Interview with Bob Monahan, Vice President of Product Management, Oracle JD Edwards
Bob Monahan has come a long way since his days of studying geology as an undergraduate. Bob has spent over 5 years working for Chevron and thirty years working on the JD Edwards product. When he is not putting his product expertise to work at Oracle, he enjoys his surroundings in Colorado – including skiing and cheering on the Broncos, and making attempts at gardening. Bob and his wife of thirty years have two children – one recently graduated from college and the other starting college next year. In addition to his extensive industry experience, Bob has a MS in Geophysics from Boston College and an MBA from Regis University.
We recently had the opportunity to pick Bob’s brain – we asked him about the JDE community and how we can collectively continue to be successful. Please read more in his own words below.
What is the biggest challenge you see JDE customers facing today?
Bob: Challenges vary by industry, and depending on their business, customers face challenges such as acquisitions, divestiture, organic growth, attracting and retaining talent, top line revenue growth, and making the business more efficient to increase profit margins.
It really comes down to two things: Trying to keep up with the current demands and needs of the business while also working to move the company forward; balancing the challenges faced daily to keep the company moving, while also focusing on innovation. It’s a bi-modal operating model.
What are JDE customers doing to overcome those challenges?
Bob: Many invest in upgrading. To run their businesses as effectively as they can, customers need to stay current to take advantage of the latest product features such as Health & Safety, Advanced Job Forecasting, and Outbound Inventory. With other new features like One View reporting and UX One landing pages, users have access to real-time insight that provides the information they need to make better business decisions.
Customers are also implementing mobile and IoT to begin enabling a digital transformation journey. There are also many digital transformation options with Oracle Cloud – taking advantage of IaaS or complementing JDE with new capabilities through SaaS and PaaS.
How do you incorporate user feedback into your product updates?
Bob: There’s really quite a matrix of the many ways we obtain information from customers. We get feedback from one-on-one customer meetings. In addition, we’ve picked up a number of ideas posted on social media. We also get information from Oracle Product Support when customers formally request enhancements. Partners like Terillium, who are representing the customer base, give us insight. We gain insight through collaboration with organizations such as Quest and other special interest groups. Finally, we receive input and feedback on business challenges from prospects and from the sales organization.
We look at all this feedback holistically, and then we prioritize.
You provide a technology product, but how important is person-to-person collaboration in implementing modern business processes?
Bob: It’s extremely important. You can’t bypass person-to-person collaboration. From a project perspective, you have to understand the business requirements and the challenges customers are facing. During the implementation, you deal with multiple levels of customer collaboration.
When we work on product enhancements, we create customer focus groups across industries to collaborate and gain feedback.
From a product perspective, we are working to enable collaboration within the JDE system by using social products from Oracle Cloud. Oracle already has cloud offerings, such as Document Cloud Service and Social Cloud Service, that users can implement to better collaborate within an organization.
What is the number one thing businesses running JDE can do in 2017 that will set them up for future business success for years to come?
Bob: Lay the foundation for enabling a digital transformation. No matter what challenges may come – it’s really about being agile to respond to business or market challenges, connected internally and externally, and having real time business insight.
Stay as reasonably current as possible. I realize customers can’t upgrade every six months, but try to update the tools release once a year and try to stay current on the application. This will allow you to stay agile and pivot no matter where the business goes.
What affect do you think Cognitive Computing will have on JDE in the next 5-10 years?
Bob: I think it’s going to have a very significant impact on the product. I’ve seen IBM’s Watson product: it’s staggering. It really gives businesses insights they just don’t have today. I don’t think it will change transactional information, but I think access to new information and the ability to gain new insights it will be a significant benefit for business users.
I think there are tremendous opportunities for JDE with virtual reality. We see virtual reality more and more in the consumer marketplace –I think about bringing that capability into the business world. For example, maintenance technicians training or certification would be able to interact with equipment virtually, before they ever touch the machine.
What has been the most helpful resource for you as a business leader today (examples: SIG groups, professional networks/organizations, user groups, trade shows, websites or magazines, colleagues, leadership training)?
Bob: It’s a combination of all of the above. For me, it’s really about how to keep learning? I read finance, economic, and industry information. I engage with industry analysis firms, and I engage with our customers to learn.
I like Harvard Business Review. They have a management tip of the day I recommend; it’s one paragraph that gives you something to think about. It takes two minutes to read, and there is always something interesting.
What is the best business/career advice you’ve ever been given? And/or what is your favorite motivational quote?
Bob: I’ve heard many good quotes, but wouldn’t rely on just one. It comes down to a lot of experience. However, one that has been tried and true throughout my career is something I heard at my high school graduation: Always remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. It was a good way of saying that you may think you know, but there is an incredible amount of information that you don’t know. Throughout my career I’ve always tried to remember that and keep an open mind.
It’s also important to focus on patience and perseverance. Success often doesn’t happen in weeks or months, especially in what I do. It happens over years or decades.
Another thought, as we are almost ready to move into baseball season: Don’t focus on the home run. Focus on success in iterations. Think about consistently hitting singles. Think about moving forward and getting from where we are now to where we want to be down the road.
This is some advice I’ve followed over the years.
What advice or message do you have for partners, like Terillium, in 2017?
Bob: We owe a big thank-you to Terillium for being a great long-term partner. We couldn’t do it without you; we have many joint successes.
Going back to the bi-modal challenge customers are facing – partners can help. We’ve put a a lot of value into JDE between releases 9.0 and 9.2. Partners can help enable customers to stay current and make use of that value. This will allow them to support their business more efficiently, but also position them with digital transformation tools to look toward the future.