Cloud Computing

Customer Voices Drive Cloud Innovation

Online community shares ideas, requests features, and accelerates change.

by Chris Murphy

September 2016

An overlooked and underestimated advantage of cloud computing comes from how much—and how fast—customer feedback can drive new features and innovations in an application.

Here’s just one example. Last year, the human resources information systems director at a global consumer goods company posted a suggestion to Oracle’s online Idea Lab: “In the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud [Oracle HCM Cloud] workflow used to terminate an employee, how about adding a link to quickly reassign that person’s direct reports?” Online community members gave that idea 30 thumbs-up votes and zero thumbs-down, and Oracle added the feature to the latest release of Oracle HCM Cloud this spring.

“80 percent of the features in our last release came from feedback directly from customers, a lot of it from that online customer community,” says Chris Leone, who, as senior vice president of applications development at Oracle, leads the company’s 2,000-some developers focused on Oracle HCM Cloud.

Innovation On Demand

Oracle has always listened closely to customers, but the cloud changes both the scale of that listening and the pace at which Oracle can deliver on fresh ideas.

Of the approximately 6,000 companies that are Oracle HCM Cloud customers, more than three-fourths have signed up for the online community. As of July 31, 2016, there were 17,645 members of the Oracle HCM Cloud community alone. Historically, such online communities haven’t been as popular in the on-premises application world, where everyone’s HR environment is unique because of different upgrade schedules and widespread customization. A tip that one person offers in that context might not work for someone at another company.

According to Leone, activity in the cloud community has grown because people are sharing information across organizations. “They’re saying ‘Hey, take advantage of this new succession planning feature, or this new career development tool,’ he says. They’re sharing reports.”

The pace of innovation is also much faster in the cloud. Because Oracle HCM Cloud gets a new release about twice a year—often adding 500 or more new features, along with the option for smaller updates between releases—new ideas from the community can get developed and implemented quickly. In the on-premises world, implementing that idea for managing terminated employees’ direct reports might not have happened for two years until a new version was released, and then another year or two (or three or four) until the company upgraded its system.

“Customers are seeing the product evolve much faster than they ever imagined, and it’s evolving in the way that they’re asking it to evolve,” Leone says. “It’s kind of this closed loop now. We’re moving faster and listening more to our customers, and they’re seeing it.”

Cloud HR Apps Inspired by Consumer Apps

As Oracle rewrote its application portfolio for the cloud over the past decade, it looked to the world of consumer apps for inspiration. Oracle HCM Cloud’s learning management module, for example, which launched last year, was modeled on how people search and learn from YouTube.

80 percent of the features
in our last release came
from feedback directly from customers.”–Chris Leone, Senior Vice President, Applications Development, Oracle

“They watch a video, and then they go do it,” Leone says. “Kids today, that’s what they do natively. I have a nine-year-old, and when he wants to figure out how to get to the next level of a video game, he watches a YouTube video, and then goes and does it.”

And the person who made that game video is a fellow gamer. “You’re not learning from someone who built the game—it’s a best-practice practitioner,” Leone says. Oracle emulated that by giving companies a platform for employees to post and share their video content internally.

Aggregated Intelligence, Predictive Analytics

Another of the next big opportunities for HR leaders comes from getting more insight from all the data that cloud HR systems collect. Oracle can’t see an individual company’s data, but it can aggregate data to build data-driven alerts and recommendations. Its new learning management system, for example, can recommend training based on a person’s activity, role, or collaborations. Or, the HCM system can do predictive analytics to estimate which employees are most likely to leave.

That algorithm isn’t so much different from a “propensity to buy” algorithm that Amazon or any other ecommerce site uses to guess what movie or shirt to put in front of a shopper. But Leone says some companies are wary of predictive tools, and they have either not turned on that function or limited access to the HR team. Such predictive tools can be scary in a corporate environment, Leone acknowledges, “but it’s coming. You see it in the consumer world.”

Being open to new opportunities is one of the biggest success factors Leone sees for companies trying to make a digital transformation. HR leaders should find the people willing to embrace change, and focus on one or two initiatives that are most strategic to the business. HR leaders don’t have to drive digital change across the organization all at once, Leone says, but “you need to create a roadmap to move your organization forward in the digital world.”

Action Items
  • Learning Systems Provider Stays Current with the Cloud
  • Find more new ideas for cloud-driven transformation
  • Photography by Shutterstock