Orange Vector of Transformation

Orange
Orange Finds “Vector of Transformation”

Michael Hickins, Director of Strategic Communications at Oracle


Fixed and mobile telecom operator Orange (formerly France Telecom) is consolidating its financial systems to free its corporate finance people to do higher-level work in support of a companywide transformation initiative dubbed Essentials 2020.

 Orange piloted the cloud-based ERP system at a small subsidiary in June 2016, and the results have been probative enough that Eouzan expects the entire company, which boasts a market capitalisation of $42 billion, to be using the system’s full set of features by the end of 2018. 

The linchpin of this initiative, from the perspective of the finance department, is replacing multiple vendor and homegrown ERP systems, which help Orange manage relationships with telecom equipment vendors, technicians, and other contractors, with Oracle ERP Cloud. “The management system is key to our operations, and if it goes down, it could paralyse our entire business,” says Christophe Eouzan, the operator’s chief accounting officer.

“Using the cloud means you’re using standard processes,” Eouzan says. “You could argue that’s an inconvenience, because suddenly I can’t work the way I used to, but actually it’s the other way around. It’s a tremendous vector of transformation. It’s a positive change that forces us to rethink all our internal processes.”

Orange piloted the cloud-based ERP system at a small subsidiary in June 2016, and the results have been probative enough that Eouzan expects the entire company, which boasts a market capitalisation of $42 billion, to be using the system’s full set of features by the end of 2018.

Eouzan has three main goals to ensure the finance group holds up its end of the Essentials 2020 plan: Free up back-office personnel to focus on more value-added tasks, such as forecasting; ensure that transactions with third-party suppliers and contractors are more transparent; and create a work environment that will help it attract new employees as older employees retire.

Orange uses its ERP system to, among other things, forecast and reforecast its purchasing needs, which means centralising data—including billing data that sits in a separate system. “In my mind, corporate finance is about making sure the transactional aspects of the back office work smoothly so that the rest of the finance organisation can focus on value-added activities,” Eouzan says.

 It turned out that being on the cloud was a great benefit to us, not only from a technical standpoint, but because it would force us to use standard practices. 

When Orange was shopping for an ERP system, it was looking for functionality that would help the operator modernise its work processes, “implying a completely new way of working,” he says. “And it turned out that this product was cloud-based. We picked a cloud product, but we never said to ourselves that we were looking for cloud.”

Orange management also valued Oracle’s vast experience working with other telecom operators, as well as Oracle’s considerable ongoing investments in developing and improving the product—far more than Orange itself could muster on its own, Eouzan says. “It turned out that being on the cloud was a great benefit to us, not only from a technical standpoint, but because it would force us to use standard practices,” he says.

Eouzan adds the cloud ERP system will reduce the amount of time back-office personnel have to spend matching requisitions, purchase orders, and vendor invoices. An integrated social networking tool makes it easier to track internal transactions, conversations, and documents.

A new portal on the ERP system will give equipment vendors and other contractors, such as call center operators, more transparent, real-time access to information about their orders and outstanding invoices, Eouzan says. By the same token, Orange will have better, simpler procedures and controls over financial systems.

With 25% of Orange’s workforce due to retire in the next four to five years, it’s also important for the operator to create a work environment that appeals to younger generations of employees, Eouzan says. “We need to provide them with digital tools that are at least on a par with what they have at home, and certainly with what we’re selling to our own customers,” he says.

System Flexibility

Eouzan appreciates the fact that the cloud application forces the operator to change its business practices where they don’t conform to the application, rather than trying to do it the other way around.

“There is plenty of flexibility in the system,” he says, “and if we find that we really need something, we can talk to Oracle, and if it’s pertinent to other customers, Oracle will develop it for everyone.” And if the system doesn’t allow for an existing business practice, “we have to ask ourselves why,” he adds. “And the answer is because other companies do it differently. That forces us to re-evaluate our own practices,” pushing Orange toward a more modern approach.

The application isn’t perfect, of course. But because it’s cloud-based, Orange has gone to zero customisations from about 500 customisations to its prior ERP systems, Eouzan says.

Orange is making use of the on-demand Oracle University tutorials and Oracle Guided Learning modules that are available at every point on the adoption learning curve. “If you’re working on an area of the ERP system that you’re not familiar with, it will walk you through it, and that’s very reassuring,” Eouzan says. Orange continues its past practice of organising group training sessions, he says, but “the giant three-ring binders are gone.”

 If you’re working on an area of the ERP system that you’re not familiar with, it will walk you through it, and that’s very reassuring. 

When the application is rolled out across Orange’s operations in France by this spring, about 5,000 people who make purchase requisitions, 500 accounting personnel, and 300 purchasing managers will use the system. While that’s only a small portion of the Orange employee base, those people are the financial backbone of the organisation. And as transformation of the backbone goes, so goes the company’s overall transformation and modernisation.


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