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Catalyzing Change Through IT Investments

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s natural to reflect on the triumphs and tribulations of the past year; however, it’s much more important to look ahead and prepare for the challenges to come. We must, as Hem and Haw learned long ago in the old fable, “Who Moved My Cheese?”, constantly anticipate and adapt to change, lest we wake up one day and realize that our complacency has created dire circumstances for our business.

However, while nearly every organizational guru and change management pundit tells us never to let fear or entrenched viewpoints keep leaders from taking risks and embracing innovation, how many of us really follow that advice? Uncertain economies and a rapidly evolving technological landscape can do much to undermine the bravery and foresight necessary to keep a business successful. Huge titans of industry – Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders and Motorola, just to name a few – have all but disappeared as a result of their inability to innovate and evolve.

For the IT industry, paralyzing pitfalls not only come in the form of outdated technologies, but also in outdated beliefs. For example, some perceptions that come to mind are: IT is an unnecessary cost; IT does not help us when we need it the most; IT will adjust on its own as the business evolves; and IT is just another term for automating “accounting”.

As a result of these beliefs, companies fail to include IT as a tool to execute change, much to their detriment. While the product or service that a company offers in the market may not have much to do with computers or software in and of itself, the role of IT in supporting or even producing that product or service is invaluable. Without data, metrics, analytics, processes and technology to back up a product or service (even if it is non-IT!), the business is going to feel the pinch and start to unravel rapidly.

Now, don’t get us wrong – we are completely sympathetic to concerns with cost, especially for risky change initiatives when the cheese supply (so to speak) is limited. But, as with any other business decision, “cost”, must be considered in terms of overall return on investment; a fixation on upfront spending is both paralyzing and impractical. IT Business investments should be measured in the impacts on the business, both tangible and intangible. An inclusive approach to quantifying the business value of IT initiatives will differ from industry to industry, but diagramming an enterprise “value chain” is a starting point that will help define and connect seemingly disparate processes and functions. This investigation is best done with the full buy-in and active participation of the enterprise as a whole. In our experience, Value Chain Analysis can be best achieved through the following process:

  • Graphing out activities from input (raw materials) to output to illustrate how the product or service gets to market
  • Categorize these activities as primary or support activities
  • Identify whether the company goals for all activities are aligned to compete based on the lowest cost or differentiation. Use these numbers to establish metrics and benchmarks
  • For each primary and support activity, list out:
    • Business Application used for transactional need
    • Applications/Tools for reporting needs
    • Applications/Tools used for workflow automation and event response
    • Manual processes
    • Dependency on other activities in the value chain
    • User Satisfaction
    • Total cost of ownership
    • Critical areas for improvement

In many cases, such an exercise will lead to a transparent and collaborative discussion of both corporate and departmental goals, potentially uncovering previously untapped partnerships and resources to achieve them. Most importantly, comprehensive analysis of the complete value chain fosters an understanding and respect for how systems, processes and people work together to create a successful enterprise. These collaborative summits can motivate corporate leaders to explore new areas of the technological landscape to stay relevant and ahead of challenges, inspiring a new-found respect for the power of IT to support the overall strategy and vision for a company.

So, shall we call this the beginning of a new “Find My Cheese” era? Let the cheese hunt begin – together!

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Own Your Land [Departments]

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, in order to make money, you have to spend it. For Land Departments, this is particularly true, as one of their single greatest and most important costs is land leases. These mineral rights transactions are often so complicated that they require the involvement of litigation experts and government regulators, adding to the cost. Doing this job, and doing it well, is not cheap; but Land Departments consistently invest in these processes and procedures because providing those critical lease documents to their field operation team while simultaneously managing the department’s relationship with owners is the most important role that they play. As a result, most Land Managers exert absolute control over their data, making sure that they can meticulously track it from each source to each destination.

Historically, most Land Managers have relied on spreadsheets to monitor and maintain this data; however, although spreadsheets allow departments to manage and transfer their data, they are not auditable, lack control and enterprise visibility, and are a liability for compliance requirements. As a result, more and more departments are moving towards a land management application, such as P2 Land, TEL/TLS or Quorum. Land Applications solve many of the issues associated with spreadsheets, but they also present a new one: how do they incorporate the business intelligence and processes specific to your department and enterprise into their functionality?

One example is the process of paying mineral rights owners and, conversely, the billing of working interest partners. Most land applications do not come with built in integrators for Accounting systems, and yet paying owners and billing partners are two of the most critical functions for land data. For many lessors, a check in mail (or ACH) is the only evidence that proves E&P companies are holding up their end of the bargain (or lease agreement). Should a land department move to an application-based data management system, it absolutely must be a flexible and extendable solution that can share data with all of the proper departments.

It is here that the experience of the managers, the robust and expansive business intelligence they’ve acquired, will be more valuable than ever. Once a solution is chosen (and we strongly suggest you defer to a consultative one), this knowledge will help the vendor quickly design integration capabilities for the application from any source, helping the technology conform to recognizable and proven processes that serve, not subserviate, land managers. A quick turnaround will be an absolute life-saver when the deadlines are based on yesterday and the data keeps pouring in like there’s no tomorrow.

As a service provider to many oil and gas companies, we have grounded our solutions with the knowledge and experience we have gleaned from many years of work with both Land and Accounting Departments. For one such engagement, we focused on the extraction, transformation, and loading of TEL data into staging tables, a solution we created based on the collective industry knowledge of our experts and the Land Managers. Our consultants integrated this data into Oracle EBS APIs for both the Payables and Receivables department. This connected the Invoice Maintenance module in TEL to the ERP systems used by the Accounting Department, giving greater functionality to the TEL through the ability to streamline the manual creation of invoices or update of the existing ones, as well as the ability to void existing invoice data from prior period transactions. As a result of this collaborative effort, the project was completed in just one short month.

For Land Departments who are thinking about moving to a land management system, don’t worry; you are still the boss. Extensions and integrators allow you to get what you need from your applications without sacrificing the most important component for success: human intelligence.

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(Point of) Service, Not Sale

For retailers, the months between October and December are by far their busiest time of year, so it can be expected that all of their time and energy goes into executing a successful holiday season, right? Wrong! In addition to laying a strong foundation for Holiday Readiness, executives and decision-makers must simultaneously look forward to their 2016 strategic planning. For many, this plan includes expanding and enhancing omnichannel operations.

Omnichannel and Store of the Future

The discussion regarding the importance of omnichannel retailing has dominated the industry for the last five years, and this year is no different. But, before we delve further into this topic, we want to clarify the differences between Multichannel, Crosschannel and Omnichannel operations. These terms are often used so interchangeably that even those of us working in the industry get confused!

Multichannel: multiple channels to engage customers and to purchase products, including brick-and-mortar stores, websites, call centers and catalogs

Crosschannel: a combination of different channels for the same purpose, such as purchase at home and pickup in a store

Omnichannel: multiple channels to engage customers AND provide consistent experience

  • Example: Start shopping online, continue on mobile, checkout in the store based on previously selected products. Pay online and have it shipped to the house

The fact of the matter is that consumers today aren’t just shopping for a product; they’re looking for an experience. Competitive pricing is no longer enough to keep customers coming back; ultimately, what will prompt them to choose your store over another will be the quality of their experience and the flexibility of their choices. Omnichannel retailing shows a 90%+ higher year-over-year rate for customer retention, and a 3%+ increase in customer lifetime value.

In order to execute this strategy successfully, retailers must have a Point of Sale (POS) system that allows customers to take full advantage of this flexible shopping experience. In considering a new POS system, the two most common questions are:

  1. Our existing system meets most of the business requirements — is the ROI for the new system significant enough?
  2. Large system change carries a significant risk and time commitment — will this be a distraction from direct revenue generating activities?
  3. Will merging sales channels negatively affect margins or brand recognition?

While all of these concerns are certainly valid, our experience is that the benefits of a new, more robust POS system far outweigh the drawbacks. Some of the pros include, but are not limited to:

  1. Increased consistency across experience, aesthetics and data integrity
  2. Mobile and self-mobile checkout
  3. PCI Compliance and EMV Compliance (Oct 1st deadline has passed)
  4. Advanced security and encryption for customer data protection
  5. Customer identification and guided shopping
  6. Usage efficiency and overall reduction of routing
  7. Improved integration capabilities with Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings:
    • CRM
    • Traffic data
    • BI, advanced analytics and loss prevention
    • Loyalty programs
    • Workforce and task management
    • Special orders
    • Inventory
    • Pricing
  8. Promotions and discounts engine
  9. Multi-language and multi-currency support
  10. Updated/supported OS, database and equipment versions

But, in a saturated market, which POS system is best?

The Forrester Wave published a report in July of this year analyzing 10 different POS systems to determine which systems truly offered the most robust qualities and capabilities for both retailers and their customers. They weighed the individual components of each system and gave them an overall score for both their strength of current offering and their future strategy.  The report found that, while all 10 systems* held up fairly well in each respective category, clear winners emerged within the Omnichannel space:

Retail Analysis2

Leaders (with eCommerce integration): Aptos, Demandware, Fujitsu, NCR, and PCMS

Competitive: Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, SAP, and Wincor Nixdorf

Based on this information, it’s clear that retailers have several strong options available for improving their omnichannel presence in 2016. Investing in a new POS system will improve the way your customers shop, whether it be in a brick-and-mortar store or on their phone, and we urge you to make this a critical initiative in your 2016 Strategy. New POS systems focus not on the “Sale”, as their name implies, but on the “Service”, helping retailers to offer a consistently superior experience across all platforms. Instead of logistical concerns dominating and shaping the purchase process, the customers themselves determine their shopping experience. Omnichannel retailing gives shoppers the freedom of choice; the right “Point of Service” system provides the experience that makes them choose you.

*Watch out for the new kid on Retail block: Infor announces CloudeSuite Retail

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Holiday Retail Readiness: Making Lists and Checking Them Twice

It is officially October, which, for most of the country, means Halloween decorations, pumpkin spice everything and the arrival of cooler weather. Retailers, however, are already deep into “Holiday Mode”, preparing for the exponential increase in customer, sale and return volume that begins before Thanksgiving and continues through to the New Year.

Over the years, we’ve supported many Retail IT clients (both traditional and e-Commerce); some of our consultants have even worked in Retail IT themselves. This experience has given us a huge appreciation and respect for the effort it takes to execute and deliver a successful holiday season, both for customers and employees.

For many retailers, the best way to prepare for the holiday season is to create detailed checklists and plans of action. Of the questions we’ve seen retailers ask, some of the most common are:

  1. Will all IT projects and critical bug fixes be completed in time for the holidays?
  2. Will both store and call center systems operate seamlessly to minimize system interaction time and maximize customer experience?
  3. Are controls in place to maximize data security?
  4. Will the website support the anticipated record breaking Cyber Monday at its peak performance?
  5. Will distribution center systems be able to handle increased order and subsequent return volume?
  6. Is there time to test system preparedness and document results to avoid unexpected malfunctions?
  7. Can employees keep up with daily financial settlement cut-off times?
  8. Are IT systems equipped to monitor accurately data regarding inventory volume, availability and pricing?
  9. Will the Accounting Department have the support they need during year-end close process?
  10. Last, but certainly not least, have we provided for 24*7 monitoring and availability to support both customer-facing and back-office systems and processes? How will this coverage affect the already understaffed and overworked IT department?

We are extremely confident that the answer to all of the above questions is a resounding “YES!” However…in the off-chance that the holidays have sneaked up on you (as they are apt to do) and your “YES!” is not quite so resounding as you might like, we’ve outlined a few tips and suggestions that can be easily and quickly implemented:

  1. Talk with every business department about their plans and their absolute “Must-Haves” to deliver exceptional service
  2. Communicate to all departments what issues are not going to be resolved and agree on workarounds
  3. Set a firm code freeze date – do not allow any system changes beyond that point
  4. Get with your key vendors (technology, product, etc.) to get their status on holiday readiness – it takes multiple parties to deliver great service
  5. Stress test your e-Commerce infrastructure to make sure it can handle double the expected volume. Be sure to resolve issues before Cyber Monday
  6. Implement a sales audit process
  7. Have a Plan B to transact manually should your systems experience an outage. Train your staff in this protocol, as well as in the subsequent catch-up and reconciliation process
  8. Do not schedule physical inventory during holiday season (or too close to it) – your employees will thank you!
  9. Start year-end close process now – this way, you can resolve exceptions and clean up interfaces ahead of schedule
  10. Take the time to train a robust IT support team. Provide them with a full list of additional tasks, functions and expectations for 24*7 coverage (Monitoring and maintaining these systems is no small feat: the complexity of Retail IT Systems, and their varied interactions, inspired Value Global to create a Managed Services offering specifically for retailers, BPSM², which monitors both individual systems and their cross-functionality)

Happy Holiday Season, Retailers! We hope we’ve made it a little manageable by outlining a To-Do List that addressed at least a few of your most pressing items. Next week, we’ll help you start that 2016 Strategic Road Map by reviewing the pros and cons of a new Point of Service system, so stay tuned!

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Winning Strategies to Get Noticed and Get Hired

In a fiercely competitive economy, standing out in a pool of job applicants is a tough battle. For technology professionals, it can feel especially impossible to highlight your unique skill set from a highly-structured resume or high-level project descriptions. To make it a little easier, our veteran Value Global team has outlined a few tried and true ways to get noticed, and get hired.

Nail the First Impression

Making a good first impression is always important, but particularly during the hiring process. Recruiters and HR professionals spend merely 10 seconds looking at a candidate’s resume before deciding whether or not they are worth further investigation. To make the most of those 10 seconds:

  • Invest time into optimizing your resume – bold your particularly impressive projects and skills or add a comprehensive summary of your experience to the top.
  • Submit extra material, like a video (even if it’s an unedited webcam clip). This can go a long way in distinguishing yourself from other candidates, as well as giving yourself a memorable face.
  • Practice, practice, practice – always update your skills by building something off hours and adding it to your resume.

Do Your Homework…and the Extra Credit, Too

A distinctive way to get the time and attention of decision makers is to show you understand their business. You want to demonstrate your knowledge of the company’s direction and initiative and apply it in creative ways such as:

  • If you are a developer, build a simple app using their API. A few extra hours could turn your candidacy around to the short list.
  • Create a 30/60/90 day plan! This will show you are prepared to hit the ground running and detail what you will do with your time there. Your plan also serves as a conversation tool to outline what you want to achieve.
  • If you are a graphic designer, design a simple mockup for one of the company’s important initiatives.
  • Bring in a 5-10 page presentation with ideas on how the company can cut cost, save money, make money or outsource to offshore.
  • If you do not have a project that highlights the specific technology or skill for which the company is looking, create a project that utilizes it. It shows passion, initiative and success in completing a worthwhile project.

Connect, Connect, Connect

The fastest way to an interview is to have someone you know make an introduction or recommendation; your network is stronger than you think. Don’t be afraid to leverage it as much as possible! Take actions such as:

  • Reach out to previous managers and colleagues with whom you have worked for letters of reference or recommendations.
  • Connect with your friends and LinkedIn contacts by sending personalized in mails to each, using social media as a vehicle to reach a large network. Additionally, you can ask connections to be an advocate for you, if they are connected to someone at the prospective company.
  • Ask previous managers how they got the job that “set them apart”. They can also give you some much needed insight into your strengths and advice on how to address your challenges.
  • Build rapport by mastering the art of small talk. Develop good positive energy with everyone who connects with you. You’ll become more confident in face-to-face networking, as well as build skills you can apply during interviews.
  • Contact a recruiter! They are trusted by their clients and plugged into the latest opportunities. Best of all, submitting your resume to a recruiting company won’t cost you a dime.

Don’t Neglect the Follow Up

Chances are, hiring managers are interviewing several people for one job, and so, just like tributes in The Hunger Games, you’ve got to “make them remember you”. You can solidify a lasting impression when you:

  • Send a personal email to everyone with whom you interviewed. Better yet, deliver a handwritten note to the company. This kind of courtesy will not go unnoticed.
  • Ask your interviewers for some constructive feedback that you can apply during your next interview should they decide to go with another candidate. This leaves the hiring manager with good will and increases the chance that they would contact you for a future opportunity.

All in all, put yourself in the hiring managers’ shoes. What would YOU want to see and hear from a developer who’s interviewing at the company that you have built? Do your research, ask questions, prepare material of your work, make soft skills a number one priority and, most of all, don’t get discouraged. Be confident in your abilities; hiring managers believe in the people who believe in themselves.

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Needles and Digital Haystacks: Storing and Accessing Your Digitized Documents

It used to be that validating an old piece of information meant manually searching through a warehouse full of storage boxes and hard copies of documents; in other words, trying to find a needle in a haystack.  These days, we can, as Robin Sloan said, simply “ask the hays to look for it”. The digitizing of documents allows companies to maintain a massive backlog of records and data, as well as to easily retrieve them.

To manage this massive volume of data, most companies have implemented a document retention policy which states that documents need only to be maintained for a set period of time. However, even with these policies, storage and organizations systems are still incredibly labor and time intensive for workers. Automating the storage and retrieval process is crucial not only for filing and maintaining the data, but also for maximizing the efficiency of your employees.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options for companies looking to do this. FileNet is a great IBM content management system and a large number of Oracle EBS clients use it as their content repository. It provides a high-level of document security, classification and metadata for its files, and is also searchable and retrievable via FileNet workbench and APIs.

Unfortunately, many companies struggle with creating a synchronous bridge between these two servers that would allow the FileNet Content Engine to receive documents paired with metadata from Oracle EBS. Without this bridge, digitally storing, filing, and retrieving these documents becomes as labor-intensive as that warehouse used to be.

In the case of one client, they first had to print all the documents they had as soft copies before scanning them through KoFax with its respective first page template. After being scanned, the documents could be manually loaded into FileNet through programs that would read the first page templates and identify the respective document class for placement within the program. The employee was required to identify the URL for these documents before finally attaching them to their respective Journal Entries or transactions.

Whew…we’re exhausted just writing about it! Can you see why our client had such a significant backlog? To integrate these two disparate systems into one, Value Global consultants designed an application that would allow users to upload documents and would automatically connect them with existing transactions. Although there are innumerable design options, we utilized the following components:

Oracle Application Framework (OAF) Based Web Interface: This webpage was the primary means to load files from the desktop. We internally linked it to the Journal Entry, Invoice, or Purchase Order from which it was initiated, which helped the interface pass metadata related to the transaction to FileNet.

FileNet Utilities (Java API): These components connected to the FileNet content engine and worked with the Oracle interface in a seamless and synchronous way. The utilities interacted with FileNet to save documents to its respective document class and help to retrieve document URLs for those documents not attached, thereby separating Pl/SQL packages that were needed to perform the attachments to the transactions.

Schedulable Java Program: This concurrent program used the same FileNet utilities and packages to retrieve document URLS for “loose” documents and attach them to its transactions in Oracle EBS.

As a result of this bridge, the client saved over $3.2 million in operational cost, and now has a much better grasp of the EAM.

Digitizing your documents, when done thoroughly, can drastically increase ease of use with your historical data. Software, such as FileNet and JAVA API’s, can be called upon to connect to the content engine and work with the Oracle interface in a synchronous way. This opens up accessibility to the files or file URLs, which, in turn, can do all the work in finding that pesky needle, just like it’s supposed to.

Glossary:

Document Class: A category for documents in an object store or library. Every document belongs to a document class such as Purchase Orders. The document class determines the document’s versioning (where applicable), properties, storage location, security and lifecycle.

Metadata: Data that describes other data. Content Engine stores metadata, which describes classes and properties, in the object store’s database.

Content Engine:  The FileNet P8 component that provides an object-oriented repository for managing content and other business-related data, collectively referred to as objects.

 

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Value Global Named to 2015 Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America

After being named a Finalist for the Houston Business Journal’s Fast 100 List for 2015 a few weeks ago, Value Global, LLC is honored to announce its inclusion in the 2015 Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America. With 138% growth over the last three years, Value Global ranked within the top 3000 companies.

An illustrious and comprehensive list, the Inc. 5000 celebrates independent entrepreneurs. Companies such as as Yelp, Pandora, Timberland, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, LinkedIn, Zillow and many other well-known names have been featured on past lists.

According to Inc. 5000, this was one of the most competitive years in the List’s history. Says Inc. President and Editor-in-Chief Eric Schurenberg,

“The story of this year’s Inc. 5000 is the story of great leadership. In an incredibly competitive business landscape, it takes something extraordinary to take your company to the top. You have to remember that the average company on the Inc. 5000 grew nearly six-fold since 2012. Business owners don’t achieve that kind of success by accident.”

A complete list of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database can be found on the Inc. 5000 website.

 

 

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CIO Review selects Value Global for 20 Most Promising Oil and Gas Solution Providers

Annual list showcases the 20 Most Promising Oil and Gas Solution Providers; Value Global makes it to CIO Review’s top Oil and Gas Solution Providers list for its expertise in providing consultative, cutting-edge solutions for the Oil and Gas industry to streamline data and integrate operations across disparate departments.

FREMONT, CA – December 31, 2014 – CIO Review (www.cioreview.com) has chosen Value Global (www.valueglobal.net) for its 20 Most Promising Oil and Gas Solution Providers. The positioning is based on evaluation of Value Global’s success in offering consultative, cutting-edge solutions for the Oil and Gas industry to streamline data and integrate operations across disparate departments. The annual list of companies is selected by a panel of experts and members of CIO Review’s editorial board to recognize and promote technology entrepreneurship. “Value Global has been on our radar for some time for stirring a revolution in the Oil and Gas space, and we are happy to showcase them this year due to their continuing excellence in delivering top-notch technology-driven solutions,” said Harvi Sachar, Publisher and Founder, CIO Review. “Value Global’s solutions continued to break new ground within the past year benefiting its customers around the globe, and we’re excited to have them featured on our top companies list.”

“Value Global is honored to be recognized by CIO Review’s panel of experts and thought leaders,” said Shree Sannabhadti, Managing Principal, Value Global.

Click Here to read the full profile.

About Value Global

Value Global is an Information Technology services and solutions company that specializes in offering solutions such as: Application Development, Managed Services, QA Solutions, Enterprise Mobility Solutions, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Integration and Business Process Outsourcing.

About CIO Review

CIO Review constantly endeavors to identify “The Best” in a variety of areas important to tech business. Through nominations and consultations with industry leaders, our editors choose the best in different domains. Oil and Gas Solution Providers is an annual listing of 20 Most Promising Oil and Gas Solution Providers in the U.S.

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