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.

        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



        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.



        « February 2016