Tuesday Nov 06, 2012

The Partner Perspective from Oracle OpenWorld 2012 - IDC’s Darren Bibby report

Below is IDC’s Darren Bibby report on ‘The Partner Perspective from Oracle OpenWorld 2012’. If you missed the 2012 edition, I trust this will give you the willingness to attend next year one!

October 26, 2012

I attended my fourth Oracle OpenWorld earlier in October. I always go in with the lens of, "What's in it for partners this year?" Although it's primarily thought of as a customer event - and yes, the bulk of the almost 50,000 attendees are customers - this year's conference was clearly the largest and most important partner event Oracle has ever run.

Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Exchange

There were more partner attendees than ever, with Oracle citing somewhere around 5000. But the format for partners this year was different. And it was better. Traditionally, Oracle hosts a one-day only Partner Forum on the Sunday before the customer-focused conference begins. This year, the partner content still began on the Sunday, but the worldwide alliances and channels group created an exclusive track throughout the week, just for partners. It featured content specifically targeted towards partners, and was anchored at a nearby hotel.

This was a great move for Oracle. The Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) team has been in a tricky position for years in that they have enough partners that they need a landmark event in the year, but perhaps not enough to justify a separate, worldwide, large, partner-only event. Coinciding a four day event with Oracle OpenWorld, where anybody who's anybody in the Oracle world attends anyway, is a good solution. The channels leadership team can build from this success for an even better conference next year. It's expected that they will follow a similar strategy.

Cloud Announcements for Partners

As for the content, it was primarily about the Cloud. For customers, for VARs, for ISVs, for everyone. There were five key Cloud related announcements for partners at the event:

  • Cloud Builder Specialization. This is one of the first broader Specializations that isn't focused on one unique product. It is a designation for partners that offer design and implementation services for private cloud solutions. As such, it will surely be something that nearly every partner will consider, and many will pursue.
  • New Specializations for Cloud Services. Unlike the broad, almost "strategy-level" Specialization above, there are a group of new product-based "merit badges" for many of the new Cloud offerings. Think about a Specialization for the Cloud version of HCM, for instance. Each of these particular specializations will also have Rapid Start implementation methodologies that allow a partner to offer a fixed scope and fixed price bid to customers. Based on the learnings from Oracle Consulting, this means a partner might be able to deliver Cloud HCM in six weeks for a fixed price. In the end, this means more consistent experiences for Oracle customers.
  • Cloud Resale Program. For those partners who achieve one of these Cloud Specializations, it will mean they can actually resell the subscription-based Cloud product. This is important because it has been somewhat of a rarity in the emerging Cloud channel for partners to be able to "take the paper", take the revenue, do the billing, be first line of support etc. This is an important step for Oracle and one the partners will be happy to see.
  • Cloud Referral Program. For those partners who are not as engaged with these specific Cloud products that the Specializations revolve around, there is a new referral program that provides an incentive to recommend Oracle Cloud products. This one-two punch of referral and resale programs is similar in many ways to other vendors who allow more committed partners to resell, while more casual partners can collect fees. It's the model that seems to work. The key to allow a company to resell a subscription product - something that is inherently delivered directly between the vendor and customer - is trust. Achieving a specialization is a good bar to have to meet.
  • Platform as a Service for ISVs. Leveraging some of the overall announcements made by CEO Larry Ellison around a cloud version of its famous database, Oracle also outlined a new ability for ISVs to build cloud services on its new PaaS offering. Details were less available for this announcement, though it's an expected and fitting play for ISVs comfortable with Oracle technology who can now more easily build out cloud applications. There wasn't much talk of an app store to go along with this, but surely it's in the works.

Specializations And "The Gap"

Coming back to Specializations, Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) has 4600 partners worldwide that hold 20,000 Specializations. These are impressive numbers just three years into the new OPN framework. The actual number of Specializations has also grown significantly, up to 111 today and soon around 125 or so with the new Cloud designations. Oracle may need to look at grouping some of these and creating higher level, broader designations that partners could achieve by earning several Specializations in that group. At 125 and growing, this is a lot.

On the top of the pyramid, Hitachi Ltd. successfully became the eleventh partner to make it to the highly prestigious Diamond level. Partner programs partially exist in order to recognize capable partners. And it's more than abundantly clear that the Diamond level does this.

But I think Oracle has a gap. Specializations show capability in a very specific product area, and all sizes of partners can achieve these. The next level at which to show a level of expertise is the Advanced Specialization. However, this is a massive step up from the regular Specialization. The advanced level requires 50 people to have certification in that particular product area. Most other industry programs have similar higher level statuses, but none are even close to that number. Whereas a customer who sees an Oracle partner with an advanced specialization can be very sure of capability, there is a gap in that there are hundreds or even thousands of 20-50 person solution providers who are top notch in their area of expertise. They will never get to Advanced due to numbers alone. These boutique partners don't really have a way of showing off their talents in the current program. Advanced may not need to be so high to really show that a company has deep expertise.

Overall it was a very successful Oracle OpenWorld for Oracle partners of all sizes. There was progress made on making it a bigger and more relevant event. And also on catching up and maybe even leading in some cases with cloud opportunities for partners.

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