Friday Rant — Does Oracle Face a Go-To-Market Handicap Compared With SAP?

I'll be headed to Oracle OpenWorld for the first time this fall, amidst a forthcoming travel schedule that will help keep United's share price up in Q3 and Q4. It's a trip I'm excited to make, especially in light of my enthusiasm for some of Oracle's recent solution releases, especially in the supplier management area. But one thing I find very curious about Oracle in general is that they seem to come up less in deals than SAP does. Perhaps this is just owing to a broader SAP installed-base within my own network of clients, contacts and colleagues, but it feels to me that SAP shops nearly always tend to evaluate SAP as an option when it comes to a range of Spend Management areas (e-sourcing, SRM, spend analysis, etc.) but Oracle back-end customers do not as frequently shortlist Oracle in procurement and sourcing evaluations -- or always give Oracle the chance to show their wares up front, even before a final shortlist is decided. Why is this?

I think a lot of it comes down more to Oracle's relationships and sales execution capabilities, as a whole, outside of the IT organization. No doubt, Oracle has perhaps hundreds of sales executives and managers with solid relationships within the business in their accounts, but the level of business user penetration feels less consistent to me with Oracle than it does to SAP. They're also inconsistent at their ability to tell a broader story to prospects about their integrated offerings in procurement. In one recent case that I was privy to, Oracle missed an opportunity that was actually a credible fit for an end-to-end deal by floundering on an integrated demonstration. Knowing the solutions in question, this was a demonstration issue -- not a product one. Yet it cost them any potential at the business.

A few other reasons stand out in terms of why Oracle customers do not always put Oracle at the front of their minds when thinking through Spend Management selection. For one, Oracle has not been as aggressive in embracing a BPO partner system as their rival, identifying numerous partners that customize and resell hosted versions of their solutions (or putting the capabilities of these partners onto their own price sheet). Sure, Oracle has made some smart moves with the likes of Provade (a VMS platform provider). But it's not the same as SAP working with IBX, Infosys, Hubwoo, Quadrem and others on the hosting and reseller front in the sourcing area.

Moreover -- and this may just be an anecdotal observation on my part -- it seems that the sourcing and procurement groups inside the larger SIs and consultancies have closer integration with their SAP practices (which appear more business process driven) than their Oracle practices, which also provides another boost to SAP in getting into potential deals based on stronger footing that helps their cause. Granted, it's rare you see SAP zealots inside consultancies as well, but the general awareness of SAP's solutions and capabilities among operational and process-focused consultants is generally higher (which I'd argue is probably owing to SAP's legacy footprint inside the SIs as much as anything).

At the end of this rant, the one point I think we should all take away is that just as many SAP shops give their ERP partner a fair shake when it comes to evaluating a range of Spend Management capabilities, Oracle back-end customers should give Oracle similar consideration in the vendor identification, preliminary evaluation and shortlist phases. In the evaluations I've been a part of in the past, I ultimately find that organizations are more comfortable with their decisions -- even when they go with best of breed -- having brought IT and other, even side-lined stakeholders to the table, to see how their ERP provider's capability compares in the chosen evaluation area.

Jason Busch

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