A View From The Oracle Value Summit – Part 1

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I escaped the recent blizzard in Boston and flew out to the Oracle Value Chain Summit in San Jose, California, to attend some sessions, talk to customers and partners and generally try to stay out of trouble (while also supporting our team with the new CPO site launch). The event is for Oracle customers who use the company’s applications in procurement, supply chain and PLM. I chatted with a mix of folks from IT and procurement organizations, but also peeked in on some of the SCM and PLM happenings. I attended a very interesting session that relates to one of our recent procurement predictions, too, but that’ll be a story for tomorrow!

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Mark Hurd, Oracle CEO, kicked it off, but Larry Ellison did say he’d try to make the next one. Mark doesn’t need him, though, and he has really become comfortable going beyond his finance roots, stepping into marketing duties as a co-CEO. He framed the usual stuff around benefits of a suite as well as the intent that “each application will be best-of-breed.” In some cases, this is actually true with product sourcing, supplier MDM (Oracle Supplier Hub), guided buying, spend analytics (mostly), project procurement, “spend planning” and some other adjacent areas. Mark also talked about, as you might expect, cloud computing. Namely:

  • He mentioned a doubling of data centers in 2014 in places like Germany and Canada, with others in China and Brazil on the way.
  • When asked about whether Oracle in the cloud is secure, Mark answered, “I think so, yeah… I’m not aware of an Oracle database that’s ever been hacked.”
  • In 2014, 120 new cloud products were developed. Product updates are targeted at roughly 3 times a year. The number of customers on non-acquired SaaS solutions is over 1,000, including over 400 cloud ERP customers within which most of “Oracle Fusion Procurement Cloud Service” (the long and ever-changing name for the Oracle Cloud Procurement applications) live. Although, there are some customers who are only running Sourcing and Contract Management in the cloud (either directly by Oracle or through a partner like Enrich that can also host traditionally on-premise solutions like spend analytics as part of its managed service offering).
  • Services (Infrastructure and Platform). Oracle is very much getting on message with the XaaS story where you have SaaS Fusion applications built on top of Oracle’s PaaS (Platform as a Service) and hosted on Oracle infrastructure served up as a service.

If supply chain were ice cream, it wouldn’t be vanilla, and one attendee asked how Oracle intends to provide cloud value chain support while allowing customers to differentiate against the competition. Mark didn’t skip a step, and said that while you get vanilla SaaS, and also get value from built-in personalization, it is the PaaS layer that allows you and third-party developers to create compliant “clip-on” apps (“clip-on” sounds so much nicer than “bolt-on” doesn’t it?) that allow such differentiation. I talked about this strategy, which we are strong advocates of, in my last analysis from Oracle OpenWorld.

Steve Miranda, Oracle’s SVP of application development, then took the stage and spent more time discussing SaaS and PaaS. Steve defined customization pragmatically as “anything that would preclude an automatic upgrade or if you had to do something as a redo.” An example of a redo is having to test data-level integrations with bolt-on applications every few months when the cloud application is upgraded. With configuration, however, you merely select the major new feature sets (or minor enhancements if made so granular) and tailor your UI with all sorts of metadata-driven personalizations that then get further auto-tailored based on your device. And since the clip-on partner applications are all integrated through APIs, they too can be upgraded easily and seamlessly. What we’re talking about is a true mass customization (i.e., "personalization" or Oracle’s term of "configuration") of the procurement application that can then help procurement groups mass-customize and industrialize their services to their categories, internal customers, suppliers and even external customers.

Sounds great right?! Well, current reality is a different matter.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll dive into the details.

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