In my first blog about Oracle OpenWorld last week, I focused on the disconnect between the way Oracle portrayed itself in so many of the big keynote sessions for the main audience (focused on trash-talking competitors over technology), and what appears to be its underlying strategy (which is fundamentally based around an economic argument, not a technology one).
That wasn’t all I saw at OpenWorld, though. At the conference-within-a-conference that was the Customer Experience Summit, I saw another story emerging that is more positive, more relevant to a wider audience, and (to my mind) a benchmark against which we should all judge Oracle going forward.
Delivered as a self-contained offshoot of OpenWorld, from what I saw of the Customer Experience Summit Oracle was telling a story that people were interested in, and ready to hear. Rooms were full; and what was really encouraging was seeing Oracle and partner presenters talking about business issues first, before talking about technology. And as well as featuring sessions focused on technology enablers for customer experience (CX) transformation, there were also sessions on cultural issues and changes, change management tactics, and more. To my mind, this was a really strong statement by Oracle that it can, and does, bring ideas and resources to the table that help clients consider how to deliver business value through technology investment. This is something that we at MWD Advisors talk so much about—the importance of considering the entire change journey, not just the question of which technology is ‘best’—and it was exciting to see Oracle developing conversations with customers and prospects at that level.
Now of course Oracle has to deliver on its vision with what it actually sells—i.e. technology products. Following acquisitions of ATG, Fatwire, Endeca, InQuira, RightNow, Vitrue, Collective Intellect and Involver, it’s got a pretty broad portfolio of business applications that can address pieces of the customer experience puzzle (marketing, sales, service) across multiple channels. Integration, not surprisingly, is the challenge—and here, Oracle’s ‘sell the value of the integrated stack’ approach might have to be tempered. Although it has some great technologies in its portfolio, there are alternatives out there, and leading enterprises are investing in those alternatives today. In the market today, Oracle will find it hard to find customers that are complete ‘green field’ sites, or that are ready and willing to throw away existing investments to enable them to get the complete Red CX stack (my term, not Oracle’s ;-)).
Just to be clear, integration isn’t only important in the context of Oracle’s Customer Experience management proposition in terms of integration of the individual applications that Oracle’s purchased. The challenge is also about integration of those things with products from competitors (because of the likely lack of greenfield situations); and about integration of those things with complementary systems and platforms that are outside the scope of what might be considered core CX technologies (billing, provisioning, service delivery platforms, onboarding processes, and so on and so on).
To my mind this is where Oracle’s CX story segues into the ‘Business Innovation platform‘ that Amit Zavery, Oracle’s VP of Product Management for Fusion Middleware (FMW), spoke about in a session pitching the direction for his own part of the Oracle stack. In Oracle’s own words, the idea of prioritising CX is about transforming your organisation to thinking outside-in, and re-orienting the way you work around this—rather than orienting your organisation with an ‘inside out’ perspective first.
But the idea of ‘Outside In’ is a business transformation journey that is, to a large extent, rooted in holistic consideration of business processes. Oracle has a decent set of technology products and IP assets that assist with anyone looking to revisit the way their business processes work and improve them through automation or digital augmentation, and it would be a massive missed opportunity if Oracle didn’t join the dots here. The danger is that at a strategic product management level within Oracle, its BPM products are largely seen as things that customers layer on top of a SOA project to but a friendly face at the front of your application integration work—this has certainly been the case in the past. Can Oracle see past BPM as an automation / efficiency play, and start to see it as a customer experience transformation play? There are certainly companies out there using the approach and technology that way…