Oracle pitches software at business users

 

CIOs absent from cloud customer panel.

Enterprise software giant Oracle is positioning itself in a new light, inviting non-technical customers to endorse its cloud offerings at a Sydney conference this week.

Oracle projects traditionally involved heavy, technical integration, configuration or customisation work but its year-old suite of cloud offerings appears to have sparked change.

In January, the vendor opened a second Sydney data centre for its software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service offerings.

Oracle vice president of applications product management Doug Hughes told journalists yesterday that its CloudWorld event had attracted a different audience than the vendor had previously.

Cloud vendor Salesforce.com has similarly pushed outside of the IT arena, inviting Commonwealth Bank chief marketing officer Andy Lark to speak at a Dreamforce keynote session in San Francisco last year.

“We are actually seeing customer managers, MDs of corporations and the like,” Hughes said of Oracle's customer panel this week.

“[It’s] very different from an Oracle of the past, where all you saw was the IT department turn up for these sorts of discussions.”

Representatives of New Zealand Post, Optus subsidiary vividwireless and Oracle partner CRMNow said the cloud model had changed business users’ relationship with IT.

“We’ve got a team that focuses on the business development of the tool,” said NZ Post head of customer channels Russell Stephens of its Oracle RightNow CRM, first implemented in 2009.

“They actually sit in my team as opposed to the IT team … I think the relationship with the IT team becomes, ‘how do you get that through the firewall’.”

In recent years, regulators and IT departments have warned of the “rogue cloud”, where users commissioned and put data into user-friendly Salesforce.com or Google software without formal approval.

Panellists said Oracle’s cloud offerings still tended to be implemented by IT teams but administered by non-technical staff – sometimes resulting in governance issues.

“One of the upsides and the downsides here is that people can administer it who don’t have huge depth of skill,” CRMNow managing director Robert McGregor said.

“What that promotes is a governance challenge in terms of who is going to do things and what is the decision-making process in order to enable the company to say yes or no to those things.”

McGregor and NZ Post’s Stephens said the organisations had separately implemented similar quarterly reviews of its software and enterprise architecture.

Stephens said NZ Post’s marketing and communications division and IT staff met with Oracle every three months to discuss its operational, tactical and strategic objectives for the next three to six months.

“All of our stuff is in the cloud, from our accounting systems to email management system to where we host integrations that are being built for our CRM,” McGregor said.

“We don’t have a CIO and what we did have very quickly was a governance issue; we had a lot of [staff] who wanted to fiddle with things, and we had to shut that down.

“Our first 12 months was learning that that was going to be a major issue … Now we have a governance process that looks across what functionality we have in the cloud. It’s run at a management team level; there’s no independent CIO role.”

Cloud take-up

Despite Oracle’s new cloud marketing efforts, the vendor’s executive vice president of applications Steve Miranda said it expected most customers to favour a hybrid approach, combining on-premise and hosted infrastructure.

“The only customers who I’ve seen really make a push to everything [in the cloud] are usually cloud vendors themselves, and smaller vendors,” he said.

“I think over time, that will change; within two and five years, that could be a different story.”

Miranda said organisations tended to be slower to move their ERP applications to the cloud, because it was more difficult to justify such a major implementation for what he described as a relatively small business benefit.

Areas of sales force automation, customer service and social marketing and HR tended to have more to gain from newer, cloud-based products and services, he said.

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