Oracle updates SaaS tools with more AI, more industry-specific features

Oracle extends the capabilities and reach of its Digital Assistant across its cloud applications, while also adding features across its applications for specific verticals.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Oracle on Tuesday rolled out a series of new features to its cloud applications, including its supply chain management (SCM), human capital management (HCM), customer experience (CX) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools. The enhancements include several new or improved AI-driven features, such as the expansion of the Oracle Digital Assistant. There are also several new industry-specific features. 

Announced at Oracle's OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, the updates to Oracle's Cloud Applications are designed to help customers adapt to a new, disruptive economy, Steve Miranda, EVP of applications product development at Oracle, told ZDNet. Broad economic shifts, such as the trend toward subscription-based services, have brought enterprises to Oracle for a few different reasons, he said.  

First, Oracle is reaching "new economy" companies like Lyft, which recently began using Oracle's Fusion ERP system. "They're moving directly to the cloud, and they're choosing our cloud for that," Miranda said. 

Meanwhile, some customers on legacy vendor platforms have a critical reason to move to Oracle cloud services, such as a security or stability concern. But the overwhelming majority, Miranda said, are looking for features to help them modernize specific aspects of their business. For instance, finance teams may need a new ERP system to account for subscription pricing, or HR teams may need tools to accommodate a more global, mobile workforce. 

"A theme we hear a lot is customers are either becoming the disruptor or they're being disrupted," Miranda said.

Oracle on Tuesday showcased a variety of customers using Oracle Cloud Applications, including IBVI (Industries for The Blind and Visually Impaired). The organization found that using Oracle's comprehensive suite of back-office tools is helping it in its mission to employ as many blind and visually impaired individuals as possible. 

IBVI employs blind and visually impaired people for a range of jobs, such as assembly line production. Oracle's applications have made it easier for those workers to accomplish routine tasks, such as signing up for health care coverage. Additionally, thanks to the SaaS suite, IBVI has been able to employ more blind and visually impaired workers in customer service and office roles.  

Oracle's cloud applications have made all of this easier in large part because they are compatible with accessibility tools like JAWS (text-to-speech) and ZoomText. The integrated platform makes it easier for IBVI employees to access data across services. IBVI  CIO Emmanuel Vouvakis explained to ZDNet that the organization chose Oracle over other cloud vendors because it provided that "integrated, holistic approach."

"We needed a solution that was strong across the board," he said. 

Here's a rundown of the Oracle Cloud Application updates: 

Oracle's Customer Experience (CX) Cloud:

  • New Digital Assistants: The Oracle Digital Assistant is now available across the entire Oracle CX Cloud. Sales teams can use it to create configured quotes with voice commands. Service teams can use it to query the knowledge repository or to deliver self-service features for customers on chat channels. Marketing teams can use it in conjunction with Oracle Responsy to create promotional campaigns. 
  • New data-enriched B2B sales capabilities: A new Oracle DataFox integration improves coordination between sales and marketing teams. It also gives sales teams a richer view of accounts and helps them rank and prioritize accounts. 
  • New industry-specific capabilities: Telecom and media customers are getting a new Enterprise Product Catalog that can be published across sales, procurement, fulfillment, and billing. Financial services customers are getting new AI recommendations to help banking associates increase customer satisfaction. Public sector customers -- specifically cities -- are getting new chatbot capabilities to improve communications with citizens.

Oracle's Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud:

  • New conversational experiences: The Oracle Digital Assistant now offers employees suggested next steps for HR-related tasks, such as onboarding or performance evaluations. 
  • LinkedIn integration: Oracle and LinkedIn customers can now import information directly from their LinkedIn profile into Oracle HCM Cloud. This can help employers encourage more internal mobility. Customers can also use LinkedIn's Recruiter System Connect to connect Oracle's recruiting tools with LinkedIn Recruiter. 
  • Oracle Connections: The new feature lets employees connect to other people across their organization. Every employee has a profile page to share skills, interests, successful projects and more.  
  • New events-based processes: Multi-step processes, such as changing identity and tax information for a newly-married employee, can now be automated.  
  • New self-service capabilities: The new capabilities for position management will be especially beneficial for position-run organizations in higher education, healthcare, and the public sector. 

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Clouds:

  • Digital Assistant capabilities: Use the conversational UI to submit and review time sheets, track the status of projects and escalate time entry and project management issues.  
  • Intelligent document recognition: Ingesting financial information from PDFs and other forms should be more efficient and accurate, as the system learns to recognize and process invoices.  
  • IoT monetization: Customers can now use IoT data to improve product insight and develop usage-based monetization models.  
  • Student financial planning for Higher Ed: Higher education institutions can get automated financial aid packaging that supports programs with real-time synchronization with federal data sources. 
  • Joint Venture Accounting for Oil & Gas: Customers can not automate transaction processing and introduce role-based tools for joint ventures, improving partner collaboration. 

Supply Chain Management (SCM) Cloud: 

  • Digital Assistant capabilities: The conversational UI will initially help SCM customers with logistics uses cases, including checking on status, tracking deviations from plans, and reporting incidents. 
  • New Oracle Business Network: This B2B network will help customers search for and connect with trading partners. With a planned Oracle DataFox integration, customers will get real-time trading partner information. 
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