Reflecting on Oracle OpenWorld 2013

Throughts, news and views from last month's Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco

Day 3 was the day when the techies' hero Larry Ellison chose (wisely?) to watch the America's Cup racing in preference to turning up to deliver his own keynote. I guess he had heard it all before so it was a good one for him to miss. It was slightly ironic to see the TV news story the following morning about his no-show, when last year the TV press was not interested in OpenWorld at all. Not sure how many Oracle staffers were believing that "All news is good news".

There were lots of Oracle cloud announcements with at least 10 new cloud services including "Oracle Database as a Service, Oracle Java as a Service and Oracle Infrastructure as a Service, which augment Oracle’s comprehensive portfolio of Application, Social, Platform, and Infrastructure Services, all available on a subscription basis." In summary if you want to do it in the cloud, public or private, there is now an Oracle cloud offering available at a price.

The press did get a chance on Day 3, speed-dating style, to hear from Oracle APAC leaders about the significance of all the OpenWorld announcements for our region. The discussions did signal the need for organisations in New Zealand to better understand how to identify and integrate their current cloud activities, before looking at any new solutions. The ease with which managers other than the CIO have been able to buy cloud solutions has complicated IT matters for many organisations looking for seamless integration.

EnterpriseIT CEO Stuart Speers, attending OpenWorld for the first time, shared his thoughts around the changing role of the Oracle Partners in New Zealand saying "when we put our new board and shareholders in place five years ago, we changed our whole company strategy to build in longer periods of time talking to customers to create strategies to make sure we understand where their real challenges are, before we looked at technology solutions. Sometimes I have made myself unpopular requiring this rigour, but hearing this week about the evolutions in the Oracle Partner Network and the changing role in the technology space of organisations like us, I am mighty glad we take the approach we do."

Funny that on this day of cloud discussions they were all inside and none in the sky, but no one was complaining.

Day 4, Wednesday wrapped up with a concert for 40,000 people on Treasure Island, an amusement Park in San Francisco Harbour. With crowd pleasers Maroon 5 and The Black Keys, along with an Americas Cup outcome, the crowd was in great spirits. My own middle of the day traumatic experience was less pleasing, sitting alone with a flag in the midst of a pro-Oracle crowd watching the race. It really would have felt like the walk of shame talking the flag down and skulking out, were it not for the overwhelming support of people for EmiratesTeamNZ and their sportsmanship. This support helped keep Kiwi OpenWorlders’ pride strong as ever, as they wore team tops and carried flags into the morning's triumphal introduction of that Cup.

Customer Experience (CX) was introduced as a new stream to Oracle OpenWorld last year for the first time. Then it was segregated into a different venue and its own extra day. This year CX had grown up and was incorporated as a stream alongside Java and the cloud. This conference integration reflects the growing importance of CX for businesses across the globe and the maturing of the technology to deliver the data and the insights. Mark Hurd, President of Oracle Corporation was straight into CX in his Monday morning keynote and the theme continued through every major keynote and session.

Powerful statistics like '86% of customers now stop doing business with an organisation after just one bad experience' and that '69% of employees are not actively engaged in their job' underpin the increased urgency and wider attendance of the CX sessions.

The fun experience of the day was participating in 3.5 hours of journey mapping facilitated by Oracle's own CX evangelists led by Brian Curran. It i impressive that Oracle takes CX seriously enough to have a team who do not talk product and do not sell or promote, but just help customers finding their real business problems. Then, and only then, the technology enablers can be identified by that customer, without pressure to buy.

IT professionals are under siege from multiple directions, not only from engineered solutions but also from colleagues who buy cloud solutions for their silo with no reference back to the CIO. By getting to grips with CX (and heaven forbid the emotions of the internal and external customers) IT professionals can carve a new niche within their companies as best buddies and not competitors with sales and marketing. Watch this space for lots more on CX!

A recent Nielsen survey placed NZ at the top of the global scale of monthly social media usage...

By Day 5 the exhibition stands were all gone and people were looking exhausted. It was a day for looking future-forward and learning a few new skills. The future forward piece was the Internet of Things (IoT).

The special guest speaker at the New Zealand Oracle Cloud Day held a couple of months ago was futurist Ross Dawson. Talking about the social explosion he revealed to the audience that a recent Nielsen survey had placed NZ at the top of the global scale of monthly social media usage, with much of that on mobile devices.

With predictions of more than 50 billion connected M2M (Machine to Machine) devices by 2020, maybe New Zealand is well placed to be at the forefront of this revolution. Dr Thomas Kiessling, chief product and innovation officer of Deutsche Telecom AG, talking about the IoT as "a mash of humans and devices", shared the examples of the IoT revolutionising the German cowshed with M2M communications linking cow to farmer to vet to insemination programmes. On the back of this came the final big conference announcement of the Oracle IoT Applications onto the top of the Oracle stack.

This Oracle M2M hardware and software innovation was demonstrated with a simple project that took six people only four weeks, with an outcome of device tracking in the Tuesday keynote revealing M2M derived data to enable the door crew to change the flows of arrivals to different doors. A simple experiment, but an indication of exciting things to come as technology change speeds up even further.

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