I’m on my way back from the Oracle Industry Analyst World for 2013 held in beautiful Redwood City, California. What is great about events such as this are the insights you can glean from the presentations and conversations with company executives and leaders. What is unfortunate is how much of the good stuff can’t be discussed at this time. That’s like standing in line for the buffet when you’re hungry. You can see what you want but have to be patient. So here are some takeaways and observations from the conference:
- My favorite quote was from Oracle’s EVP of Systems, John Fowler. When talking about benchmarks on Oracle’s engineered systems, he said that they used “non-lunatic” configurations. I love the phrase but also the sentiment. Testing makes no sense when you use a perfect world test bed that no one can reproduce, let alone make any use of.
- The coolest idea I heard was from Chris Leone, Senior Vice President of Development for Oracle Fusion Human Capital Management, when talking about the use of predictive analytics for HCM. He talked about using analytics to determine an employee’s propensity to leave or perform. What a great tool for a manager. Most managers are pretty busy people but know that the care and feeding of their team is one of their prime responsibilities. Tools that throw up a red flag before an employee situation becomes acute is something that any manager will appreciate.
- Oracle President Mark Hurd talked about the impact of non-IT managers and knowledge workers on IT buying. He was frank about the increasing influence and outright buying power that the non-IT community is wielding in corporate IT buying. This is something that Oracle has recognized for some time, but it is refreshing to hear such a high level executive talk openly about it.
- However, where are the programs for those non-IT influencers and buyers? Jeb Dasteel, Chief Customer Officer, emphasized the importance of user groups and programs for maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. These programs are still nascent at best. As David Vap, Group Vice President, Oracle Applications Development, pointed out, Oracle did run a program for non-IT attendees to Oracle OpenWorld. That’s a start, but hopefully we will see Oracle expand on those events and programs.
- Oracle was also enamored with diagrams showing systems layers. That’s great for explaining architecture to IT professionals but not for transmitting value to the non-IT buyer or influencer. One of the best diagrams was the mobius diagram Oracle uses to explain the totality of the cross channel customer experience. The diagram talks to the shift from episodic marketing campaigns to continuous customer engagement.
- There seemed to be confusion around the overlapping products in the various software portfolios. I don’t get that. In a company the size of Oracle, product portfolios are comprised of product lines that address different customers’ needs. It’s not strange to have the PeopleSoft, on-premises HR software in the same portfolio as the Fusion HCM cloud software. They address very different types of customers. I also don’t think it odd that Oracle would maintain older products for customers that don’t want to switch. Why would they want to force themselves into a bake-off with other vendors, which would be inevitable if they discontinued a product with a big installed base. Why not protect the revenue? Yes, it would be easier but would it be more profitable? I doubt it would.
- They have figured out how social, both social media and social collaboration, works in the Oracle milieu. By making social features a part of the infrastructure that is always there, they encourage customers to deploy social features in an intentional way. This, to me, recognizes a big problem with how social – social collaboration specifically – has rolled out in companies. With little guidance to users but a big commitment, companies have often felt that their social rollouts weren’t meeting expectations. That is because they need to justify a big expense and project. Oracle’s method clearly takes away the unwanted focus on social for social’s sake and makes it a tool that can be used when and where appropriate.
With a company the size and breadth of Oracle, trying to get to all the good stuff is nearly impossible. I know I’m missing something. That’s a good thing for customers who have an enormous amount of choice from Oracle.