Oracle’s Cross Talk: Upon Further Examination Of Big Boats Changing Course
I recently attend Oracle’s Retail Cross Talk event in Minneapolis, and what I walked away with was an entirely different perception of the company than the one I’d steadily built up over the past 15 years.
Before I begin, for those of you who know Tom Redd, you should know he calls me “the hippie” at RSR. And if you know my partners, that is really quite saying something. But in fairness I pay a lot of attention to how an event feels when I attend it. Some people will see zero value in that, and I respect their decision to stop reading right now.
But I go to a LOT of industry events every single year - and have now for a very long time. And from my perspective, despite eerily similar formatting, each has a completely different feel to it. To those who pay attention, it’s actually quite palpable. And I would argue that no one pays more attention to that than the inquisitive retailer (the most important person in the room) – and what’s more – that it has a tremendous bearing on their perception of a vendor’s overall match to their needs.
Put simply: in an age when most available technologies’ aptitude far exceeds retailers’ actual demands, cultural alignment between buyer and seller matters. A lot.
With that said, what Oracle put on was a masterclass in how to showcase a roadmap designed to meet retailers’ – all sorts of retailers’ – specific needs, with a strong bias toward technological forethought, educational assistance to aid retailers along in their journey, and flexibility to make that journey less painful.
Allow some context as to why this might have changed my mind. Not so many years ago, at a Netsuite event after the Oracle acquisition, Mark Hurd swung by to fire up the crowd. In doing so, he trumpeted the notion that the company was building its entire future in the cloud. And that anyone who wasn’t going to follow that direction would be making a horrible mistake. His message was literally these words: “If you’re not in the cloud you are dead!”
Fast forward to June 2019, and I’m watching Lara Livgard, Senior Director of Retail Management and Strategy for Retail Solutions deliver the company’s merchandising roadmap. The session leaned heavily on the company’s shift to deliver next-practices, far more so than best-practices. Call me a hippie, but that’s a whole lot more collaborative of an approach than “I will lead and you will do exactly as I say.” But don’t take my word for it. From the midst of Livgard’s own presentation: “We have a tremendous client base that is still operating on-premise, and we respect that. We want to give them all the same functionality that our cloud-based customers currently have.”
As a result, Oracle is building two separate roadmaps. One that’s already baked for cloud-willing participants, and another by the end of the year for those who want to say on-prem. Or dangle a toe. Or explore a full hybrid model. Is Oracle becoming the company of “have it your way?” I can’t say that as of yet, but they are clearly changing their tune.
The cynical mind may turn to, “Why the change?”
And the even more cynical would wager that the lack of interesting fully cloud-based stories beyond the Intermix, Gap and Banana Republic stories brought about some need to recognize that most retailers aren’t willing to just blindly let go for the cloud just yet (Livgard did spend time highlighting new live clients including Kendra Scott and Disney, as well as clients in process of converting such as Bealls and 5 Below). Our respondents in our most recent cloud report could have saved anyone from pursuing that tack a lot of trouble (The full report is available here. But in short strokes: LOTS of interest, particularly for IT and eCommerce functions, but zero chance of leaving a hybrid model anytime soon).
Whatever the reason for the change, that’s not really what’s important. What is important is the company recognized the need for a change. They were clear that on prem solutions won't be exactly the same, and will most definitely see rollouts at a much slower cadence. But the truth remains that no one wants to be told what will make their business run better – they want to be shown better options than what they currently have. And from what I saw in Minneapolis, that’s what Oracle – yes that Oracle – has set about to do.