Later today, Steve Miranda, EVP, Oracle applications product development will lead a session showcasing the variety of use cases that customers have executed against, playing to the theme of 'turning change into opportunity.'
The topic theme is prescient given the many geo-political issues impacting economies around the world to say nothing of macro-economic factors and business model shifts. We believe that technology announcements aside, it is always customer stories that provide the proofs customers seek when evaluating buying arecisions. So - which firms are Oracle showcasing?
Customers front and center
IBVI will explain how it is achieving its mission of employing as many blind and visually impaired individuals as possible. We recently talked about IBVI in which Jon Reed said:
It's not typical of Sommer to wave hands about an ERP use case, but as soon as IBVI Innovation Officer Emmanuel Vouvakis laid out IBVI's ambitions, I knew this was going to be a keeper (Vouvaki is pictured in middle above). We've done plenty of diginomica pieces on how impactful organizations like IBVI scale on modern ERP. But something stands out here: IBVI's unique - and demanding - workforce requirements.
Ferrari will share some of the secrets that help it deliver experiences that symbolize excellence and exclusivity throughout the customer lifecycle.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts will explain how it is rethinking the employee experience by offering HR tools and digital assistants that improve engagement and make the complex simple.
Hearst Corporation, at the heart of the constantly changing media industry, will describe how it has been able to stay ahead of change by acquiring and onboarding new media properties at a rapid clip.
Ferrari, Hilton, and Hearst are new to us in the Oracle context so it will be interesting to hear the detail.
Continuous innovation, a tsunami of new functions
In the run up to OpenWorld, I held a conversation with Miranda, catching up on the recent past as well as hearing his assessment of the current state of Oracle's cloud apps journey. One thing that immediately stuck out was him saying that Oracle now delivers four software updates a year. I asked the extent to which this is working because competitors discovered that customers struggled to consume that frequency of update.
First, all customers get the update simultaneously but it has two essential components. There are things that are turned on by default such as essential patches and major security updates. Functional updates are switched off by default so that customers can try them out in their sandbox environments and decide which they need before rolling out to their users.
That makes sense in the context of solutions that are configured according to their industry needs. On that topic, Miranda noted that Oracle is rolling out vertical industry templates and functionality for back office:
We've got our first version of process manufacturing and project manufacturing in release, channel revenue management which tends to be used by CPG, we've added joint venture financials which tends to be used by oil and gas and added to student financial planning and financial aid. Because these are new features they're not necessarily live for all functions whereas the customers we're showcasing are live and happy. These early customers are often design partners with us. As examples, we've done it the Cleveland Healthcare, a large investment bank and Macys. There are many other examples.
In each case, the customer has identified a need that, together with Oracle, is co-designed with a view to application across broader markets. In HR, Oracle continues to have an emphasis on the user experience and is showcasing a new employee directory in HR along with a digital assistant (as mentioned above re: Hilton)
Some people refer to them as bots but also multichannel interaction including voice. HR lends itself well to these types of interaction because most HR transactions are query related. For example, tell me my accumulated vacation balance, has my paycheck arrived, is it a holiday in the UK etc. They're also reasonably short steps and especially when you add in machine learning where you can default much of the field content. In CX, again, digital assistants particularly sales transactions lend themselves very well to conversational UIs.
OpenWorld will also see the launch of CX Unity, which combines data both internally and externally that Oracle can use in conjunction with machine learning to help target customers in the right way.
The journey continues
Miranda and I have talked about Oracle's cloud journey since 2014. Progress has been steady but as Miranda now says:
If you look at where we are today, we're now able to expand beyond the core and I think that's what you'll see with the customers we're showcasing. It's not like we're talking baseline, we're getting into more nuanced areas. Now that we have this model of continuous delivery, hopefully the model, the speed and flexibility demonstrates that we're truly innovating. Put another way, if I had to compete against our e-Business Suite, I don't see how it could compete because what we've got now is a platform for rapid innovation that the old way of doing things simply can't match.
I pressed Miranda on the extent to which customer requests are incorporated into new product releases. This is currently a topic of interest among buyers. Speed of innovation is one thing and all software vendors place bets as to where they think the best market opportunity lays, But if customers are disappointed by the extent to which their requests are unanswered then innovation becomes a hollow buzzword. While Miranda could not provide a definitive answer at the time of our call, the sheer weight of announcements and enhancements suggests that Oracle is listening intently to customers and acting accordingly.
Despite Oracle's reputation of not being the most customer-friendly vendor, Miranda has always given me the impression that he truly understands the need to satisfy customers. He also recognizes that as customers use their baseline technology investments as the platform from which they can innovate for strategic value, it is vital that Oracle stands alongside those same customers.
That laudable position creates a dilemma. How does Oracle continue to find functionality that has broader market appeal in the longer term while satisfying the majority of customers demands? Part of the answer is outlined above but equally, Oracle needs a vibrant ecosystem of development partners. Traditionally, we have seen that most obviously among the Big 4, with Deloitte and Accenture as the standout examples. However, my sense is that Oracle will need to attract a whole new generation of developers, a good number of which may not exist today. Does Oracle 'get' that? Unfortunately the clock ran down on us before I could pose that question.