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


      Tuesday Jul 14, 2015

      Best Practices Shine at EMEA User Group Leader Summit

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

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

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

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

      Other popular summit programs included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Tuesday Jun 30, 2015

      Writing the Book on Putting Customers First

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

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

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

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

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

      Here are a few quick excerpts:

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

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

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

      Wednesday Jun 17, 2015

      Soaring with Social

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

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

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

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

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

      Monday Jun 01, 2015

      RoD: Return on Disinvestment

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

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

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

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

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

      Tony Banham
      Oracle Global Customer Programs Vice President


      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.



      « December 2015