What is most valuable?
Oracle have been spending a lot of time developing the HCM Cloud product, and it's now a full-featured product set as far as I'm concerned. It covers the core lifecycle of an employee, all the way through from hiring somebody, managing their employment during their time with the organization, all the way through to terminations at the end. Absences are managed, time and labor is there to manage people's working time. It's a fairly full-feature function set.
How has it helped my organization?
With the product being in the cloud, that means that the users don't have to worry about having servers on premises, they don't have to worry about all the infrastructure, all the upgrades. They have to test upgrades, but Oracle Cloud Services will provide all of those services as part of the subscription to the product. From a technical point of view, it's a really easy thing for an organization to manage. From a functional point of view, it's a really simply solution to use as well. From the current release, which is release 11, Oracle have introduced what's known as the simplified user interface. All of the screens that every type of user is going to use all look the same. They're really simple to use, so it does what it says on the box. Clean screens, not much information on each screen, and really intuitive to use.
What needs improvement?
I think Oracle HCM is a full-feature product. It's perhaps that some of the parts of the product need expansion. I come from the UK and we deal a lot with people who want a UK-based, legislatively-based payroll service. There are certain very specific things that have to be done that would be different from other countries. Currently, there are still some important gaps in that. Oracle are addressing that and they have a release program, and later this year we expect to see some of that come in. I think I'd like to see Oracle focus on the key components of the system rather than perhaps some of the more fluffy areas that not everyone is going to use.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
A lot of people ask about scalability. That's one of the real benefits of Oracle in the cloud. Say you're an organization that's got 5,000 employees and you do an acquisition and you take on another 5,000. Then Oracle scales for you. You just raise a service request and say, "I need my database to be doubled in size." You haven't got to go through all the internal problems you would have if it was on premises. It's a highly scalable product.
How are customer service and technical support?
When you're in the cloud you have a three-way relationship. Usually between the customer, their implementation partner, and Oracle themselves. Instead of Oracle just being a software vendor, they've now become a service provider. They have to provide the service to make sure it's up 24/7. They also have to provide the support. The support is really good for Oracle. People who use their older legacy system, E-Business Suite, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, they use the same functionality within the system to record service requests so everything's exactly the same as it used to be. It's just it might be a different group of people supporting you. The product's now been out there for three or four years and it's becoming mature enough that there's people within Oracle who know how to support that.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
One of the big issues at the moment that I think customers have is that the need to make a decision. If they've got an on-premises system, do they stay with that? Do they upgrade it? Get the next version, or do they move to the cloud? Now that's an individual decision for different companies and everybody will have their own reasons for why they decide to move to the cloud or why they don't. I think some of the benefits of moving to the cloud, that you don't have to manage that infrastructure anymore. Also, I think it's fair to say that Oracle really are developing the cloud. That's where all the innovation is going. Although they do update their legacy systems, we see more and more of the innovation going into the cloud first. I think that will just increase over time.
I think there comes a point when a customer who is thinking about moving to the cloud is going to think, "Well, if I buy an on-premises system and I keep that for the next five or 10 years, is that system going to be a bit of a dinosaur quite quickly?" Whereas cloud, it's in its infancy and I guess it's got a longer shelf life at this point. I think it's a decision that will be made differently by different companies. What we're seeing in the market is that more and more people seem to be moving to the cloud now.
I think when you're choosing a solution for the cloud, you've really got to look at is that vendor growing its application portfolio? Is it developing it? Is it bringing out new features? Is it giving you something that is scalable? If I want to grow my organization, will my application grow with me? I think they're the important things. Secondly, I'd look at support. Does my vendor provide the right level of support for me? If I'm a global organization, does it cover me following the sun around the world 24/7, 365 days a year?
What about the implementation team?
I think when you're implementing in the cloud, it's a slightly different process to implementing on premises. There are still certain things about a project which will always be the same. For example, the customer has to do certain tasks and that will still take them as long as it always took them. The implementation partner will have to do tasks to ensure the customer understands what's going on so all of those things are the same. What you find in the cloud is you're buying a service. That service can be stood up almost immediately, and you're paying for it from day one, so the customer needs to see something, needs to see an ROI very quickly. What we do when we implement is we show them in week one what the system will look like. We put some of their own data into it and we go through quite a rapid implementation process.
What other advice do I have?
If somebody asks me to rate HCM Cloud from 1 to 10, I think at this point I'd give it an 8 out of 10. It's getting there. It's a really good product. My company implements it frequently. We've got a lot of business out of it and it's only getting better all the time. The only reason I wouldn't give it 9 or 10 is that I still think there's more that can be done, but I think it's a brilliant product. One of the important things about implementing the HCM Cloud solution is that you need to have a slightly different mind-set, a different approach to implementing it.
The traditional on-premises implementations often took maybe a year or more, would involve a great team of people who would be camped on the customer's site for the whole period, and it would be expensive. I think with cloud, you've got to think of it different because from day 1 that application will work. You need to configure it, but you can customize it, so you have to really understand the product. That's the key to it. We at Certus really understand the product set and we can get the most out of it for our customers because we know we cannot fall back on the option of customizing it because you just can't do that in the cloud. I think it's a different mind-set, really.