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Micah Fairchild Oracle’s Open World: A Closer Look Into a Giant’s Strategy

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 By Micah Fairchild

Oracle Open World Showcases Commitment, Mobility, and HCM Strategy

Another year down and, true to form, Oracle has just finished up there Open World conference where they boasted hosting the world’s largest conference for technology; with 50K in attendance and an estimated 1M online views. And although I’ll eschew the debate over who’s held the biggest event (I’ll leave that to the Guinness Book of World Records to figure out), I will say that Open World eclipses more than a few other user conferences in terms of size and scope. But size wasn’t the only thing at play for this year’s Oracle happening; and in fact this might be the first year in recent history that the HR technology market had a watchful eye on the company to see how it addressed the looming questions of cloud HCM, mobility, and its aging EBS and PeopleSoft suites. Indeed, with Workday gaining momentum (and press), SAP breathing down their neck, and a bevy of other HR software solutions like Ultimate seeking to take all the business they can away from Oracle, the company had some selling to do; and sell they did. Here are our top 3 takeaways.

Oracle Open World Takeaway #1: Executive Level Commitment

First off, the keynotes from head-of-the-household Larry Ellison, President Mark Hurd, and Executive VP of Product Development Thomas Kurian all delivered the same focus—Fusion applications are alive, well, and built for multiple deployment methods; not just the cloud. And this sentiment was echoed by both Steve Miranda and Chris Leone during their own sessions that got a bit more down to earth and into the applications themselves. It may seem counterintuitive that a company as large as Oracle wouldn’t be fully committed to their newest baby Fusion, but up until now the company has excelled only at dancing around questions surrounding the new applications rather than directly answering some of the more pointed posits from analysts. Most likely what we saw over the past year from the company was that Fusion apps simply weren’t ready for mass consumption, but they released them anyway—a tactic that certainly got the market talking, but resulted in clarity issues and executives distancing themselves from the solution. That said, with this year’s Open World it’s clear that a commitment has been made by the top brass to see Fusion HCM through and put the money behind development to make it happen.

Oracle Open World Takeaway #2: New Functionalities

For nearly all vendors, user conferences are the perfect venue to engage a captive audience with new capabilities; and Open World was no different. Though highlights varied between network announcements, CRM releases, and more throughout the event, the standout in terms of HCM functionalities was mobility. For one, there was a somewhat surprising bit of news that three new mobile apps (expenses, approvals, and directory) for PeopleSoft were being released. While positive for customers still running the PeopleSoft application (of which there are still hundreds of thousands), the fact of the matter is that the technology is aging—making further enhancements feel a bit like throwing money away to us. Nevertheless, the apps are HTML5/CSS 3-based, don’t require downloads, and serve as one more nail in the coffin of statements that say Oracle isn’t supporting PeopleSoft anymore now that Fusion is here. By far though, the biggest news concerning mobile was Oracle Fusion Tap; Oracle’s answer for technology that operates natively on the iPad. This blazingly fast application that leverages Apple’s signature swipe/gesture support essentially works by providing a simple, intuitive way to access Oracle’s other applications—a feat that does put the company a few steps ahead of the competition for mobility. Still, while impressive, it’s clear that Fusion Tap has some improvements that need to be made. Indeed, as Ventana Research’s Mark Smith laments “[Fusion Tap] provides easy access to key areas of focus, but its metrics charts are not well presented and not designed for auto-sizing and interaction”. Further, given the fact that focus seems to be directed towards the CRM side of the house rather than HCM it’s too soon to tell whether the full package of benefits will truly apply to HR.

Oracle Open World Takeaway #3: Taleo & Beyond

Like many analysts, customers, and pundits, we were fairly anxious to get a progress report on how the Oracle-Taleo acquisition relationship had been shaping up. What we heard (and saw) throughout the conference is that a concerted effort has been made to blend the Taleo application into the Fusion HCM mix—providing a seamless interface and user experience regardless of the task being performed. Add to that the recent announcement Oracle made to acquire SelectMinds (a social recruiting powerhouse), and it’s clear that Oracle is quickly shoring up its HCM deficiencies. What still remains unclear however is the full picture of the rationalization that is occurring between Fusion HCM and Taleo. Obviously not all of Taleo will be kept, but we’d like to see some more announcements about if (and how) the talent management solution will be piecemealed.

Oracle’s Open World Conference—Final Thoughts

Oracle’s latest user conference sheds light on the fact that an increasing amount of businesses are seeking trusted partners rather than just big names. And while Oracle may have been able to use its marquee status in the past to net customers lined up for their next application, in reality that market sentiment has now shifted. Whether due to a reflection of the growing savvy of buyers, an indication of increased scrutiny thanks to the economic downturn, or simply the passage of time, Oracle is now faced with the hard truth that (like every other company) they have to compete for business. At Open World, it was clear that their executives finally seem to understand this fact and are committed to being the business partner that so many organizations are clamoring for. The big question now is whether customers will buy it. End

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It may seem counterintuitive that a company as large as Oracle wouldn’t be fully committed to their newest baby Fusion, but up until now the company has excelled only at dancing around questions surrounding the new HR applications rather than directly answering some of the more pointed posits from analysts.


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