Oracle CIO Mark Sunday Gives an IT Perspective on HR Technology

By Mark Sunday

We had a chance to sit down with Oracle CIO, Mark Sunday who is responsible for the information technology infrastructure used across the company globally. We asked Mark about his perspectives on hot topics such Cloud, Social, and IT partnering with HR.

Q: Mark, the cloud has changed everything, including the speed at which business can adopt technology. How is this changing the way IT approaches strategy and planning?

Sunday: Cloud, combined with mobile, social, big data and user experience is changing everything.  We’re seeing new businesses with new business models emerging at an unparalleled speed. Businesses like Uber and AirBnB are challenging business models that have been in place for decades. 

This rate of change has created significant challenges for businesses, but even greater rewards for those who are able to “respond at the speed of opportunity.”

To stay relevant, businesses need to embrace the cloud.  IT organizations need to become cloud enablers, helping their organization realize the speed, cost and capability cloud offers. The ability to remain innovative depends on it. IT must not only educate their teams but also help them adopt cloud solutions. They can no longer be seen as an impediment, but rather an enabler.

In addition, through use of the cloud, we are seeing small and midsize organizations having access to software they never did before. The cost advantages of cloud deployments are making game-changing solutions accessible to companies that could not have afforded them under past software models.  

Q: Speed and visibility are big keys to adding business value. Mark, as a CIO, what are the things you're doing to enable a more effective partnership with HR?

Sunday: IT needs to earn a seat at the table and move from order takers to being actively involved in the strategy. It’s hard to imagine many business strategy discussions where technology is not key, let alone core to the plan. 

The role of IT is rapidly changing, and insightful IT organizations are positioning themselves to be at the front of this change.  Traditionally, to adopt and deploy new technologies, businesses had to go through the IT department. The cloud really blows up the idea of IT as gatekeeper to innovation.  In 2014 and beyond, HR is going to be a much bigger priority as businesses try to address the talent gap and enhance their focus on user experience, and now they'll be able to take the initiatives to solve those problems themselves by researching, buying deploying, and managing applications and solutions in the cloud.

I think we will start seeing more and more what Corporate Executive Board (CEB) refers to as business-led IT. And this is a good thing. My team is focused on balancing 3 things: productivity, effectiveness of IT, and risk. In order to support the business moving to the cloud, IT needs to help with selecting the right solution, contracting, the integration pieces, and help ensure risk and compliance issues are addressed.

Business process automation, for the most part, has been the goal for the past few decades. And much of this has been realized. Innovation, collaboration, and employee effectiveness are now the new challenge. 

The ability for an organization’s workforce to rapidly adapt to market changes will separate the leading organizations from the rest. This is especially true in today’s business environments which are often characterized by uncertainty, complexity, and volatility. This is our driving focus - to use a phrase from Gartner, less on “silicon-based systems” – computers and more on helping “carbon-based ones” – humans to become more agile and innovative.

HR and IT should be an inseparable team to improve workforce performance by enabling the culture, process, and supporting technologies to optimize employee effectiveness when they are collaborating with others internally and externally. We’ve been driving to this goal with the focus on the employee, giving the tools to globally communicate and collaborate while providing them the insight, not just data, to make decisions. 

Q: Social is such a hot topic these days. Mark, what’s your view?

Sunday: Social media has had a profound impact for marketers and business leaders at large and small organizations. The key to success for brands that are seeing results has been in their ability to integrate social media into the fabric of the business. 

Embedding social across key functions including sales, business development, customer service, HR, and recruiting are is enabling many organizations to more effectively achieve their business goals. This is resulting in more empowered employees and a stronger connection with communities and the individuals in them.

Including social in your marketing mix and business strategy is no longer simply a best practice. It’s an imperative and a matter of survival for many businesses. More and more, and often fueled by mobile technologies, social networks are where customers, partners, and employees are hanging out. 

We are seeing social cause transformations including:

  • Individual silos > integrated people and processes
  • Controlled information > the sharing of ideas
  • Single way > back and forth iterations
  • Controlled brand > empowered employees

Today, your brand is what individuals and communities say it is. No longer can an organization’s corporate or employer brand be controlled by marketing or executives. It is a direct reflection of what your employees think, say, share and do. Organizations need to embrace this fact and realize their greatest asset is their workforce. Providing them what they need to excel together, as part of a community needs to be a top priority.

This is the new norm for the latest generation of employees entering the workforce.  It is their chosen mode of communication.  Companies that don’t embrace or provide elegant and easy to use tools for social media will be seen as being out of touch or old school.  I think social media also provides an excellent incubator for the creative process of generating new ideas which is key to success in the 21st century, much like farming was in the 19th century and factories were in the 20th century.

At Oracle, we’re leveraging social conversations to reduce long email threads - conversations allow a team to discuss difficult issues/problems in a much more effective way than email.

Blogs, tweets, texts, OTube (our internal YouTube), etc. allow us to get out our messages in multiple formats so we get a better "hit" rate on our communications. Some people are more comfortable in a specific media and using all of them for our communications gives us a better chance of being heard.

Social media also has more two-way communications which makes it more likely we will get feedback. For example, someone may not feel comfortable replying to an email blast from an executive but they may be fine commenting on the same executive's blog post. 

Q: As we close out, are there any other thoughts that you would like to share?

Sunday: To be successful in business, speed has never been more critical. Simplify and standardize wherever possible.  This is not only the key to operational excellence, but also agility. It's much easier to go from one way of doing things to a new way which make it much easier to introduce something new.  

With the bias towards action, adopt the mantra of “we can recover from a poor decision; there is no recovery from indecision”. 

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Mark Sunday is Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President at Oracle, responsible for the information technology infrastructure used across the company globally. Mark's responsibilities have also included the operational infrastructure for Oracle's on-demand product offerings. Prior to joining Oracle in 2006, Mr. Sunday was Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Siebel Systems. With more than 30 years in the high technology industry, he has also served in various IT leadership positions at Motorola, ST Microelectronics, and Texas Instruments. Mr. Sunday holds a BSE from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. He served on the board of Altiris (which was acquired by Symantec), and is also a Trustee of the Utah Technology Council and Economic Development Corporation of Utah.

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