Tuesday Mar 22, 2016

Follow Me to The Oracle Blog

The Oracle Blog (TOB) is a new blog aiming to bring all Oracle executives thought leadership into one platform. There you will hear from Oracle executives such as Mark Hurd, Reggie Bradford, Bob Evans and myself - just to name a few. Going forward, I will be posting all new posts to TOB or my personal LinkedIn page. Check out my latest, Lessons from the Road to Customer Centricity, and follow me on The Oracle Blog today.

Tuesday Feb 23, 2016

Big Thoughts on Big Data - What's Next for Customer-Centric Organizations?

Big data done right can deliver unprecedented operational and performance insights as well as provide a springboard for true innovation for industries across the board -- from financial services to higher education. As such, making the most of big data is at the forefront of business executives "to-do" lists -- it's one of the areas that our customers ask us about most often.

Like most major enterprise initiatives, there's not a "one size fits all" approach to big data, and success is not always guaranteed. IDC research shows that only about 10% of employees from across organizational levels are fully satisfied with the big data technology resources available to them to support analysis and decision making. At best, this percentage grows to 30% when those "somewhat" satisfied are added into the mix. This leaves 70% of users who are complaining -- either vocally or with their wallets.*

Initial big data recommendations disregarded the importance of an all-encompassing enterprise infrastructure, data management, and governance strategy. Today, however, as more companies progress in their big data and analytics journeys, it is becoming clear that they need a big data strategy and architecture that promotes incremental deployments, and agility in developing and adopting new technology components.
Spain's leading retail bank and insurer with more than 13.8 million customers, 9,700 ATMs, and 5,300 branches is a good example of what to do right when it comes to harnessing the power of big data. Like most financial services organizations, CaixaBank wanted to integrate data from bank branches, ATMs, and internet and mobile banking to gain a complete understanding of its customers and offer personalized banking solutions -- gaining in customer loyalty and business competitiveness. CaixaBank (Oracle customer since 2013) worked with Oracle for the deployment of its big data infrastructure -- which includes an array of Oracle solutions and positions CaixaBank at the forefront of innovation in the banking industry. The new infrastructure provides the bank with a solution that responds to its need for cutting edge information management, enabling it to gain a 360-degree understanding of its customers from internal and external data to offer them tailored, on-demand solutions. Looking to share experiences like these, Oracle commissioned IDC to take a deep dive look at lessons learned from interviews and surveys of organizations engaged in big data initiatives. The resulting IDC White Paper, "Six Patterns of Big Data and Analytics Adoption: The Importance of the Information Architecture," explores key big data use cases at organizations across industries -- illustrating goals, approaches, and outcomes for modernizing their business intelligence platforms.

In recent years, I've appreciated the opportunity to listen to and learn from many organizations pursuing a big data solution. The IDC White Paper further expands this insight with new context around best practices that include:

  • Develop a big data information architecture in the context of the business, application, and technology architectures
  • Consider the gamut of big use cases and end-user requirements. Big data is not only about exploring large data sets
  • Design a logical architecture distinct from the physical architecture to protect the organization from frequent changes in the emerging technologies -- enabling you to maintain a stable logical architecture in the face of a changing physical architecture
  • Transform the information architecture into incremental projects rather than trying a "big bang" approach
  • Consider, even at the early stages of evaluating technologies, the full range of both functional and nonfunctional requirements for any future deployment. Adding those requirements later down the road will almost always incur additional costs and delays, another reason why an architecture-led approach is important

Harnessing the power of big data can be a daunting task. But with the right approach -- across people, processes, and technology -- organizations can truly derive real business value from big data -- accelerating innovation, driving optimization, and improving compliance.

For more information, check out the Data Mastery: The Global Driver of Revenue and Oracle's big data resources.

*Source: IDC White Paper, sponsored by Oracle, Six Patterns of Big Data and Analytics Adoption: The Importance of the Information Architecture, June 2015

Tuesday Feb 09, 2016

The Echo Chamber Talks Security

Oracle is very focused on listening to our customers, building community, and taking full advantage of the collective insights of our global user base. To this end, we recently kicked off an Echo Chamber initiative, designed to assess and respond to the perspectives of user group members from around the world on critical business and technology issues and developments.

The program works like this: We suggest a topic that we communicate across the network of Oracle user group leaders; we then encourage them to get a conversation going on social media. As the conversation develops, we see opportunities to take action and deliver something meaningful back to the community. 

We kicked off the initiative with a topic of critical importance to all of our customers -- security. User group members did not disappoint, sharing their expertise on various facets of the security equation from protecting data to the importance of establishing an IT security officer position.

We're pleased to share a few examples with you here:

  • Me, Security & Oracle, by Osama Mustafa, leader of the Jordan Oracle User Group. In his blog, Mustafa emphasizes the critical importance of making information security a top business priority to protect employee, company, and customer data. 
  • The End of the All-Powerful DBA, by Sten Vesterli, leader of the Danish Oracle User Group. Vesterli makes the case for establishing an independent IT security officer role whose job is solely focused on security. to ensure objectivity, Vesterli says, the security officer should not be invovled in database or system administration and should not share an office with the DBAs.
  • What Should I Use -- Oracle Data Redaction or Oracle Data Masking?, by Oded Raz, member of the Israel Oracle User Group. Raz explains in his latest blog the difference between using Oracle Data Redaction and Oracle Data Masking and brings to life some interesting questions from various users about the new data masking pack features.
  • Security and Exadata, by Christian Trieb, board member of the German Oracle User Group. In his blog, Trieb discusses best practices for using an Oracle Exadata Database Machine.
We've heard the voices of many Oracle users as they share their security-related experiences. This helps us be a more effective provider to you. Please continue to help us share and celebrate our users' successes, experiences, and expertise. Everyone benefits from this interaction.

Tuesday Jan 26, 2016

The Cloud: Changing Customer Expectations and the Role of the Chief Customer Officer

The role of the chief customer officer (CCO) continues to gain momentum as organizations work to re-imagine customer-centricity in the digital age. According to a report from the Chief Customer Officer Council (CCOC), nearly one-quarter of the Fortune 100 have CCOs.

The CCOC report also highlights that the tech sector clearly continues to lead the way – with more than 25 percent of all CCOs coming from its ranks. This is not surprising given that this is the industry where the CCO role was largely born. Looking a little deeper, however, there are interesting and important changes afoot when it comes to the role of the CCO in a tech sector enterprise.

What’s going on?

The tectonic shift in IT solution delivery from on-premise deployment to cloud-based subscription offerings is accelerating. This new reality is driving sweeping transformation, particularly in traditional hardware and software companies. First, customers have different expectations for cloud solutions. They are purchasing a service – and even a business outcome – so performance must be flawless: all day, every day, regardless of load or volume. This is no small task when multiplied across tens of thousands of customers. Clients also expect cloud solutions to be easy – easy to buy, implement, run, use, own, and upgrade.

In short, many technology companies are, in essence, transforming from product to service enterprises – which is a different business model with distinct customer expectations. The CCO plays a critical role in helping to support this transformation and align the organization and its resources and customer touch points to successfully meet changing customer expectations.

In a traditional hardware- or software-focused tech company, resources are typically aligned by R&D, manufacturing, sales and marketing, support, and services. All represent critical interaction points for customers at different points of their journey.

In a cloud-focused IT enterprise, there is an additional vital resource center – cloud operations, the group charged with keeping the cloud environment performing without a glitch. In short, the organizational structure of a cloud-focused IT enterprise becomes more complex even as it seeks to deliver greater simplicity to customers. This is an interesting paradox to consider and one that organizations must carefully and successfully navigate to succeed in the cloud.

At the same time, cloud service customers have higher expectations, in part emanating from their experiences as consumers: not only for service, but solution functionality, ongoing innovation, ease of doing business, and demonstration of real value-add. This makes for a whole new ballgame.

CCOs in a cloud enterprise must work closely with the rest of the organization to create and fine-tune the new way to interact with customers – to ensure that the whole customer experience is flawless. It’s no longer good enough that the product just works. Buying must be easy; value realized must be self-evident; and continued innovation must be compelling.

At Oracle we have conducted a thorough analysis of customer satisfaction challenges. This has led us to rethink continuity of care across the lifecycle. We continue to adapt, and work to meet, and ideally, stay ahead of changing customer expectations. We are eager to chart new paths for our organization and the industry as our journey progresses.

Tuesday Jan 12, 2016

Live Conferences – Three Important Reasons to Keep Going

Guest post by Sten Vesterli

As the New Year kicks off, so does the 2016 industry conference season. The first four months are packed with events that range from global telecommunications and healthcare IT conferences to user group meetings, and even a series of Oracle CloudWorld events around the world. 

Last fall, when I returned from Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, I reflected on whether such hallmark events remain relevant in a world where we increasingly expect all of the information we need to be available on demand and, literally at our fingertips.

My conclusion is that these events continue to be vital and vibrant opportunities for learning, and I offer three compelling reasons why:

    • Specific Answers
    • Knowledge Sharing
    • Serendipity

    Specific Answers

    Oracle, for example, has a very comprehensive technology stack, and there are often many possible ways to meet any specific business challenge. The collateral about each product cannot compare all the possibilities, but attending an overview session by an independent Oracle Ace director gives you an understanding of how each product fits into the overall picture.

    Events, such as Oracle OpenWorld, provide a unique opportunity to ask your specific questions and get the answers you need, either in a Q&A panel session or at the demo grounds, where you can meet senior developers and product managers.

    Knowledge Sharing

    Both at conference sessions and at the various social events around a conference, you have the option to meet other professionals and hear about their challenges and how they overcome them. Many people have interesting and innovative solutions but do not feel like standing up in front of an audience to talk about it. But over a beer in the bar, you might learn many useful tips.


    Serendipity means finding something useful that you were not looking for. The interesting word comes from an old fairytale, but the meaning is as relevant as ever.

    Have you ever browsed a physical bookstore and found a book you would never have thought to look for online? You will experience the same kind of happy coincidences at live conferences, where you are exposed to a concentrated barrage of technology, products and ideas. It is very likely that you will stumble upon technical possibilities you were unaware of, and which can make a difference for your organization.


    Oracle is working hard to make product information available through many channels, from documentation and tutorials to videos, podcasts and Virtual Technology Summits. but all of these have limitations in the amount of knowledge they can transfer. To increase your success with Oracle software, you should also attend live events like user group conferences, Oracle OpenWorld, or other specialized events, such as Oracle Industry Connect or Oracle CloudWorld programs. I know I'll continue to participate and benefit in the years ahead.

    Sten Vesterli is one of Europe's leading experts on successfully using Oracle technology. His special focus is Oracle ADF, and his book "Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development - Made Simple" is out in 2nd edition. He has also written "Developing Web Applications with Oracle ADF Essentials" and several other books. He is recognized by Oracle with the title of Oracle ACE Director, is a Fusion User Experience Advocate for Oracle and sits on the Oracle Usability Advisory Board. Sten is an Ironman triathlete and lives in Denmark. Follow Sten on his blog at http://www.vesterli.com or on twitter @stenvesterli

    Thursday Jan 07, 2016

    Join Me at the Fifth Annual Customer Experience Strategies Summit

    The Fifth Annual Customer Experience Strategies Summit is the largest gathering of customer service leaders in Canada. This presents a unique opportunity to network and learn from CX leaders on how best to create a unified and personalized customer experience, enhance your competitive advantage and increase client satisfaction.

    I'm honored to be a keynote speaker at the event presenting, The Ultimate Goal - Your Customer's Success, where I'll discuss how innovation in the way we relate to customers has transformed our business, including new drivers of customer success, how best to define and deliver tangible value and best practices to design a new customer success support structure.

    The Customer Experience Strategies Summit will be held in Toronto, Canada April 5th and 6th. I hope to see you there.

    Tuesday Nov 17, 2015

    New Tools Foster Stronger Strategic Partnerships - (Part 2 of 2)

    In my last post, I provided an overview of Oracle's Joint Business Review process and how it's helping us to build more strategic business relationships with our customers. In this installment, I'll focus on a few tools and best practices that are essential to the Joint Business Review and how they are driving value for our customers.

    Account Satisfaction Dashboard

    At Oracle, we are committed to putting our innovative technology and solutions to work within our own organization. The Account Satisfaction Dashboard, built on our business intelligence platform, is one such example. We've created a dashboard for each of our largest 2,000 customers, providing real-time visibility into the overall health of the relationship. It evaluates customer satisfaction with their Oracle relationship across four core pillars - account team effectiveness, product quality, services and overall lifecycle performance - which contain 50 distinct metrics.

    The dashboard leverages the red/yellow/green buttons similar to many of our customers and enables us to aggregate across customers, as well as drill down into the specifics for greater insight. The dashboard is foundational to our ability to conduct a complete health assessment as part of the Joint Business Review. It is equally important for day-to-day relationship management, allowing us to rapidly address emerging issues, target areas for improvement, and monitor progress - all from a single location.

    In addition, related dashboards help strategic account program managers to focus on extending relationship reach with our customers. For example, they can visually map where we currently have strong relationships within a specific account, and which additional relationships we should pursue.

    Strategic Account Plan -- Outside-In Process

    The creation of the three-year strategic account plan is a significant undertaking. It is well worth the effort, however, as it enables us to collaborate more closely with customers, focus more intently on their key initiatives and business priorities, and ultimately provide greater value to our customers.

    Specifically, the plans are designed to answer several strategic questions during discussions with customer executives:

    • What are the customer's most pressing business issues?
    • What initiatives are in place or are being planned to address those issues?
    • How can Oracle technology help the customer progress the initiatives and resulting business outcomes?
    • What are the next steps?
    • How do we jointly measure success?

    To help jumpstart the process, we've developed an outside-in perspective in which we've chronicled, by industry, key initiatives that similar organizations have pursued. This helps account teams to begin thinking creatively in a way that provides new value to the customer.

    Customer perspective is foundational to the strategic review process. We convene ongoing focus groups, seek input from participants in our advisory boards, and incorporate these discussions into our quarterly business reviews. We also conduct detailed discussions with each customer as part of the strategic account plan process, focusing on their specific business, issues, and trends, as well as emerging requirements.

    Oracle has standardized the Strategic Account Plan development process around the globe so that we can deliver a consistent experience and optimize the value of the process for our customers. When we first began, we had some process variations across regions, as is often the case with new initiatives. We later assembled best practices to create a globally standardized account strategy playbook. For example, we found that our EMEA organization had a great way of mapping customer initiatives to our product roadmaps. Another region had a very strong relationship planning template. As you might imagine, standardizing these things globally has a particularly positive effect on our customers who operate and engage with Oracle on a global scale.

    The Value Book

    Recently, we launched a Value Book as part of our Joint Business Reviews. This document functions as a "yearbook" of sorts for the account. It chronicles the relationship and initiatives over the years - and highlights the outcomes and impact of each. It creates a powerful narrative for the success that customers and Oracle have achieved together. It is also a beneficial tool for our customers in documenting and promoting the impact of their IT initiatives internally within their organizations. Further, the book is helpful when meeting with a new contact within an existing customer to bring them up to speed quickly on the history and value of the relationship.

    Our quest to strengthen customer relationships and focus on building true strategic partnerships is a top priority for Oracle. I'm interested in what others are doing as well. If you've got ideas and opinions or can share your best practices, please post a comment.

    Tuesday Nov 03, 2015

    Building Stronger Strategic Partnerships with Joint Business Reviews - (Part 1 of 2)

    We are fanatical at Oracle about striving to continuously improve the strength of our customer relationships. This objective permeates every aspect of our business. We have many strategies for achieving this, and I'd like to focus today on the Joint Business Review - a process we've initiated among our largest 300 customers.

    It's important to first take a moment to define what we mean by the term "customer relationship." To us, customer relationships are managed at two distinct levels: with an overall perspective of how the two organizations work together to compliment respective business objectives and strategies; and how many different individuals within one organization work with their counterparts in the other. If the relationship between Oracle and the customer organization is working well, it's performing at both levels, with structure and governance in places as a bridge between the two organizations. The relationship has to be satisfying for the actual people involved and in keeping with mutual business. Corporations are clearly not people. But they're certainly made up of people. And people generally want to build relationships with other people where both parties benefit.

    The Joint Business Review provides a unique opportunity to explore the health of the customer relationship (along both dimensions) and determine concrete ways to strengthen it. As part of this process, we look to drive deeper long-term engagement with senior customer decision-makers and influencers.

    The core of the review is a deep analysis of the customer relationship in its current state. This process involves nearly every member of the account team. The group identifies and examines residual concerns as well as dormant or emerging issues that can be addressed proactively. Further, the team takes stock of where the relationship is strongest and why, and assesses areas that are showing improvement.

    As part of the Joint Business Review, we also look to extend the planning window from an annual process to a three-year horizon to foster a more sustained, longer-term partnership. This review provides an important opportunity to collaborate with customers, map their needs to emerging Oracle solutions, and conduct strategic, long-term planning that can yield more successful deployments and a better overall experience. To us, a better experience means the customer enjoys a successful business outcome because of our work together.

    We started doing these reviews for 300 strategic accounts three years ago and have conducted repeat reviews for more than two-thirds of them to date. The response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. They appreciate and recognize the value the review adds, and understand its important role in delivering real results. CIO's on Oracle's executive advisory boards have told us that Oracle demonstrates it's thought leadership by focusing first on their strategic initiatives and then bringing relevant product strategies that clearly map to business issues, competitive strategies, and desired business outcomes.

    While the Joint Business Review process is focused on the company's largest accounts, many of the lessons learned are shared and adopted across the organization. For example, we've taken account planning best practices developed for this initiative to the next segment of our largest 2,000 accounts. We've provided these account leads with turnkey resources for strategic account planning and have replicated our executive sponsorship model.

    We've developed a number of tools and best practices along the way that I'll share in my next post. The Joint Business Review is a dynamic process that we continually refine and hone as we learn from our program managers, customers, and other customer relationship professionals. We look forward to continuing to build on its success. A strong framework and attention to relationships leads to real business outcomes and true partnerships.

    Tuesday Oct 20, 2015

    Attracting and Retaining Referenceable Customers is a Team Sport

    In the cloud era, nearly all cycles spin faster. For example, the sales cycle for purchasing cloud-based solutions can be weeks instead of months or years. In turn, go-lives are faster and product updates more frequent. Cloud enterprises also have a heightened stake in their customers' business continuity. For example, at Oracle, we not only develop IT solutions for enterprises, we deliver them via the cloud -- where we're in charge of performance and security 24/7.

    This increased velocity and stake in the customer's business continuity also has a profound impact on customer reference programs. Issues can emerge faster and related news can spread more rapidly. As the pace of solution releases grows, so must the frequency and speed at which we identify and attract customers willing to share their journeys and successes.

    In this environment, teamwork is more important than ever -- when it comes to both offense and defense strategies. 

    Delighted customers who are willing to share their experiences are among the most precious assets of any company. This is especially true for an enterprise technology company, where customers literally trust their business to their vendors' IT solutions. Research consistently affirms that customer endorsements are among the strongest influences on purchasing decisions. As such, Oracle and many other technology companies are focused on cultivating customers who are willing to share their success stories and best practices. This process also provides reference program customers with a highly visible forum and platform for promoting their successes to their management as well as expanding their professional network.

    Today's enterprise cloud solution providers require real-time visibility into the "health" of every current reference. They also need similar dynamic insight into emerging potential reference customers. No single entity within an organization can deliver this visibility. Instead, many groups must collaborate and communicate in real time to make this a reality. This is easier said than done, especially in a large enterprise.

    On any championship sports team, each player has a critical role to play and depends on full support and 100 percent commitment from the rest of the team. Meanwhile, the coach at the center of it all needs an unobstructed and immediate view of the field of play. At Oracle, our cloud solutions customer references initiative represents just such a team -- and it is helping us to make our customer references program a competitive differentiator. 

    We integrate and align activities, and more importantly, knowledge from across sales, marketing, research and development, engineering, support and cloud operations to gain the accurate, complete, real-time visibility needed to keep customers happy and our program growing.

    Reaction to the integrated approach from customers and our internal teams has been very positive. In particular, audiences appreciate hearing directly from these customers at events such as HCM World 2015 where more than 25 customers -- including Colorado Permanente Medical Group (Kaiser), and Lyft -- presented their experiences.

    We rely on Oracle tools as the hub that provides the real-time, unobstructed view of the customer reference landscape. It enables global customer program managers, sales team members, customer success team members and others to gain role-based visibility into the complete experience of any reference customer, including support and issue reports and resolution, program engagement, survey information, purchasing history and more. As such, we know the minute that a customer reference moves from green to yellow on our dashboard, and can take immediate action to resolve any potential or emerging issue -- to the benefit of the customer and our company.

    For more information on our cloud service customer references, please visit us here.

    Tuesday Oct 06, 2015

    Best Practices for Acing Your License Review

    I recently sat down with Jonathan Koop, Senior Vice President, Oracle License Management Services (LMS). His group proactively educates customers on the management, governance and awareness of the effective use and distribution of Oracle systems. He had just returned from a meeting with our European Oracle User Group leaders and his LMS Steering group where they discussed best practice recommendations for how to manage an audit. Here's a  recap of what he had to say.

    Jonathan Koop, Global VP, LMS
    In his role as Vice President of Oracle’s License Management Services (LMS) organization, Jonathan Koop champions a more customer-centric approach to delivering greater IT efficiency. Within his global remit, Jonathan is responsible for driving initiatives aimed at establishing and promoting best practices associated with license and asset management to ensure companies get the most from their Oracle investments. These include adopting strategies for facilitating a more proactive and collaborative partnership between Oracle customers and LMS.

    In talking with customers about their experiences with Oracle and other software vendors, one of the questions that often arises is "What can we do in advance to prepare for an audit?" It's a good question and one that might be restated more directly as: "How can we complete the audit process as quickly as possible and minimize business disruption?"

    In order to get as much information from real customers who have been through our audits to help us answer this question from a customer point-of-view, we met with a group of leaders of several Oracle user groups in Europe. Oracle User Groups are independent of Oracle, and thus help us to gain "straight-talk" perspective on issues that affect our customers.

    Specifically, we asked participants to highlight the main barriers to a successful license review and the guidance they would offer our customer community to help prepare for and get the maximum benefit from an LMS engagement (audit).

      The group identified several best practices:

      1. Remove the fear factor. We always try to be honest about our intentions before beginning the review process. We want to work collaboratively with our customers to help make software deployments as effective as possible for our customers and protect Oracle's intellectual property - not interrupt their business or cost our customers money. We always try to actively collaborate with customers to minimize any concerns about operational priorities.

      2. Understand the exact purpose and scope of the review. The goal of a license review is to review and validate deployments. As part of the review, Oracle LMS also works collaboratively with customers to educate them about licensing processes and helps customers assess their current needs and goals to get the greatest value from their investment. In addition, understanding the purpose and scope of the review enables organizations to involve the right people in the audit project team from the start.

      3.  Jointly agree on an achievable timeline. Collaboration is key to defining the audit process and agreeing to the schedule of activities. Working with Oracle LMS to define a start and end date and establish key milestones eliminates the fear that the review process will be an indefinite, never-ending process. It also provides the customer with a set date to prepare for the audit findings.

      4.  Delegate authority for the review.  It’s important to identify a single point of contact from the audit team during the process, with the authority to request, collect, and provide data needed to keep the review on schedule. This approach can go a long way in preventing delays in gaining the necessary approvals.

      5.  Maintain effective contract and asset management. It’s a massive boost to the process if companies, at the very beginning of a license review, can provide detailed insight into their existing contracts, information on how many licenses they own, and an accurate user count. It is also helpful to have an up-to-date inventory of servers, including the types of hardware on which each server is running. Organizations that adopt effective contract and asset management processes can greatly streamline the review process with information that is centralized and available on demand. This approach also enables companies to optimize their investment by seeking proactive advice when considering changes to their license structure.

      6.  Stay in regular contact. Finally, regular contact can keep a project on schedule. Two-way communication is far more productive to overcoming any issues, so our customers should not hesitate to come to us with any questions or requests for an update.

      Longer term, customers can benefit by proactively taking advantage of Oracle LMS resources. The team is a unique source of license and product expertise, and the best way to take advantage of this support is to proactively engage with Oracle LMS on questions relating to your Oracle estate – rather than waiting for an audit to occur. For example, customers can bring Oracle LMS into their strategic planning sessions for best-practice advice on defining, structuring and deploying future technology investments. The team can also provide the expert advice needed to build up your in-house software asset management capabilities and pursue a more strategic approach to your software estate.

      Thanks to Jonathan for these insights. It’s good advice - from both customers who've successfully completed audits and the team that conducts them.  Be proactive in managing your Oracle assets. By understanding exactly what your contract entitlement allows you to do -- and not do -- you'll be better informed and able to reap maximum benefit from your IT investments.

      For more on this, find a full report here and please join the Oracle LMS Unplugged session at Oracle OpenWorld.

      Tuesday Sep 22, 2015

      Mergers and Acquisitions: The Opportunity of Change

      30% of Oracle employees came to us from an acquired company. Besides bringing unique product, industry and customer knowledge, each new-to-Oracle employee is an ambassador of a company culture that includes perspectives and approaches that may be different from Oracle. We think that’s a good thing.

      We know the acquisition of a company can be tough for our customers and the experience can feel a lot like an uninvited guest with a big appetite for change. Our customers use the technologies we acquire to run their business and that change has the potential to impact their ability to do so. Our goal is to lessen the initial impact in the timeliest way and get to the added value envisioned by the acquisition as fast as possible.

      We look to our new team members, and the culture they bring with them, to highlight opportunities for easing the transition that will ultimately increase customer success and make doing business with Oracle easier. Soon after the acquisition is announced, we work to understand the perspective of the acquired company along with the processes and systems used to work with their customers. Critical touch points including technical support, roadmaps, and contracting are discovered at a detailed level. We seek to understand how the voice of the customer has been supported and what opportunities exist for further relationship building and two-way communication. This period of discovery brings the two teams together and brings to light inherent challenges to the way we do things.

      Combining our collective experiences and expanding the value we deliver brings us closer to our common goal of ensuring that our customers thrive during and after the transition. The only meaningful measure of whether these efforts are having the desired effect is achieved by reaching out directly to our customers. Early in the transition we use surveys and face-to-face engagements to ask our customers about their experience and to tell us what we are doing well and where we need to improve. This outreach becomes a baseline measure of customer satisfaction, providing guidance and insight as we work to more effectively communicate and direct our integration efforts. We ask our customers for specific feedback regarding product and service satisfaction, how well the account team understands their business and about areas of innovation they would like us to pursue. We ask whether the customer has noticed an upward trend or a decline in product quality and service delivery; how we are doing at keeping our promises and if we are succeeding in being a trusted advisor. These interactions are also an opportunity to provide assistance to any customer who tells us they need help during the transition.

      In line with Oracle’s best practice of engaging in closed-loop communication, we report the results of these engagements to those customers who have given us their feedback. We also share the results with Oracle leadership so that the entire team can benefit from customer feedback and take action when needed.

      Needless to say, every acquisition brings new opportunities and new challenges. We know from experience that embracing what is new is well worth the effort, and that, together, our combined team can meet our goal of helping our customers achieve even higher levels of success.

      Monday Sep 21, 2015

      Competing for Customers, Blog 2: The Value of Customer Success

      Unlike a house, when it comes to business solutions, why own when you can rent? That's the sentiment of more and more businesses these days when it comes to acquiring everything from the software that runs your company to the boost in power you need from your wind farm. We believe this shift in mindset and buying habits represents nothing short of a sea change in the structure of the modern economy and we rank it alongside the Customer First Revolution as one of the two mega trends businesses must come to grips with in the coming decade.

      We define the Subscription Economy as the fundamental transformation from an economy based on high capital-intensive sales of products into an economy based on services that you pay for as you use them, or as specific outcomes are realized.

      The Subscription Economy as a pervasive phenomenon is still in the early innings, but its growth is visible all around us and massive disruptions are sweeping through key industries from high tech to transportation to manufacturing. If you intend to win the competition for customers, you would be smart to understand why businesses are flocking to the subscription model of doing business, and begin to think creatively about how you can make your own business "subscription friendly."

      Given the fundamental shifts in financial rewards and buying behaviors (and clout) that B2B providers will experience with a subscription model, it's imperative that business leaders have a blueprint for making retention and customer success part of their organizational DNA. We see customer success as the ongoing capabilities organizations bring to bear to ensure their customers are achieving the full potential value from their products/solutions. This is the fundamental difference with other customer focused programs such as customer centricity, loyalty and others. It makes customer value/business outcomes the primary objective and the central theme of what companies should focus on.

      The great thing about customer success is the payoff for those who can do it well. As you can see from the chart below, the economics of success are significant and they fall into what we see as three major categories: Preserving revenue, expanding revenue, and referral revenue:

      Preserving revenue -- Customer success practices help manage customer churn by ensuring optimal product usage and the loyalty of the customer. Customer churn acts like a negative interest rate, compounding lost revenue year after year and ultimately putting the brakes on your business' growth potential. Companies who are able to reduce churn by 5 points are typically seeing a 20% increase in revenue over five years (Blaisdell, 2014)

      Expanding revenue -- While greater customer retention rates drive revenue gains, companies we studied also reported improvement via selling more products and services to existing customers. With most companies, according to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% (Farris, et al, 2010). The bonus is that the cost of selling to an existing customer is reduced by 80-90% (Scout Research, 2015)

      Referral Revenue -- Managing customer relationships and increasing the likelihood of your customers' success helps to drive customer referrals and advocacy. While much has been written about strong word of mouth (WOM) marketing, when customers are achieving their business outcomes they are much more likely to recommend your solution and company to others. In addition, customer success practices, such as providing quantifiable proof points from existing customers and helping new customers justify the investment based on evidence of value, can accelerate the sales process by 20-30% (Mainstay, 2014)

      And, lastly, it's worth mentioning that enormous benefits from delivering customer success practices accrue to THE CUSTOMER. What customer doesn't want their provider to systematically assure that they are successful?

      The bottom line is customer success pays! The question is, do you really care about customer success?

      Jeb Dasteel
      Amir Hartman
      Craig LeGrande

      Tuesday Sep 08, 2015

      Enterprise Data: Opportunity for the Taking

      In today's economy, data - specifically, big data - ranks high on the list of businesses' most precious capital resources. There is no question that it's increasingly a core requirement for creating new products, services, and ways of working.

      Oracle recently took a close look at businesses across several industries, assessing their ability to effectively manage and put big data to work to move their organizations forward. The study, "Data Mastery: The Global Driver of Revenue," conducted by WSJ Customer Studios and sponsored by Oracle, yields some very interesting findings.

      Surveying 742 executives in large enterprises, the study found that 9 out of 10 executives consider the ability to garner insight from data vital to their company's future. While some businesses still struggle to successfully manage significant data and turn it into actionable insight, many are using this data to improve the customer experience and create customer value. For example, 

      • Financial institutions are gaining a complete view of customers and their overall relationship with the firm. In turn, they have better insight into profitability, risk and future business opportunities with individual customers. As important, they can deliver more personalized and effective offers to their customers
      • Healthcare providers are leveraging a growing volume of structured and unstructured data - including clinical and operational data - to drive more personalized, effective and efficient treatments that improve patient outcomes and drive down costs
      • Retail stores are increasingly embracing an "omni-channel" approach, breaking down data silos and viewing the customer holistically to deliver a truly individualized customer experience
      • Utility companies are using big data to enable early warning systems that alert customers to potential outages even before they happen and keep them updated as to when their service might be restored -- providing a better customer experience

      Companies and organizations across a variety of industries are learning that big data matters. And what's more, they know that learning how to effectively, efficiently, and securely gather, store, manage, and - most important - analyze their valuable data is imperative to driving more actionable insight, better customer experiences, and improved performance.

      Check out the Data Mastery: The Global Driver of Revenue and Oracle's big data resources to learn more.

        Thursday Sep 03, 2015

        Competing for Customers, Blog 1: The New "As-Needed" Economy

        Oracle OpenWorld 2015 is in two months. From this week forward, I will publish a blog series on Customer Success. I have asked two of my colleagues, Amir Hartman and Craig LeGrande, to help me write these blogs. Amir, Craig, and I have been writing a book together. It's called Competing for Customers, and we've just about wrapped it up. We want to share some of our insights with you as you gear up for Oracle OpenWorld.

        Competing for Customers, Blog 1: The New "As-Needed" Economy

        Whether you realize it or not, everything about how you sell to customers is changing; everything about how you market to them must be rethought; and everything about how you keep customers loyal needs a fresh look.

        The rise of the "as-needed" economy is having a profound impact on companies of all sizes and industries. In particular the relationship between the buyer and the seller is fundamentally shifting, with the customer in the driver's seat. This is particularly so in the B2B space. For most organizations, the sales process is turning upside down right before our eyes. Rather than paying for products upfront in a single capital outlay, customers are spreading the purchase over many years -- and constantly evaluating whether to renew their relationship with you. Under this scenario, your "sale" is no longer a one-time event. Instead, it's a "relationship" that demands continuous care and nurturing if you hope to retain your customers long-term and fully realize the value of your sale.

        This leads to the central thesis of our book, Competing for Customers -- your success in this new economy will greatly depend on your ability to sell AND deliver measurable business outcomes to your customers. Indeed, we believe that driving customer value will be one of the few ways companies can attract and retain lasting customer relationships. If you're not generating tangible value for customers, you will lose them!

        Are you ready to compete for your customers?

        Next week: Quantifying the value of Customer Success.

        Jeb Dasteel
        Amir Hartman
        Craig LeGrande

        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.


        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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