I find the interactions are natural and quick and the fact I have to pull out my phone less is a much bigger deal than I expected.  I find I can glance down at my watch see a text or meeting reminder and carry on a conversation in a way that was not really possible if I had to pull my phone out.  The one app I haven’t yet mentioned is the time, I haven’t worn a watch for over 10 years and I have realized in the last week it’s much easier to glance at my wrist than to pull out my phone – who knew?