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 Mar 10, 2015

Avoiding the Customer Advocacy Trap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.



« October 2015