Olivia H., Senior Director of Government Affairs and Business Development in China, has a reputation of being a fearless maker of change.
And no wonder! In 2015, Olivia led the team that proposed and implemented the local manufacture, sale, and service of Exadata machines in China—a revolutionary concept and model. Olivia and her team had to persuade HQ to make rare exceptions, engage with colleagues across the organization, negotiate with a local partner, and implement the entire business plan.
Olivia’s fearlessness and willingness to strike out and do something extraordinary paid off: over 30 machines have been sold under this model, and China has become Oracle’s second-largest market for Exadata globally. Moreover, Oracle’s position in China has strengthened because of our commitment to manufacture a part of our most advanced hardware in-country.
We hear from Olivia on why a transformational mindset is important—and how to cultivate it:
Why is Oracle’s transformation to a cloud company important, especially in the China context?
Our customers in China are very educated in cloud and are moving very fast in terms of their business requirements. Instead of asking us how cloud technology would benefit them, they ask how Oracle can help them move to the cloud more quickly, what technologies Oracle has, and what sort of timelines we work on.
To capture the strong market demand, we need to transform ourselves to do business in very different ways. We need to be closer to our customers; our sales reps need to understand our customers’ business, what stages they’re at, and how we can bring value. We need to drive real business conversations with our customers, and not rely on the traditional product-driven approach.
In your view, what are the internal challenges that are impacting the speed of transformation in China?
I think a lot of people in Oracle are quite satisfied with our current business, and are happy with the strong position we’ve earned after many years of operations in China. We do have very good database technology and integrated technology platforms, as well as good applications—and we still have traditional business coming in.
One of the ways I’m involved in driving this transformation is with a customer advocacy program initiated in March 2017. It involves nurturing customers of all sizes during the pre-win and post-win stages to be our advocates.
But we need to make sure that, internally, everyone is gearing up for a change that is right around the corner. We cannot continue to do the things we’re doing now, in the ways we’ve been doing them, and expect to be fine. We must transform our mindset internally and start selling differently.
How do you prepare to take on such big transformation projects and manage the risk of failure?
I think fear is a very common feeling when change is looming. Still, I don’t think it’s something that should stop people or cause them to shy away from challenges. If you put yourself into the bigger picture, and try to find meaning in tackling a job that’s seemingly beyond your scope, you will not only progress in terms of skills and other development points, but you may also find more meaning in your role in the company. And sometimes, finding that meaning will help you deal with fear.
What tips would you give someone who’s about to embark on a transformation initiative?
I think it’s very important to understand the company’s strategy, be it quarterly or yearly. Put yourself in the big picture, and through this, you’ll come to understand the role you play and the meaning in the transformation project you’re involved in.
Secondly, you should adopt a change mindset—seek different viewpoints and ideas and adopt the best ones. It’s natural for us to associate ourselves with those who have the same opinion as us, but it’s important to actively ask for differing opinions and not limit ourselves to only one way of thinking.
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Senior Director of Government Affairs and Business Development in China