We will be unrecognisable five years from now
Safra Catz said this afternoon when asked by Stripe founder Patrick Collison where she thought Oracle will be in the future.
Joint CEO Catz was hosting Oracle OpenWorld’s “The Modern Finance Experience” where she was joined by a range of speakers including Collison, the CEO of Boingo Wireless, David Hagen, and James Richards, CIO of GE’s finance arm.
Catz was in a reflective mood as she described her early experiences at Oracle.
Larry Ellison asked me to come help at Oracle as they went through another major transition, the transition I missed was when Oracle went from being a midrange mainframe to client server, now we were going from client server to the Internet. This was 1999.
And Larry asked me to help with what he thought at the time was an IT transformation and of course what it turned out to be was a full business transformation.
We looked at our business from top to bottom and we figured out where we really needed to be.
Catz found that all the business units were acting in their own silos where they were looking at their own efficiencies, profits and cost centres but they were missing the major picture. By taking a holistic view they were able to reduce costs by $1.2 billion and increased margins by 50 percent. That streamlining was the reason, Catz believes, why Oracle was able to survive the tech wreck of 2001.
Of the four big horseman of the internet we were the last still on their horse, albeit a bit lame, while two others had eaten their horses and one was lying very sick on the ground.
I wonder who she's thinking about but you can take a few guesses. ;)
Since then Oracle have bought over 100 companies and spent $60bn on acquired R&D which Catz claims puts the company in a strong position for the current cycle of change.
Here we are today in a position to deal with another transformation of ourselves. This time we get to share the economies of scale running our IT systems with you.
Catz went on to describe the theme that has dominated every tech conference for the last three years on how businesses are being disrupted. In the following one on one interviews Collison, Hagen and Richards all described how their businesses are changing.
Collison, as co-founder with his brother of one of today’s most promising startups, had the most compelling story of transforming industries,
Stripe is going to accelerate the rate of corporate change.
OK - so every CEO talks up their value proposition and Stripe is one of those darling unicorns with an insane valuation. Standing as an Oracle customer suggests that it is only a matter of time before an IPO becomes a reality but then the general financial services market is in such turmoil that it is hard to know where the real winners will settle.
Payments processing though is definitely a hot spot. In that regard, it's interesting to note that Stripe has become the gateway du jour for payment processing among digital SMBs. My sense is that as it grows rapidly, solutions like Oracle, that can cope with vast amounts of data are essential to ventures of this kind.
Better known as Larry Ellison's enforcer, Catz is not quite the sales person that her co-CEO Mark Hurd is but she was certainly on message with tales of transformation facing industry and how Oracle can help. Whether industry veterans would agree with her take on Oracle’s history is another matter, but then there is no denying her skill at ensuring the financial markets are kept onside with expectations. That is proving harder as Oracle itself wrestles numerous challenges in shoring up hardware sales while also transitioning to a subscription based economy.
For Oracle’s transformation, the shift to the cloud and repelling the twin threats of AWS and Microsoft Azure on infrastructure, while also attempting to muscle out apps competitors will define the company. That challenge is probably as great as the 2001 tech wreck.
The only remaining question is whether the youthful Patrick Collison of today will fondly remember Safra and Larry in twenty five years time.
Disclosure: Workday and Oracle are premier partners at time of writing. Oracle covered most of the author's travel costs for attending OpenWorld.