Oracle OpenWorld 2019 was a distinctly different experience to attend over prior years, largely because we saw evidence of the internal conversation Oracle had with itself over the past year—and how it learned to create better experiences for customers.
I've attended Oracle OpenWorld as an analyst for many years, and some things were certainly the same. Sure, there was the familiar bashing of competitors (this year it was Amazon Web Services), creation of new categories (Autonomic Infrastructure), and hyperbole, but there was a lot of newness to discover, too. Due to the renovation of Moscone North, Howard Street was open to traffic this year. And there were big announcements of alliances with former enemies (Microsoft, VMWare) based on new customer requirements for multi-cloud support. There were announcements around new native support for third-party data sources, signaling a new willingness to support customer data derived from outside the Oracle Data Cloud; and notably, new developer support for R and Python. This was all good news, a continuation of the years-long journey of Oracle’s transition to a preeminent position as a cloud player.
But possibly the most significant news for understanding Oracle in 2019 was an initiative it described as a wholesale shift over the past year: The company now uses its own Oracle Cloud services for key areas like customer management, finance, marketing, supply chain transformation, and HR. Oracle@Oracle, a department-by-department showcase of how Oracle drank its own champagne, lived in its customers’ shoes, and used all the back-office applications on its cloud, underscores Oracle’s rapid transformation from a product company into a services company. This transformation is one happening, albeit on a smaller scale, in almost every technology company we track here at G2.
For a company as large as Oracle, it’s taken years to rationalize and rebuild the byzantine stack topology and dependencies of the many companies it has acquired—not to mention building out the datacenter scale necessary to host all the processes, data, dashboards, objects, etc., in its cloud infrastructure. But all the advantages Oracle sales has been touting to its customers around the Fusion cloud applications portfolio—renting versus buying, automated configuration and patches, limited downtime, and access to the most current business best practices and KPIs—has thus far eluded an Oracle stranded on multiple versions of multiple ERPs, financial and accounting systems, etc.
Until now. During the analyst portion of the event, Oracle executives presented candid results from the transition of the past 12–18 months: not just the overwhelming benefits of being on a single, easy-to-support set of software applications company-wide, but also about the pain of transitioning to new systems, the issues surrounding modifying business processes, and the necessity of working closely with IT orgs—all of which sounded a good deal like the challenges facing large Oracle customers. Oracle even brought out Edward Screven, chief corporate architect, to walk analysts through how Oracle has built “an impenetrable cloud” now housing all Oracle customer and financial data.
Oracle said its Finance@Scale program, for example, helped the company “realize unprecedented cost savings” by, among other reasons, being able to have a system-wide view of company accounts receivable, thus being able to determine how to rationalize the ledger with as few as possible currency changes and fees. That visibility is impressive, and will resonate with Oracle’s larger multinational clients. Possibly an even more direct and significant outcome was the fact that having operational data—from offices in the 172 countries where it does business in—in a single system with linked ledgers meant Oracle could close its last quarter four days faster than it had ever done before, when news of Mark Hurd’s illness pushed Oracle leadership to get to the earnings call faster. That’s convincing.
Oracle's digital transformation
In 2012, at an analyst roundtable at another Oracle OpenWorld, just after Oracle bought SaaS-based talent management vendor Taleo, Oracle applications executives scoffed at the notion that many of Oracle’s enterprise-sized customers would move their highly customized core HR software to the cloud. At the time, Taleo was viewed mostly as the front end of a perpetually two-tier HRMS, and a way to attract smaller customers to a SaaS solution.
Today, Oracle has replatformed most of its application suite on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, including NetSuite. Internally, Oracle@Oracle has been a powerful tool to help a company with 180,000 employees align around both the common pain points and value of a single-platform applications infrastructure. Externally, it has been an ongoing commitment to larger customers that Oracle is dedicated to the same transformation—warts and all—that it expects from its customers.
Robert leads the applications research analyst team at G2, including work in areas such as CRM, supply chain, research management, marketing, HRM, content management, and commerce solutions. Robert has spent the past 20 years in similar roles, first at IDC for 17 years, then at 451 Research, advising executives at vendor clients including Dell, EMC, Accenture, Cisco, Oracle, SAP, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM. He has also provided ongoing, strategic guidance to C-suite executives at clients as diverse as Fidelity, Campbell’s Soup, MetLife, and SAIC. Prior to this work Robert worked for the United States Defense Department, responsible for specifications and capabilities design for hardware and software elements of multiple blended/synthetic warfighting systems, the forerunner to today's internet of things compute and messaging fabrics. Robert received a B.A. from University of Iowa and an M.A. from Wesleyan University.