Oracle CRM - Innovation Free or Innovative?

Oracle CRM - Innovation Free or Innovative?

Summary: "Innovation is in the eye of the beholder" - No one that I know said it, 2009Dennis Howlett, a friend, fellow ZDNET blogger and a man with serious enterprise applications chops, did a blog posting on Oracle and innovation a couple of days ago that I need to do a short response to with this blog posting of my own.


"Innovation is in the eye of the beholder" - No one that I know said it, 2009

Dennis Howlett, a friend, fellow ZDNET blogger and a man with serious enterprise applications chops, did a blog posting on Oracle and innovation a couple of days ago that I need to do a short response to with this blog posting of my own. Dennis, to tangle the hyperlinked web a bit,  was referencing a blog posting by Vinnie Mirchandani, also a colleague and friend, about Oracle's no longer being an innovator and spending very little of their total revenue on R&D.

I agree but I disagree - and in part - it has to do with the definition of innovation.  To a large degree, Oracle cuts its own throat and validates Dennis' and Vinnie's commentaries because of their definition of innovation which seems entirely consist of the words "first to..." and that doesn't fall in line with how innovation always works. Dennis, when he defines innovation, puts it this way:

"Innovation can have many definitions but in the software world in which I live it means presenting something that provides me with a better, more cost effective and/or revenue enhancing way of getting things done."

In part again, I agree with Dennis which is why I disagree with Dennis too. Innovation that's of the "first to..." variety, while good for bragging rights and even for some branding opportunity, isn't all that its cracked up to be.  When innovation becomes worthwhile is either when the innovation itself becomes ordinary - meaning it provides such a substantial value that it is used routinely by many after a few iterations of the advance - OR it sparks a further outpouring of new capabilities and ideas - even if it doesn't catch fire.

If I were to view Oracle as a whole, I would say they are trying but not all that successful. I don't see where their servers or failed collaboration server product Beehive has gone since Open World - if one were to call those attempts at innovation.  But they do have a crown jewel when it comes to innovation and, despite some of the individual pieces, Social CRM is it. While its easy to make the case that each of the individual components of social CRM has been available for a long time somewhere - e.g. the predictive analytics of Sales Prospector or the ratings and commenting social features of Sales Library, or the enterprise widgets for the Social CRM applications, it is the combination that is innovative. In the context of CRM, this provides a unique and highly innovative approach, that at the present time, no one else in the world of large enterprise CRM has. That said, there is innovation that is coming from the small guys like Helpstream and InsideView and, as my superbud and uberanalyst Denis Pombriant points out today, Oracle would do well to build up the kind of partner network of small innovators that seems to have a current monopoly on.

The way to think about Oracle's innovation isn't the original dish with the brand new wine made up of a new Heritage mix of grapes. Its pairing wine and food that individually has been been there - say A Vintage Port and Stilton Blue cheese - and coming up with something more valuable and interesting than the original pieces. Are they a remarkably innovative company?  No. Not by anyone's definition.  CRM is their standout by a long shot. But does that mean they are a retread. Not that either.  Social CRM is an indication that a more innovative culture may be in the winds for Oracle.  I just wouldn't write them off too fast.

Topics: Oracle, CXO, Emerging Tech, Enterprise Software

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  • Innovation in all its glory


    You're right about innovation (natch). In my view there are two
    categories to think about for innovation, customer intimacy and
    operational excellence. Too many people is CRM look no further than
    customer intimacy (experience) and think their job is done. But
    innovation at the operations level should never be discounted. IT
    basically means making your company easier to do business with and
    especially in this economy it can give smart vendors the ability to out
    innovate the competition for pennies.


  • Paul, with due respect I disagree

    Paul, I have a second innovation focused blog called New Florence. New Renaissance (
    where I post on a wide range of tech innovation from mobile apps to telemetry to clouds.

    I am constantly looking for examples of innovation to showcase on that blog, but they have to be really compelling in terms of customer payback, economics, wow factor.

    I wrote about my filters below

    In the last 3 years there are over 1,000 posts and Oracle has been featured 3 times - one on Larry and his fine taste and how that spurs innovation, one on Exadata, one on the Oracle BMW yacht.

    I would love to profile Oracle more, but there is just not enough coming out of Redwood Shores. For the $ 75 billion over 5 years customers have paid it has been innovation light if not innovation free
    • But, Vinnie, is your blog the arbiter?

      I count 303 mentions of Oracle, 326 mentions of SAP, 129 of Apple, and 183 of Amazon.

      Of those 4 companies, aren't Apple and Amazon the best innovators? Yet they're mentioned half as often as Oracle or SAP. You've hammered Oracle like crazy, SAP is mentioned only a little more often. Do you feel SAP is only a little better than Oracle? Less good?

      What about Adobe. Only 5 mentions. Wow, they must really be bad at innovation. Microsoft, 160 mentions. What does it mean?

      My problem is I can't tell how you're calibrating. You've talked a lot about who isn't innovative, but not so much about who is, and not so much about how you measure that.

      I'm with Paul. Oracle are inventing some fundamentally new things. Actually, quite a lot. It's true, they are focused on acquisition, but even that is innovative in our High Tech industry these days which mostly consists of Not Invented Here shops.


      • Bob, your counts are significantly off...

        You took simple query based mentions for your counts. There are only 3 Oracle related posts, they are ancillarily mentioned in many other posts (and picked up by your query) but not as the central point of the post.

        Apple, there are considerably more core post mentions - iPhone a few times, even its user manual, its App Store, Jobs himself. (BTW on the Deal Architect blog I hammer the iPhone TCO also - particularly the ATT portion, so not just picking on Oracle)

        But Bob, I go back to the $ 75 billion investment over 5 years. Customers have a right to expect way more innovation for that amount of investment from Oracle.
  • RE: Oracle CRM - Innovation Free or Innovative?

    But Vinnie, you still don't really say who is doing better at this scale, or how that is measured?
    • Bob, no grand plan

      The New Florence innovation blog has 30+ categories from mobility to telemetry. My sources are a wide range of conversations with CIOs about their innovation projects, conversations with vendors and a frequent scan of innovation topics in 50 plus business and tech pubs and blogs. I don't have quotas - got to write 20 about Google this quarter, or 40 on the topic of telemetry, or 10 posts about innovation in Africa.

      .but after 1,000 posts and 3 years you can look at patterns and ask why did Oracle only get 3 mentions?

      Unscientific but a market data point I hope you agree...
  • RE: Oracle CRM - Innovation Free or Innovative?

    Paul, I agree that we cannot write off Oracle as yet. I also agree with your view that their Social CRM is a mish mash of existing stuff & their in lies their brilliance.

    Now I would like to take you on a tangent from most of the discussions. ;)

    One aspect that doesn't come out in all of the blog posts & comments is that 'Innovation' for the sake of creating new stuff is actually mere 'Invention'. My stand is that it is the monetization capabilities that make something truly innovative.

    It remains to be seen how successful Oracle's Social CRM is in adding to its coffers, which would in turn happen only when their customers get any benefits in this tough economy.

    The recent Gartner study on the business impact of social computing on CRM states that one of the key technological considerations for implementing social software is that they should be "disposable". This stemming from the fact that the social apps change frequently like fads.

    Is Oracle's solution geared to take advantage of this fact? I am not educated enough to answer that. You or someone else perhaps can answer it?