Oracle PaaS enhances and connects your SaaS applications and your business.
By David Baum
Trek’s business case for modernizing legacy systems with cloud services was driven primarily by the needs of the company’s more than 10,000 dealers around the world, says Global ERP Director Tom Spoke (right), pictured here with Global ERP Technical Manager Girish Washikar.
Software as a service (SaaS) delivers powerful standardized applications for everything from finance to sales force automation and marketing to human capital management. But when your organization’s business processes require custom applications, how do you build new cloud services and keep your information and applications—including legacy on-premises apps—integrated? After all, these cloud-based software solutions can’t operate in a vacuum. When the surrounding business processes change, you need to be able to keep your SaaS applications in sync, as well as develop new cloud services that complement and extend your existing ones.
“Too many companies make the mistake of adopting SaaS without thinking about how those applications will interoperate with their existing environment and future innovations,” says Amit Zavery, senior vice president of integration products at Oracle. “And once they realize that the SaaS application must connect to existing on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, they rely on yesterday’s integration approaches: point-to-point integration, batch integration, or FTP file transfers that don’t support real-time business. They hand-code integrations that are too brittle to keep up with the cloud’s pace of change.”
We’re taking a lot of functionality that dealers can currently get only via their computers or by calling us on the telephone, and putting it on their handheld devices.
—Girish Washikar, Technical Manager, Global ERP, Trek Bicycle Corporation
When Trek Bicycle Corporation began its journey to the cloud, the company was well aware of those challenges. A world leader in the manufacture and distribution of bicycles and cycling products, Trek had large on-premises technology investments to consider, including an ERP system that handles inventory, purchasing, claim management, warehousing, and distribution. Senior managers at the Waterloo, Wisconsin–based company realized that cloud services would be the quickest way to modernize these entrenched legacy systems, but the path forward had to include a solid integration strategy in which existing information systems could work hand in hand with new SaaS solutions.
“The business case was driven largely by our retailers, which include more than 10,000 dealers around the world, all of whom wanted a quicker, more efficient way to submit customer claims,” says Tom Spoke, director, global ERP at Trek.
Trek sells its products through a network of independent bicycle dealers across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, South America, and Africa. Spoke and other Trek IT professionals envisioned a new set of SaaS apps that would streamline or replace several crucial business processes that these dealers depend on, such as enabling them to submit repair claims using their mobile phones. Currently, Trek dealers use a web-based business-to-business (B2B) system to enter and retrieve service claims. However, the way these dealers tend to interact with customers makes the system somewhat cumbersome.
“For each claim, a dealer has to take a picture of the customer’s bike, upload it to a PC, log into our B2B system, create a claim, add the image, and then submit the claim—a process that takes six or seven minutes,” Spoke explains.
Trek found a solution with Oracle Cloud Platform, an evolving family of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technologies that allows Trek to extend its existing applications and build new SaaS apps using versatile, cloud-based development and deployment services.
“SOA development is a perfect function to migrate to the cloud,” says Trek Global ERP Technical Manager Girish Washikar (right), pictured here with Global ERP Director Tom Spoke.
Trek is using Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, a key component of Oracle Cloud Platform, as a back end for mobile app development. “We decided to leverage Oracle Mobile Cloud Service to create a SaaS app that will offer a more efficient way of entering claims compared to our existing B2B system,” says Spoke. “Now dealers will be able to connect directly to our on-premises JD Edwards applications from Oracle through their mobile devices and initiate the entire claims process.”
Trek worked with Oracle Consulting to create the new claim submission mobile app. The solution included optical character recognition (OCR) technology that allows service professionals to call up customer service histories simply by scanning a bike’s serial number. Dealers can use a mobile phone to photograph a bike, create a claim, and submit it to the JD Edwards system with a couple of taps on the screen.
“We’re taking a lot of functionality that dealers can currently get only via their computers or by calling us on the telephone, and putting it on their handheld devices,” explains Girish Washikar, technical manager, global ERP at Trek.
Too many companies make the mistake of adopting SaaS without thinking about how those applications will interoperate with their existing environment and future innovations.
—Amit Zavery, Senior Vice President, Integration Products, Oracle
Oracle Mobile Cloud Service provided a cloud-based platform not only for building the front-end components of this new SaaS app but also for connecting it to Trek’s back-end system. “It gave us a mechanism to build an API to connect to our ERP system through the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne application interface services server framework,” Washikar continues. “Oracle Mobile Cloud Service handles all the actions of entering claims and uploading information into the ERP system.”
Spoke believes that this new app, set to enter production in the spring of 2017, will reduce the seven-minute claims-submission process to fewer than two minutes. “With the number of claims Trek assists with across our global retailer network, that adds up to a lot more time selling bicycles and serving customers,” he notes.
In a related initiative, Trek is using Oracle SOA Cloud Service to establish electronic connections with third-party logistics providers around the globe, including opening a vast new revenue channel through Tmall, China’s largest online marketplace. Oracle SOA Cloud Service simplifies the process of developing external integrations across numerous interfaces to retailers, using the electronic data interchange (EDI) and managed file transfer (MFT) protocols and tying them back to Trek’s on-premises ERP system.
Washikar says Oracle SOA Cloud Service is more flexible than the on-premises SOA technology Trek used in the past, which makes it easier for Trek to develop unique SOA composites for each trading partner. Cloud-based development tools accelerate the process of onboarding new partners and setting up SOA services. “SOA development is a perfect function to migrate to the cloud,” he emphasizes. “We are leveraging Oracle SOA Cloud Service to orchestrate new transactions.”
We want to get out of the business of owning, operating, maintaining, and upgrading on-premises information systems.
—Tom Spoke, Director, Global ERP, Trek Bicycle Corporation
Oracle’s Zavery believes that Trek’s use of Oracle SOA Cloud Service to create a hybrid cloud architecture represents a popular use case for PaaS, because it allows an on-premises service bus to connect traditional enterprise applications with cloud-based IT assets. “If you are using Oracle SOA Suite in conjunction with Oracle SOA Cloud Service or Oracle Integration Cloud Service, then the paradigm, the artifacts, the objects, and the integrations you’ve created will seamlessly move over [to the cloud],” he explains. “Because you can connect back to your existing on-premises services, APIs, agents, and gateway, these cloud services let you modernize without having to throw away existing investments, and you can evolve those investments without having to rewrite everything.”
Developers “should be spending time either writing the code or extending the applications they have,” says Zavery. “They shouldn’t have to worry about all the underlying technologies required to build an application.”
Developers should think about what language and framework they want to use, or what platform they want, who the user is for the application, and what the user interface should be, says Zavery. “Beyond that,” he says, “all other capabilities should be provided from the platform provider in terms of automation, ease of use, elasticity, security, backup recovery, patching, and upgrades. And that’s a service we provide as part of our platform, so developers can focus on writing that application.”
Trek plans to use Oracle Cloud Platform to develop more SaaS assets in the future, including a mobile app that will provide bicycle retailers additional functionality in other areas of their business and another mobile app that will be used internally in Trek’s distribution centers. Over the long term, Trek is considering moving its JD Edwards applications off premises and into the cloud as well. “We want to get out of the business of owning, operating, maintaining, and upgrading on-premises information systems,” Spoke says.
This article was originally published in Oracle Magazine.
David Baum (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance business writer specializing in science and technology.
Photography by Paul S. Howell