As a three-time entrepreneur and in his current role as Senior Vice President of Product Development at Oracle, you might expect Reggie Bradford to know a thing or two about how megatrends shape the business strategies of small and midsize businesses. But—as he pointed out to hundreds of attendees during Monday’s Oracle OpenWorld general session, Technology’s Impact on Growth Businesses—sometimes it’s the other way around.
“Small businesses are the engine that drives our economy and spurs incredible innovations,” said Bradford to set the stage. “Recognizing megatrends and speed to innovation around these trends is absolutely critical in today’s digital world. The next disruptor is right on your heels and this climate doesn’t reward incremental, slow-moving strategies.”
“The streets of technology are littered with once-successful companies that didn’t see disruption coming,” continued Bradford. “So ignore these 5 megatrends at your own risk.”
The speed, innovation, and agility around the pivot to cloud is providing tremendous new opportunities for businesses of every single size.
“As former founder and CEO of Vitrue,” said Bradford, “I was fortunate to have a front-row seat as cloud-based SaaS technologies began to really grow.”
As an example, Bradford pointed out that Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape infographic in 2011 listed less than 150 companies (including Vitrue), all of which were powered by SaaS. The 2016 version now lists 3,874—all of which are powered by cloud technologies.
“Business has only scratched the surface of cloud’s potential,” said Bradford. “Cloud is now enabling innovation across every aspect of business today from CX to ERP to HCM to SCM. That’s why, at Oracle, we’ve made cloud our priority.” Bradford pointed out Oracle's top-to-bottom cloud solutions, from PaaS to IaaS to SaaS to DaaS, as evidence of Oracle's commitment.
“Every day we see how technologies have broken down geographic and cultural barriers to connect people and businesses in real-time and at a massive pace,” said Bradford. “We are truly a global society.”
As a co-founder and CMO of WebMD in the 1990s, Bradford experienced firsthand the internet's impact on globalization.
“For the first time ever, a brand had a chance to connect digitally with consumers regardless of location,” said Bradford, “and have those consumers connect back.”
Bradford noted that the global democratization of communications and content has had the power to topple governments. No surprise, then, that world-flattening tools such as Oracle Social Cloud are now powering internal and external collaboration in everyday business activities.
“The explosion of data and data sources—and the aggregation and orchestration of that data—will make data visualization and liquidity an ongoing innovation challenge,” said Bradford.
Bradford related how, after moving to the UK, he now uses Waze to navigate London’s infamous traffic, which means he is willing to give up some personal location information in exchange for a better and more efficient experience.
“In business today, you must be capturing, aggregating and unlocking all your available data,” advises Bradford. “Oracle is helping companies every day to bring data liquidity and visualization to a reality.”
Given predictions that by 2020, 50 billion internet-connected devices will be installed globally, IoT will have a tremendous impact on customer experiences at home, on the go, and on our in-store buying experiences.
“All these smart and connected objects will together be enhanced to provide consumers with new and reoccurring benefits throughout their day,” said Bradford. “This is increasingly providing a seamless, efficient, and simple experience that gives you more time.”
Citing his experiences with fitness wearables and in-car technologies, Bradford held up his smartphone and said, “This will increasingly be the remote control of our lives—connecting with everything around us from our homes, to wearables to beacons, and much more.”
AI and machine learning are driving innovation around intelligent automation and smart machines like robots, speech and visual recognition, self-driving cars, and messaging apps. With more than 4 billion users and growing fast, Bradford noted that AI-powered technologies are automating and scaling those billions of engagements at the speed of light.
“To say AI is white-hot would be an understatement,” he noted. “More than 20 private companies working to advance AI have been acquired in the past few years by corporate giants competing in the space.”
In a recent Forbes article, Move Over Mobile, AI Has Arrived, Bradford wrote that “AI is fueling a transformation bigger than that brought about by mobile technology. AI is about more than technology—it’s about enhancing our lives in ways we’ve never imagined. AI is being used to help automate tasks, predict outcomes, and generally make our lives and businesses more effective and efficient.”
In the business world, Oracle is leveraging AI to help customers provide smarter customer service, streamline recruiting, personalize employee education and development opportunities, and employ smart machines in manufacturing, agriculture, and automotive scenarios.
Bradford closed the presentation by urging executives to think and act like entrepreneurs—continuously innovating and adjusting quickly to market dynamics—while still delivering their products and services today.
“Every business today—whether small, midsize or enterprise—should be thinking like a startup,” said Bradford. “And cloud will enable it.”