Tuesday Aug 25, 2015

Cloud's Second Act: Business/IT Collaboration Emerges as Gold Standard






What a difference a few years can make, especially in the world of cloud computing. From the onset, speed has been one of the overriding benefits of the cloud ‒ allowing business leaders, perennially in search of greater agility, the ability to spin up new applications in record time – in months instead of years in many cases.

This enticing proposition gave rise to predictions of an impending tectonic shift in who would take the lead in purchasing and managing business solutions in the modern enterprise – with expectations that line of business managers would be firmly in the driver’s seat.





Not so fast… "Cloud Computing Comes of Age," a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) study conducted on behalf of Oracle, reveals that collaboration between IT and business leaders is becoming the gold standard as cloud enters its second act. Nearly half of the 376 business and technology leaders surveyed say that IT and business are nearly equally involved in selecting cloud services.The first generation of cloud solutions was characterized by adoption of customer relationship management, recruiting and expense management systems. As cloud-based applications and infrastructure solutions mature to support a much wider range of mission-critical operations, a compelling need for establishing appropriate enterprise controls arises to avoid a new generation of siloed systems.

The HBR study concludes that companies "that have yet to pull cloud projects into the enterprise framework are wasting money and missing opportunities...By taking a more managed approach, cloud leaders have been able to reduce not only implementation time but also cost and complexity through their use of cloud."

Let's take a deeper look at cloud leaders, which are identified in the study as "companies that take a more managed, enterprise approach" to cloud computing. First, they are more likely to launch new products (72 percent), expand into new market segments (62 percent), and enter new geographies (55 percent) and new lines of business (39 percent) than cloud novices and cloud followers. One can surmise that the added agility that cloud-based solutions provide helps to fuel that flexibility and innovation. They also say that the cloud is freeing up their IT department to focus on more strategic initiatives (52 percent).

Cloud leaders are not only more likely to use cloud solutions across the top five functions where cloud services are in use (recruiting, marketing, sales force automation, travel/expense management and training), they’re also more often pushing cloud into more core business functions like procurement, supply chain and accounting.

Further, cloud leaders are more likely to have a strong partnership between IT and other parts of the business -- not just in determining requirements (47 percent) and selecting services (46 percent), but in acquiring and deploying them (33 and 26 percent, respectively). Even as we experience a "democratization" of IT, which is blending "roles and responsibilities at all levels and requiring new skills both inside and outside of IT," someone still has to lead the charge. When it comes to cloud leaders (as opposed to novices or followers) -- that person is more than twice as likely (62 percent) to be the CIO.

Perhaps most interesting from a customer experience perspective is that cloud leaders are increasingly becoming service brokers -- both internally to lines of business and externally by developing "as a service" models for their customers. The later scenario makes for an even more complex ecosystem that, in turn, requires new IT governance models and IT team skills.

Oracle understands these new requirements. We've experienced them firsthand as we move our own large enterprise onto the cloud, even as we continue to develop a universe of industry-leading SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS offerings for the market. And, we're here to help our customers succeed in their cloud journeys, applying our experience and solutions to help today's enterprises and CIOs achieve a new level of agility and innovation.

Tuesday Aug 11, 2015

Big Data and a Holistic Approach to Customer Experience

These days, nearly every conversation with a customer turns, at some point, to a discussion of how to use big data as a competitive advantage, especially when it comes to the customer experience. With the proliferation of smart mobile devices and the emergence of social media, customer interaction channels and data have exploded and so have customer expectations.

In their big data journeys, many organizations are making significant traction in understanding how customers behave or will behave from transactional perspective. The real potential of big data when it comes to the customer experience is in using it to gain a holistic understanding of the customer beyond the transactional relationship in terms of needs and motivations.

An often-cited industry statistic is that companies estimate that they're analyzing a mere 12% of their data. What about the potential of the other 88%? Often it remains locked in data silos across the organization. In other cases, organizations struggle to distill the importance of data due to overload.

How can organizations best leverage the rapidly growing big data to gain a more complete and intuitive understanding of their customers?

"Big Data in the Enterprise: When Worlds Collide," an IDC report sponsored by Oracle and Intel, points to the emergence of a "long-term (very long-term) trend of pragmatic purchasing and deployment of a range of big data and analytics technologies and services. This pragmatism has already resulted in a realization of not only the need for coexistence of relational and nonrelational big data and analytics technologies but also the fact that together these technologies can enable completely new ways of conducting business" and drive decisions at the strategic, operational and tactical level.

In the quest for a holistic understanding of the customer, organizations must develop strategies to manage and optimize big data at three levels: at rest, in motion, and for analysis. Oracle has customer covered at all three levels, with a broad portfolio of big data and analytics solutions that span relational and nonrelational domains.

We're putting these solutions to work in our own organization. Oracle is using its big data solutions including Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, Oracle Big Data Appliance, and Oracle Exalytics to significantly improve the effectiveness of our support operations and in turn, the customer experience. While early in our journey, we've found several important ways to use analytics and automation to accelerate service request resolution identifying 4% more automation opportunities on the very first day of our initiative.

To learn more about strategies for optimizing the big data solutions and Oracle's approach, check out the full IDC report on Oracle.com.


Tuesday Jul 28, 2015

Emerging CX Trends

The collection of customer feedback and insights is critical to every business and serves as the foundation of our customer experience strategy and programs. Below is post from Jeremy Whyte, Oracle’s senior director of customer feedback and response programs, on our efforts.


Recently I attended the annual Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) Insight Exchange, where a host of Certified Customer Experience Professionals (CCXPs) and CX program leaders converged to discuss the latest trends, challenges and best practices in the CX profession. During the keynote, Bruce Temkin of The Temkin Group highlighted 5 emerging trends he sees having the greatest influence on customer experience efforts over the next few years:

  1. Anticipatory experiences: Going beyond customer journey mapping, this focuses on assisting customers in reaching their ultimate goals and can be achieved by understanding what the customer wants not only now, but several steps after that so that companies can best position around customer needs;
  2. Mobile first: Today’s products and experiences need to be designed for and integrated with mobile, with mobile enabling process redesign. Simply enabling or using mobile as an isolated channel or process extension is no longer good enough;
  3. Value as a Service: Technology is empowering end users to more self-sufficiently address their own needs, replacing traditional services in the process, and enabling proactive services;
  4. Continuous insights: Capturing and disseminating ongoing customer feedback across channels and touchpoints to enable decision makers to take action faster;
  5. Power of culture: Using culture as an advantage and realizing that effective CX strategies must be aligned with an organization’s culture in order to be successfully adopted (the whole “culture eats strategy for breakfast” notion).

Each aligns well with both Oracle’s corporate and CX strategies. In fact, Jeb Dasteel, Oracle SVP and Chief Customer Officer, hit on a number of these during his 2014 CXPA Insight Exchange keynote. However one emerging trend – continuous insights – was of particular interest to me as the premise maps exactly to the integrated feedback and response program we have implemented!

For example, establishing a platform for continuous insight required the modular, connected and integrated customer feedback strategy we have in place today:

  1. Modular: Providing a host of highly-targeted surveys and panels enabling customers to access them at any time and through any channel based on their experiences and interest levels;
  2. Connected: Enabling customers to “jump” seamlessly into multiple surveys and panels at their convenience without needing to provide their detailed demographic information along the way;
  3. Integrated: Providing holistic and role-based reporting across sources, channels and touch points to trigger closed-loop follow-up at micro and macro levels.

Oracle's Omni-Channel Feedback and Response Architecture

This strategy was driven directly by external and internal factors:

  1. Customer preferences changed, as value revolved around shorter, more targeted surveys, an understanding how their input shaped direction, and the ability to respond via mobile devices;
  2. Privacy laws significantly restricted traditional methods of outreach via more stringent opt-in/opt-out policies and touch rules;
  3. Oracle stakeholders wanted new data faster to establish baselines, measure progress, and capture input in emerging areas;
  4. Increased demand required a more streamlined way of capturing and responding to feedback in a scalable way across the growing Oracle organization;
  5. Oracle's culture rewards simplifying, standardizing and automating programs and processes using Oracle products in a way that customers can adopt.

To address these evolving business needs, we modified our strategy two years ago with the goals of increasing customer engagement, providing continuous feedback throughout the business, and enabling more proactive identification and resolution of opportunities and issues. We introduced an omni-channel panel management program called the Customer Advisory Panel (CAP), embedded it within our traditional survey infrastructure driven by the Oracle Service Cloud (OSvC), and integrated it with Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) to cascade roll-based information out to employees in a self-service manner. Lengthy relationship surveys were reduced by 75% and a suite of highly targeted panels were rolled out to better align content with customer preferences and expectations. These surveys and panels were engineered to work together and “talk” to one another, enabling respondents to opt-into CAP if not already a member, access a “survey buffet” of available panels, and “jump” into existing panels of choice. These panels can be accessed directly through CAP or via the web on demand, can be sent via personalized email invitations or conducted over the phone, and are optimized for mobile and desktop devices.

 Oracle's Integrated Panel Management Program

Results of our relationship and transactional surveys are fed into the Oracle Customer Programs (OCPWB) for visibility across the Customer Program Manager and Customer Success communities and to trigger the issue-to-resolution (ITR) follow-up process when required. At a macro level, the Oracle executives sponsoring panels send thank-you emails to respondents to highlight results, share impact and outline next steps to close the loop. These practices allow Oracle to resolve customer-specific issues while sharing how feedback is being used within Oracle, which in turn incents customers to remain engaged.

The business results achieved were immediate after year one: A 12x increase in response rates was seen across the first 40 panels compared to prior relationship surveys, 66% of contacts viewed panels via their mobile devices, and 23% of panelists “jumped” into other panels to provide feedback in relevant areas, with the average of those panelists jumping into 3 panels each. This increased the volume of feedback received across the Oracle ecosystem, eliminated the need to survey these customers, bypassed suppression challenges and contact management efforts, and provided customers with greater choice around channels, subjects and schedules. The time to setup and deploy new surveys was reduced from three weeks to one day.

The addition of these panels meant that we had more surveys to report results on, so horizontal reporting across the these 40 always-available surveys was required in order to provide employees with a holistic view of the voice of the customer and in their areas of responsibility (that number today is over 70 ongoing surveys!). To achieve this level of “enterprise intelligence” as Temkin puts it in his 2015 The Future of CX Insights report, we rolled out OBIEE to feed customer contact information and survey results into a single system. Role-based dashboards were created with links to more detailed reports and scorecards that highlighted results in aggregate, by segment (such as geography, industry, product, account tier, demographics, etc.), by account and by contact. Secure self-service reporting was introduced to align with Oracle’s culture and enable “distributed leadership” (as Amy Lucas of the Temkin Group cites) to empower our core Customer Program Manager (CPM) community to access results in real-time to identify and address specific issues while proactively advising their management teams of key trends and comparisons in a structured way across the globe. At management levels, stack rankings and comparisons across products, geographies and segments continue to fuel internal competition.

Based on that success, transactional survey data was added to marry point-in-time information with broader relationship-based and targeted panel feedback, in addition to the issue-to-resolution (case management) information to provide a fully closed-loop and standards-based reporting infrastructure across all surveys. Program engagement data was then added to provide insights into the types of programs customers are engaged in, as well as revenue data. This enabled more programmatic analyses to highlight the impact of engagement on satisfaction, loyalty and revenue, as well as “provocative analytics” to identify predictors of growth and loyalty across segments. For example, we know that “customer advocates” who are engaged in at least 5 core programs are more loyal and spend on average 857% more than “transactional buyers” (non-engaged customers). We also know that loyalty drivers vary between our SaaS and on-premise customers, allowing us to invest resources in specific areas of the customer lifecycle based on segment to increase success, expansion and long-term loyalty while staying in tune with longer-term customer needs.

The combined insight is used in many ways including our “Top Ten Themes” program which highlights and actions the largest, most systemic areas that have the greatest impact on CX and growth. We also use “provocative analytics” to raise startling new insights to the executive committee and model the impact of variables on business outcomes. These efforts, combined with other proactive outreach activities across the Customer Program Manager and Customer Success communities – and along with Oracle’s strategy and culture - are setting the stage for creating the next generation of “anticipatory experiences.”

Susie Boyer, Senior Product Manager for Oracle Service Cloud, and I recently co-presented at Modern CX World, where we highlighted Oracle’s product capabilities in the CX space and illustrated how Oracle is using those solutions to run our CX programs internally. To view the presentation with recorded audio, please click here.

Customer focus = Customer success.

Jeremy Whyte, CCXP

Senior Director, Customer Feedback and Response Programs

Oracle


Tuesday Jul 14, 2015

Best Practices Shine at EMEA User Group Leader Summit

User groups are the voice of the customer and provide priceless insight that informs our strategies. In addition to Oracle’s ongoing interaction with user groups across the globe, we convene annual summits of user group leaders in each global region designed to capture concentrated feedback and explore new initiatives.

Last month, 40 user group leaders from 27 countries spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) gathered in Lisbon, Portugal, to share their experiences with Oracle solutions and best practices, and discuss how they’re leveraging the cloud, Internet of Things, big data and engineered systems to advance their enterprises. Participants also collaborated about how to attract the next generation of IT and business professionals to their communities.

The leaders attending represented over 75,000 individual members ‒ almost half of the 200,000 Oracle user group members across EMEA, a community that continues to grow each year. The summit followed a similar event in Asia Pacific held in May and preceded Oracle World Brazil, where leaders of all Latin American User Groups met with Oracle in June. 

“The Internet of Things and User Groups – Are We There Yet?,” which featured Antonio Murta, Digital Champion Portugal for the European Commission, was a highlight of the event. Antonio discussed his vision for a time when companies like Inditex (parent of Zara and other brands) will not only tag clothing for store inventory but for beyond the shop door too – to the point where one can interrogate a shirt to ask where it comes from. He also explored the future ramifications of the “digital divide,” which continues to grow as wealth and knowledge are increasingly concentrated.

Other popular summit programs included:

  • Generation Y and Z are Your New Members ‒ a panel that presented strategies for attracting and engaging younger user group members
  • Harnessing Advocacy Throughout User Groups ‒ a lively discussion about how user groups can use social media to extend their reach and effectiveness
  • User Group Cloud Adoption & Best Practices ‒ a panel presentation that explored the many options of hybrid cloud that many users’ companies have adopted. Panelists highlighted best practices and things to watch for.

The event also promoted the “Are You a Member Yet?” campaign, an initiative supported by Oracle to help user groups continue to grow their ranks. The program supports innovative user group initiatives to grow membership.

For example, the Spain Oracle Users Group (SPOUG) has defined a horizontal community to provide best practices on migrating to the cloud and adapting to new technologies. SPOUG’s cloud community blog has become one of the group’s most popular forums, hosting more than 200 visitors and discussions a month. SPOUG also has a digital magazine supported by Oracle, addressing topics such as whether one should upgrade to a new release of on-premise or move to the cloud, and best practices for making the move. 

The Danish Java Users group (Javagruppen), is pursuing a different approach to membership development. Its “Bring Your Own Teenager” initiative is a fun event where members and their children spend a day using Lego Mindstorms to build robots and learning Mine Craft modeling. The successful and popular program also features Raspberry Pi computers, dials displays and sensors - all using Java. In the future, the Danish group intends to provide free membership to universities. Once students have their diploma and enter the industry, they will receive a one-year free membership – encouraging them to get involved and engaged from the start of their career.

Future-proofing membership is also on the agenda of the Higher Education Oracle Users Group (HEUG), which represents 1,000 institutions globally. The group's initiative focuses on developing the next generation of HEUG leaders. The group also has a reverse mentoring program designed to inform current leaders about what younger members want from their user group and how the organization can adapt to maintain that relevance.

Oracle user group communities continue to thrive around the globe. It’s exciting to see the many innovative programs being launched to expand their ranks and deliver continuous value to members. Are you a user group member yet? Visit this
site the find the right one near you.

Tuesday Jun 30, 2015

Writing the Book on Putting Customers First

Customer experience cannot be a siloed discipline in the modern enterprise. That’s the message from Jeanne Bliss, who’s been a chief customer officer (CCO) for more than 20 years, in her new book, Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine.

Instead of passing customer issues along to individual departments, Bliss advocates for customer leadership executives, charged with uniting the entire organization’s leadership team to figure out who their customer is, and then align business priorities, operations, and metrics to transform how the company operates.

To make her case, Bliss draws on case studies from CCOs who demonstrate the five competencies fundamental to creating a customer-driven growth engine:

  1. Manage and honor customers as assets
  2. Align around experience
  3. Build a customer listening path
  4. Embed a culture of customer experience Reliability and Innovation
  5. Institute one-company accountability, leadership and decision making

I’m honored to have been included in Jeanne’s book to share how Oracle’s focus on customer engagement is helping to increase customer retention, value delivered, satisfaction, and loyalty. The section, titled “How We Engage Our Engineers,” is one of 40 informative case studies that Jeanne has included.

Here are a few quick excerpts:

“There are two traits that come through in everything we do at Oracle. We are a very engineering-centric organization and we take all forms of competition very seriously.”

“We provide our engineers with both the qualitative customer feedback – anecdotes, complaints, praise – and the quantitative data combined. All of this together gives us a complete ‘voice of the customer’ perspective. Having rich data is great, but having the narrative from customers describing the effect we have on their business puts the data into the right context so that they can fully comprehend what they are building and improve on what and how they deliver.”

Want to learn more about how to put customers at the heart of your business? Chief Customer Officer 2.0 is available on Amazon now, or read a description courtesy of publisher John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Wednesday Jun 17, 2015

Soaring with Social

Oracle Social Cloud is all about helping you, our customers, put the power of social media to work in your enterprises – holistically, flexibly and effectively. It’s an important part of our commitment to helping you deliver the best customer experience wherever your customer touches your brand. And, there’s no denying that social channels represent an increasingly vital interaction point.

Earlier this month, we were honored to learn that Oracle was named #1 Best Bet social media tool for large organizations in VentureBeat Insight's survey of more than 1,100 social media managers. The study ranked 28 social media management (SMM) solutions.

This accolade is especially significant to us as it represents the voices of our customers along with other industry leaders. As VentureBeat Insight says in its report, there is "no getting away from the high score given to Oracle SRM by respondents."

In particular, respondents using Oracle Social Cloud were very pleased with how we help them succeed (#2), and how well we help them protect their brand reputations (#2). Overall, Oracle Social Cloud received the #3 Best Overall Score among the 28 SMM tools included in the study.

For an up-close view of how two of the world’s most recognizable brands ‒ General Motors and Southwest Airlines ‒ are harnessing the power of social media to elevate the customer experience, check out the following links:

Monday Jun 01, 2015

RoD: Return on Disinvestment

Do you remember when organizations needing Enterprise Software began by asking the question: 'buy or build'? These days, except for a handful of very small, very niche areas, no one would ever consider building their own Enterprise Software; 'buy' won the day. But 'buy' was a bit of a misnomer. It was never 'buy' in the same way that you buy a freezer. When buying your on-premise ERP application, for example, it would take time to research a solution and all its components, and to find an SI to help. Then it would take even longer to implement, test, and roll out. Finally - and an eighteen month project wouldn't be considered an abnormal delay - you would have a live system. But even then you'd still be paying for it. Cost was never just a matter of the CapEx needed to buy the components and get started, there were always the on-going expenses of the real estate for data centers, the skilled DBAs and other technicians you would need to hire, train, and employ, and all the other payments that role up to OpEx. And, of course, you'd be paying in another way too: you'd be locked into what effectively became an obsolescent system on the day you started the project. By the time you went live, your software would probably be one version behind, and it might be seriously out of date three years later. There would be little opportunity to add features during that time (greatly limiting business agility) and therefore your service level for the business as a whole would simply degrade month by month until eventually you'd be forced to go through the pain and cost of an upgrade (or simply repeat the research cycle and start all over again with a new install).

And that's not all. Typically you would have to size your on-premise solution for your organization’s maximum workload, and much of the time - during periods of normal business - a major part of your resource would be idle. Conversely, your total costs: CapEx, OpEx, wasted resources, and the opportunity costs of being locked in to an aging system, would all be busily working against you.

You know where this is going. The on-premise versus Cloud argument is often presented as simply CapEx versus OpEx, but clearly it's not that simple.


In reality, the on-premise world had costs in CapEx, OpEx, lost opportunities, degrading service levels, under used resources, and repeated cycles of upgrades or replacements. If Cloud simply replaced CapEx with OpEx it would only be of incremental value. But in fact, it's the avoidance of all the other problems associated with on-premise and the opportunity to channel resources towards what’s really important to the bottom line of your business that are the bigger pay-backs by far. Investments in your company’s competitive differentiators and customer and employee engagement – are examples of key focus areas that could benefit from reallocation of resources that were dedicated to on-premise – call it the Return on Disinvestment.

What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to comment below and let’s discuss!

Tony Banham
Oracle Global Customer Programs Vice President

Tuesday May 19, 2015

Continuous Improvement of the Cloud Customer Experience

When it comes to Cloud, customers expect a solution that enables personalization, constant connectivity and security. And, through it all, we know that customers want an easy business relationship with their Cloud provider. To enable this, we focus on “Ease of Doing Business” attributes and in this post, I outline some of Oracle’s specific efforts.

First, as of March 2015, we have completely refreshed our Cloud documentation repository. All documents related to technical and functional aspects have been updated and posted. The repository can be easily accessed and navigated via the Oracle Cloud Portal, allowing you (customers) to achieve a rapid start upon the purchase of your subscription across any pillar and to access best practices throughout the lifecycle.

Second, as a result of having fully automated the provisioning process, we now expect a 36-hour turnaround for all orders processed. This impacts the ability of our customers to initiate the implementation phase and therefore, to more quickly capitalize on your Cloud subscription. We have also revised our Cloud Services policies, so that they provide a consistent experience for patching, application of language packs and refreshes across all Fusion pillars.

Third, we have significantly expanded knowledge resources for issue resolution via My Oracle Support portal, as well as further focused our services on problem prevention through a richer knowledge base, improving monitoring internally for faults. We indeed look to optimize our solutions from how we build them to how we support them.

Ease of Doing Business continues to be a top objective for us at Oracle across all of our offerings. I will continue to update you as more updates and benefits become available. 

Tuesday Apr 21, 2015

Oracle Excellence Awards - Recognizing Unparalleled Success

Striving for success is what drives Oracle and our customers to continually discover innovative uses for Oracle technology and to deploy groundbreaking solutions and best practices. This is why I am delighted to enter a new season of Oracle Excellence Awards where we have the opportunity to recognize those customers that have excelled in driving business value working in partnership with Oracle.


Our customers amaze us with their successes, and we appreciate the chance to celebrate and acknowledge their wins. The Oracle Excellence Awards offers that opportunity. One example - recently, we were honored to feature some of our winners in the March/April 2015 edition of Oracle Magazine. If you’re looking for a little inspiration for the start of the week, I encourage you to read the articles (pages 26-35). I especially enjoyed reading how our winners are transforming their organizations through leadership. I could not have agreed more with Marty Schoethaler, VP and CIO of Archer Daniels Midland Company, when he made the point that IT organizations need to have strong relationships with their full leadership team. Mr. Schoethaler noted that he spends a significant amount of time with his organization’s business leaders as they work through challenges and initiatives. I believe (and know) that this applies to all of us. Whether you are in marketing, communications, technology, sales or support; innovation and success are won - not in a silo - but cross-organizationally. This highlights one of the key features of the Oracle Excellence Awards. Our winners don’t just innovate; they break down barriers and build relationships both within the organization and outside. They are leaders in every sense of the word.

The Oracle Excellence Awards provide an excellent opportunity for some of the world’s leading organizations to display their biggest wins and what they’ve learned. One can only imagine what our 2015 winners have in store for us.

To learn more about the Oracle Excellence Awards and to make a nomination, visit Oracle Excellence Awards.

Tuesday Apr 07, 2015

Addicted to Services

In our Q3 earnings call, held in March for the investment community, our CEO Mark Hurd mentioned a handful of our new SaaS deals at Saudi Telecom, BAE Systems, Hawaiian Airlines, KPMG, and FEMSA in Mexico - the world's largest independent Coca Cola bottler. These are all certainly strong brands that we're very excited have in the Oracle family, but in the world of 'as a Service,’ winning these new deals is actually the easy part.

The point is that, for many of our customers, we're not selling 'things' any more, we're selling a service, and from a customer satisfaction point of view it's a completely different experience. People's favorite brands (think Harley-Davidson, Apple, or Dyson) almost always sell tangible things, and because you pay for them upfront you tend to really buy into them in more ways than one. But your experience with service brands – in whatever industries - is different and potentially more volatile. You try one hotel, and then another. Telecoms have lots of customer churn. You punch your remote and watch a different TV channel.

With Oracle firmly and increasingly in the service arena, we think about the customer lifecycle differently. From provisioning through deployment, from utilization through renewal, the service we provide must be so good as to be almost invisible. Lots of marketing people might hate that ('invisibility' isn't generally high on the list of brand traits they want to project), but it's true. Remember the best service you ever received in a restaurant? You probably don’t. Remember the time they accidentally poured wine in your lap? Oh yes, and you never went there again. Service excellence requires something close to perfection - never providing that excuse not to return. Obviously, service has to deliver value, but in the same way as the almost-silent purr of a Rolls Royce's engine does: unobtrusive but with world-class results.

How does this affect the way I think as Chief Customer Officer? I have always been interested and involved in the full lifecycle of our customer relationships, but Software as a Service has fundamentally changed that cycle. We move from a relationship where there was often a temptation to be project-based (evaluate, implement, run, and replace), to a permanent solution that always presents customers with the latest version of our products, and continually evolves to deliver the latest functionality. There's no longer any excuse to step away from a customer, so our challenge is to re-engineer our customer-facing processes to generate compulsive customer satisfaction hand-in-hand with - hopefully - permanent addiction to our services. Winning new deals doesn't keep me awake at night; my business is to help make them immortal.

Wednesday Mar 25, 2015

Collaboration Drives Innovation as China Oracle User Groups and Oracle University Work Together to Change Lives

From time to time, I ask guest contributors to provide posts on timely and important topics. Today, I’m sharing a post by Jim Jiang, who runs our APAC User Groups relationships. Jim shares the story of an innovative program launched collaboratively by the China Oracle User Groups and Oracle University. The new initiative is designed to address the rapidly growing need for skilled and certified IT professionals, while providing participants with a career boost.

As a reminder, Oracle’s user groups are independent. We don’t fund or sponsor these groups, but work with the leaders to provide support for their events, answer questions from their membership and learn from their feedback. We’re committed to fostering strong and independent user groups across the globe. There are more than 900 worldwide, providing dynamic forums for customers to share information, experiences and expertise. Focused on products, technologies, applications and industries, these user groups offer an environment for all customers to network, share information and learn about best practices.

It’s no secret that the more information you can get and a greater sense of community around your work helps promote your overall effectiveness and satisfaction. So, if you’re not a member of an Independent User Group now, take a look at our Oracle User Groups page and sign up for one today. If you’re interested in starting one of your own, we’ve got resources and best practices to share with you too.

Jim shares his important story below about how Oracle User Groups are helping to change lives.

-Jeb

China Oracle User Groups and Oracle University Join Forces for Young Expert Program
by Jim Jiang, User Group Relationship, APAC

When diverse groups of individuals come together and work toward a common goal, good things happen. We saw an excellent example of this during the 4th OTN China User Group Conference Tour meeting in Beijing with China Oracle User Groups. It was a great success, doubling in size from the previous year, with more than 1,000 participants from 600 companies.

One of the highlights of the event was the launch of an innovative and collaborative program targeted at emerging IT professionals – the User Group Young Expert Program.

There is no denying that the need for skilled IT professionals is growing rapidly around the globe, outstripping the ability of many regions and enterprises to keep pace. We all agree that the faster we can get IT professionals online and help them to continue to expand their skills, the better for everyone. Individuals benefit with highly marketable and in-demand skills that open the door to rewarding careers. Enterprises win by fueling their organizations with the skills needed to drive growth and innovation.

With these challenges and intended benefits in mind, China Oracle Users Groups partnered with Oracle University to create the User Group Young Expert Program. Run in conjunction with Oracle University, the initiative helps user group members advance their expertise with Oracle technology and become Oracle Certified. Oracle offers more than 100 certifications spanning applications, database, enterprise management, foundation technology, industries, Java and middleware, virtualization and more. The User Group Young Expert Program allows qualified individuals recommended by user group leadership to take an Oracle Certification exam free of charge.

Qualifying for and passing an Oracle Certification exam, including Oracle Database Certification, is a big achievement for IT professionals in China. The ability to be able to take the exam free of charge if you qualify can literally be a life-changing event for young professionals.

Certification offers three important benefits to individuals:

  • Salary advancement - According to Oracle's 2012 salary survey, more than 80% of Oracle Certified professionals reported a promotion, compensation increase or other career improvements after becoming certified.
  • Opportunity and credibility - Expanded skills and knowledge lead to greater confidence and increased career security and help to unlock new opportunities with employers.
  • Career growth - 97% of Global Fortune 500 companies use Oracle. They also need skilled technologists to implement, develop and administer critical systems. Earning an Oracle certification helps equip individuals with these in-demand skills.

From an employer’s perspective, Oracle Certified professionals bring unmatched working knowledge of critical Oracle solutions and technology to the enterprise — enabling companies to optimize their Oracle investment to drive value.

The User Group Young Expert Program also enables regional user groups to deliver added value to their members, while fostering professional development in their ranks. Program participants are asked to share their knowledge by publishing a blog post or article, posting on Weibo or Wechat about a relevant Oracle Database topic, or leading a database session at a conference or event.

The regional user groups and Oracle University made 60 vouchers available in the inaugural year and look forward to expanding the program in 2015. It’s a winning proposition for everyone involved.

The launch of the User Group Young Expert Program was not the only highlight of the two-day China User Groups program, which featured 45 speakers and 48 educational and user sessions. Throughout the event there was a strong emphasis on Oracle Cloud, as well as sessions led by Oracle and various customers including: Alipay, China Unicom, CNTV, FAW Volkswagen Automobile, Postal Savings Bank of China, TravelSky and Zhejiang Mobile.

The China Oracle Users Groups continue to grow and provide members with valuable opportunities for professional development and best practice sharing. Oracle, through the OTN China User Group Conference Tour and collaborative User Group Young Expert Program, is pleased to support their efforts and help further the careers of young Oracle experts.

Tuesday Mar 10, 2015

Avoiding the Customer Advocacy Trap

We’ve heard “The customer is always right” a million times over. In the complexity of today’s business environment, it’s just not always true − especially in the B2B world.

Make no mistake: we have to listen carefully and continually to what our customers are saying. The danger arises when, in the name of customer advocacy, we act on customer requests and address only symptoms − instead of digging deeper to understand underlying challenges and how the requests fit with the fundamentals of our own business. Doing whatever the customer asks of us is not a business model; bounds us to reactive, tactical responses;

limits innovative ideas; and doesn’t truly serve the customer well.

In short, declaring yourself to be a customer advocate suggests that you will basically do whatever your customers ask. This approach ultimately results in tactics that probably don’t mesh with strategy.

Instead of customer advocacy, we propose that customer success should be the new mantra. To us, customer success means implementing a closed-loop process where corporate strategy drives customer engagement that thoughtfully supports the customer’s desired business outcomes, which in turn drives customer feedback, which then allows us to adjust our strategy.

At Oracle, we have spent the last 10 years on transforming our business into a customer success-focused enterprise with an emphasis on:

  • Expanding customer feedback and engagement
  • Developing a deep understanding of our customers’ business
  • Making it easier to do business with us
  • Executing an R&D strategy rooted in customer needs
  • Enhancing employee engagement with our customers
  • Building on customer successes with loyalty

Listening to our customers is fundamental to our focus on customer success at Oracle. We leverage myriad ways to gain a holistic view of the customer’s experience and perspective. This includes relationship surveys tied to three-year account strategies; continuous and ad hoc customer advisory panels; transactional surveys for point-in-time feedback across lines of business; executive advisory boards and focus groups; input from account teams and executive sponsors; social media harnessing unstructured and topical input; as well as user experience labs where customers help to define next-generation solutions.

By analyzing this input with a particular eye toward what we need to do to assure customer success, we can identify root causes and trends that enable us to make changes and drive innovation to have the greatest possible impact on our customer base. Our Top Ten Program is designed to address company-wide and cross-line-of-business initiatives that have the largest impact to our customers as well as our business. We derive the programs’ list from feedback collected across multiple sources, as well as emerging trends highlighted by our most strategic customers. Key steps include identifying customer priorities, conducting business impact analysis, implementing corrective action, monitoring feedback channels, and communicating results and actions back to the company and customers.

By limiting their focus to customer advocacy, enterprises curtail their potential for innovation. I’m reminded of the development of the Wii gaming system. Genyo Takeda spearheaded the team at Nintendo. Instead of simply looking to improve incrementally on gaming consoles by addressing specific customer demands for faster systems with more sophisticated graphics, Takeda and his team re-imagined the concept of a gaming system from the ground up, including how users interact with it. The team looked beyond what gamers said they wanted, digging deeper into how users interacted with games and what was holding back adoption in some segments. This way of looking at the problem put the customer’s experience at the center and examined what the customer really needed rather than what they simply said they wanted.

An organization driven by a deeper understanding of the customer and long-term customer success, rather than more superficial customer advocacy, demands that enterprises stay (at least) one step ahead of their customers − applying market expertise and insight, analyzing customer input to identify issues and root causes, and thinking creatively to proactively identify needs, in some instances, even before the customer recognizes them.

This is very much the approach that we take at Oracle. Incorporating customer feedback within the framework of our business strategy is critical in helping us to define new product direction and understand emerging needs – with a goal of getting ahead of the curve. Our Engineered Systems are a case in point. These innovative solutions – which include our Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic and Oracle Exalytics solutions − combine hardware and software that are engineered and optimized to work together out of the box. They deliver extreme performance and install rapidly to accelerate return on investment, reduce IT complexity and cut total cost of ownership. This concept was entirely new and many customers looked askance until we convincingly demonstrated the benefits. Today, demand for these systems is strong, and we have developed a large, committed, engaged and enthusiastic user community.

A strategy that puts a focus on customer success, allows this type of innovation. A customer success view, with customer feedback placed in the proper context and a deep understanding of what customers really need enables nuanced strategy, which has collaboration and innovation at its core.

We are successful if and only if our customers are successful.

Tuesday Feb 24, 2015

Amidst Change, Centralized Data Remains the Foundation

IT is a cyclical business. While there’s no equivalent of Moore’s Law to describe it, experience tells us that commercial IT has moved between centralized and decentralized on a regular basis, from mainframes to mini-computers, from client server to the Internet. While the latter in fact provided the perfect infrastructure for globally centralized systems, it has also given us the Cloud – today’s biggest driver of decentralization – and, remarkably, standardization.

Now we’re in another cycle, and we can predict exactly how it will go. Today, Software as a Service (SaaS) is the new vehicle for decentralization. A department can independently choose to subscribe to a service that satisfies its individual needs. It’s OPEX rather than CAPEX. There’s no gigantic bill to contend with and there’s no need to involve a large number of people in the decision - so long as there is some level of governance and an overarching IT, data, and security strategy.

If there is anything we have learned over the past 15 years, it’s that businesses run best on a single informational foundation: a single, centralized set of data that defines customers, employees, products, and every other aspect of the business. In practice this means that efficient operations require SaaS offerings to be complete and to run in seamless concert with other SaaS offerings and on-premise software. Multiple, customized, un-integrated offerings divided by differing data architectures and platforms are not the future. Corporations are now realizing that they need agreed upon but centralized cloud strategies architected by the CIO, which incorporate the needs of every line of business, allowing SaaS decisions to be inclusive and additive rather than exclusive and divisive.

Industry leaders BT and Solairus Aviation are doing this already: creating hybrid SaaS and on-premise systems as stepping-stones or moving directly to integrated portfolios of cloud offerings.  They combine the benefits of the new world with the wisdom of the old. Those still making individual and disconnected departmental SaaS decisions are in danger of building a new era of complex legacy systems and data fragmentation to fix and then replace.  Who wants to go through that all over again?

What we've learned is that no matter the access points or computing models, the key is still centralized data.

Tuesday Feb 10, 2015

Our Customers’ Success Is Our Success

As Oracle’s Chief Customer Officer, I am constantly looking for new and innovative ways to reach out to our customer community. To that end, I am collaborating with my friend and colleague, Amir Hartman of Mainstay Partners, this time on a series of six blogs focused on Customer Success for the OracleVoice channel on Forbes.com. Through this series we’re touching upon various topics from sales to marketing, and everything in between.
Companies today need to understand that alignment of their own goals to their customers’ goals is key to building loyalty and mutually beneficial partnerships. If the quest for helping your customers achieve their goals and success is built into your company’s DNA, your sales teams will be far more likely to meet their objectives. Ensuring that your sales teams have the right tools and skills to engage with customers in this way is critical.

The first three blogs of our series have been published on Forbes. I have included links to each below. Take a moment to visit the site and take a quick read. Never have we felt a stronger need to put the customer’s success at the center of everything. Their success is our success.

Check out the posts:

Also, we are running a short survey on customer success. If you have a quick moment, please click here. We would be honored to have your input.

Keep an eye on the OracleVoice channel on Forbes.com for my upcoming blogs and check back here for a recap once they have been posted.  I look forward to your feedback and thoughts on these and all my other blogs.

Thanks,
Jeb

Tuesday Jan 27, 2015

Enabling the Next Generation

Over the years, we have seen an increase in the ways technology has interwoven itself into our everyday lives. Everyone is hyper-connected through mobile and various other devices, and our devices must communicate to one another. With technology changing so quickly and in the hands of every millennial and future worker, we are committed to helping enable this next generation. To highlight some of the interesting projects that Oracle is involved in, I will be inviting folks from around the company to contribute an occasional post to give you a glimpse of what we’re doing to further technology for our next generation of enterprise workers and technology innovators.

I've asked Tom Scheirsen, who's been working with an organization called Devoxx4Kids an offshoot of Devoxx, which is the largest Java conference in Europe, to share their story.


Devoxx4Kids Empowering the New Technology Producers
By Tom Scheirsen, User Group Relationship, EMEA

Over the past few years, Oracle has invested funding and effort (in the form of support through Oracle Academy) to further the efforts of an organization that is of great importance to us called Devoxx4Kids (an offshoot of the Devoxx, which is the largest java conf in Europe). Their focus is to get Gen Y and Z involved in user groups and Technology, targeting kids between 8-14 years of age, before they make their career choices and teach them, in a fun way, to play with technology and influence them at a young age. The goal is to teach, engage and inspire kids about computer programming while they are having fun. Devoxx4Kids has been very successful in working with children through workshops around the world, introducing them to:

  • Simple Software Programming concepts
  • Object Oriented Programming concepts using the Java Programming Language
  • Robotics
  • Electronics

Devoxx4Kids was started in 2012 in Belgium. Since then, Devoxx4Kids has shared its curriculum with Java user groups and other organizations around the world. Today, over 3000 children (36% girls, 64% boys) have attended 108 workshops in more than 80 countries around the world averaging 50-100 kids per session. Ensuring technology learning opportunities are available to children is very important to Devoxx4Kids; in addition, this program also focuses on gender equality, encouraging girls to attend their sessions. Thus far the entire program has seen great success.

At Oracle OpenWorld this past October, special Devoxx4Kids sessions were held as part of JavaOne 2014.  150 kids, aged 10-18 had an opportunity to get hands-on to learn programming, robotics and engineering.  Specifics are covered in this Java Magazine article and blog entry.  Interesting and informative video testimonials from the children are also available there. If you're interested in finding a workshop for the your future programming wizard in your life in a city near you, be sure to check the events page.  Check out their website for more information, follow them on Twitter @Devoxx4Kids, and like them on Facebook.

About

Welcome to the Customers in the Know Blog. My name is Jeb Dasteel, I am Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at Oracle. I am responsible for driving customer-focus into all aspects of the Oracle business. I advocate and work within Oracle to develop and deliver customer programs that increase customer retention, value delivered, satisfaction, and loyalty. This blog was designed to enhance our engagement and interaction with our customers, by providing them exclusive Oracle executive insights, ensuring they have the most up-to-date trends and news directly from Oracle, as well as guest blog submissions by some of our customers.

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