Mia Urman, founder of AuraPlayer tells us about using the oracle forms.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mia Urman: As you can imagine, these COVID times have been challenging for me as a CEO of a growing Startup and a busy mother of 3. Before COVID, I spent two weeks a month on the road traveling to various conferences and doing customer visits. Then, two weeks at home working round the clock to innovate with the R&D team and spend time with my three boys, ages 8,11, and 13. COVID has changed the balance – as I am now unable to travel and need to juggle growing the company while homeschooling my three boys. In addition, trying to run a company while in quarantine with three young boys poses its own challenges, many funny moments on Zoom calls, and attempts to find a quiet corner to hold customer meetings. But all in all, I think we’re doing OK.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded AuraPlayer.
Mia Urman: My career in computers began as a babysitter, which is pretty funny. While babysitting for a family in Montreal, where I grew up, I was studying for an exam I had at McGill University. When the father came home, he saw me studying for a math exam. About a week and a half later, he asked how the exam went, and I told him I got a 95. He then said, “Well, you shouldn’t be my babysitter. You should be my bookkeeper”. So the next few weeks were accompanied by digitizing five years’ worth of bills and entering them into Excel spreadsheets. That was the start of my computer career.
My first job out of college was for Oracle. I was doing phone support. That’s what people used to do before Google, and when they got an error, they used to call the company 🙂 So I worked for Oracle for many years until the product I was working with, Oracle Forms, became more of a legacy application and product.
So I left Oracle and started a consulting company aimed at modernizing legacy Oracle Forms. After two or three successful projects, we realized that we had created a piece of software that could take an Oracle Form-based application and modernize them in a very user-friendly way. So we decided to create a company to sell the solution as a piece of software. It was actually at the advice of MasterCard’s CTO, who, after we completed his project, said:
“You guys have no idea what you’ve built here. I suggest you go create a company, and I’ll be on your board. You should register a patent and go sell this around the world. Anybody who has E-Business Suite or Oracle Forms is going to need this product.”
That is how AuraPlayer was born.
How does AuraPlayer innovate?
Mia Urman: One of the things I’m most proud of is our company culture of continuous innovation. Our philosophy is to work alongside customers to see what their business needs are and seek to understand how our product meets current needs and can adapt to handle future ones. Over the years, our product has gone from an API integration solution to monitoring and testing to mobility. Now we’re transitioning our innovation to include chat/digital assistant and Robotic Process Automation. All of our products use the core functionality of the product, which takes the Oracle Forms business logic and wraps it to be extended to any next-generation user interface. To allow our customers to get the most value out of our solution, we are continually looking for the next user interface to innovate.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Mia Urman: When the first wave of Corona hit our business, we were definitely concerned. We had a lot of projects that had started and then were put on hold. We didn’t really know the impact of the virus yet and what the duration of the virus was going to be. But the truth is, we have seen that we’ve been able to ride out the storm because our solution saves companies millions of dollars.
Our solution provides a fantastic ROI to our customers because the alternative to our Oracle modernization tools is essentially to redevelop the applications from scratch. When COVID hit, most companys’ budgets shifted from long-term modernization and migration projects to short-term mobilization and work-from-home initiatives, which is where AuraPlayer flourishes.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Mia Urman: Again, thank God we did not have to do any serious HR changes or let anyone go. We did have a few of the development staff curb some of their hours until we understood the situation. The lesson we learned is to value your staff and keep them engaged, which we did. When we would win major deals, we would make sure the whole company benefited from it.
Another challenge was working with the remote team during quarantines. We worked hard to find fun things to boost morale and energy, such as providing an at-home gift package to all employees. One morning we sent everybody pancakes and ice cream. And of course, we had many funny Zoom meetings.
All in all, in terms of human resources, we tried to keep everybody in good spirits and to feel like a part of the team even when we were all apart.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Mia Urman: Our customer relationship management has always been very, very strong. In general, we have three major tools that we rely on to keep the customer relationship strong with good two-way communication – Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Monday.com.
We use Zoom for customer meetings where we essentially need to talk with customers, understand their business needs, and discuss project status updates. We have weekly customer meetings for major projects to ensure that everything is going according to plan.
The support team relies heavily on GoToMeeting for remote installations, technology upgrades and to provide remote support. For example, suppose there’s a problem at a customer site. In that case, they log on to GoToMeeting, take control of the customer environment remotely and, fix any issues. For many projects, we even do remote development where we have a VPN to work on-site but remotely.
Finally, to stay organized on project milestones, deadlines, and outstanding tasks, we use Monday.com, a joint project management tool. For example, customers can log new requests in real-time, and our team will get an immediate notification; we can then investigate the issue and provide estimations.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Mia Urman: We were fortunate that we were never in a situation to necessitate keeping our business afloat. We did get a few smaller grants here and there, but nothing really moved the needle concerning our finances. We were able to mostly continue business as usual thanks to our long-standing loyal customers
Your final thoughts?
Mia Urman: We will conclude with a story to illustrate our work.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York City Transit is a long-time customer of AuraPlayer who assisted in the creation of an HR mobile app for their over 25,000 employees.
Once COVID hit, MTA came to us with an urgent request to create a mobile app for their “annual pick,” a process where the bus employees could pick their routes for the preceding six months. MTA needed a different way to provide the employees with this data since their previous method involved thousands of employees visiting one of the crew office’s desktops, a process that could be life-threatening in the time of COVID. Together with the incredible team at MTA, we were able to get the “annual pick” mobile app up and running within weeks.
COVID has forced organizations to review their legacy applications strategy. Oracle Forms and Oracle EBS are performant applications with one major problem, and their business logic is locked and stuck on the desktop. With employees working from home, organizations need to pivot and find a solution that meets these needs, such as with a mobile app. And this is precisely our company’s vision: leverage your existing investments to pivot and to meet today’s technology needs and expectations. Hopefully, from the story, your readers will gain insight into some of what AuraPlayer does.