Oracle's double standards

Oracle's double standards

Summary: Oracle has (allegedly) invited 30 bloggers to its Oracle OpenWorld event. Yay - they get the value of independent analysis...

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TOPICS: SAP, Oracle
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Oracle has (allegedly) invited 30 bloggers to its Oracle OpenWorld event. Yay - they get the value of independent analysis...or do they? Check Jake Kuramoto's blog on the topic:

Oracle has extended an invitation to leaders in the blogging community, who can come experience the pageantry of an entire city block covered by a huge tent (oh and the conference). Qualified bloggers can register for OpenWorld as “Press“. Your registration will go to a wonderfully helpful person in PR (who, along with Justin, has been instrumental in getting this done, but wishes to remain anonymous) who will check out your blog to make sure you’re legit and set you up with a pass.

I know that Oracle PR has sent invitations to a number of the Irregulars. I am among those invited. One would therefore assume 'we' are pre-qualified rather than having to jump through PR hoops. Apparently not. It gets worse.

We’re not picking up travel costs or expenses, sorry. This will keep you impartial. If you see me, I’ll give you a pat on the back, how’s that instead?

Am I supposed to be grateful? I'm offended. Like all other major vendors, it is a fact that Oracle picks up expenses for accredited press traveling from overseas - in my case Spain. Draw your own conclusions about Oracle's genuine willingness to engage with bloggers who are regarded as influencers at SAP, Sun, IBM, Adobe and Microsoft to name but a few.

You will get access to the entire week’s events

What about access to the execs? When SAP opened the blogger kimono in 2006, the Irregular bloggers were offered direct access to execs who today routinely engage, despite the fact many of us are critical of SAP across a broad range of issues. We regard it as an honor to be offered time with board members Henning Kagermann, Peter Zencke and Leo Apotheker. It doesn't get anyone a free or favorable pass from us. We have been told by Mike Prosceno, head of SAP blogger relations that SAP values our opinions, good and bad. That's both humbling and gratifying.

Today, SAP has direct conversations with bloggers who are interested in enterprise issues. Take for example this critique of SAP and LAUSD's failed payroll project, SAP's input and Mike Krigsman's acknowledgment of SAPs efforts to engage in the conversations that ensued. We also benefit from a deeper understanding of the company, its position in the market and its work with customers. In other words, everyone wins. Even if we don't always see eye to eye.

I raised this issue with my Irregular colleagues and Vinnie Mirchandani picked up the baton publicly on Jake's site. He rightly congratulated Jake and Justin for making representations on behalf of all bloggers. To contextualize, this was something I'd privately mooted with both Jake and Justin over the last weeks and I can applaud their efforts to get this program off the ground. Unfortunately, the conversation went downhill with Jake asserting that SAP buys our loyalty through TE reimbursement. Whether this was inbred Oracle suspicion or inexperience I cannot tell but such accusations have no merit. The entire conversation is worth the reading but eventually Jake went on to clarify:

SAP attempts to buy your loyalty. I got you, SAP and loyalty in the same sentence. You’re right, though, and the point is made, and just for clarification’s sake, I don’t think SAP is trying to buy loyalty with trips and expenses. However, it sets a precedent for that is uncomfortable.

Perhaps Jake and Justin's relationship with PR is not as wholesome as it could be. Perhaps they've been duped by a PR department that knows what happens elsewhere and is instead mollifying them. Regardless, a number of the Irregulars were affronted at the suggestion. Jeff Nolan, who initiated the SAP blogger program during his time at SAP had this to say in email to me, which he has given permission to reproduce:

This business about SAP buying loyalties is offensive to me. When I picked the original 15 bloggers for the SAPPHIRE program I picked people I knew to be sharp critics of SAP, like Vinnie Mirchandani, and keen analysts who could ask tough questions, like Jason Wood, and top notch technologists, like Niel Robertson. I wasn't attempting to buy anyone's loyalty, I just wanted to create an environment that would be infinitely more interesting than the typical press conference. Considering the personalities of the people in this group, I think it's safe to say that any hope we could buy anyone's loyalty would be an impossibly tall task.

As to the outcomes? Jeff continues:

We tried something new and it worked, and continues to work. If other companies want to follow SAP's lead, they will probably have similarly good results but I am sure that there are many ways to accomplish the overarching goals of having a richer conversation with the marketplace.

Oracle doesn't have to believe me. Check this post from Mike Prosceno where he talks about Ed Herrmann and Dan McWeeney, the Colgate Twins:

When a customer becomes a friend and a friend tells you that one of the reasons that being a customer is fun, at least in part, is because of you – WOW. How do you top that?

The back story is that Dan and Ed are geeks at Colgate-Palmolive. They came to SAPPHIRE Atlanta this year following representations by 'suits' among the Irregulars. Dan and Ed struck up relationships with Mike and other SAPpers. Mike's post is the outcome. This is the essence of what responsible if irreverent bloggers deliver through their influence and reputations. In this instance, they were the conduit through which good customer relationships are built. Perhaps Oracle isn't interested or maybe it lives in fear of having to defend its own spin? Or fear of having its anonymous supporters exposed?

There are always risks when inviting bloggers to corporate events. Especially those who know their stuff and don't do spin. We cannot be controlled but as SAP has found, that is all to the good, even if as Jeff once quipped: 'They carry nuclear briefcases.'

It is tragic that Jake and Justin's hard work should apparently be undermined by a PR organization that seems intent on painting a picture that puts Oracle in a good light yet at the same time exposes the double standards by which it operates. It is a double tragedy because those of us who have met Larry Ellison and Charles Phillips know that as leaders of a world class company, they provide excellent value.

I've said it before and it's worth repeating, When it comes to understanding the world of modern communications, Oracle is clueless.

I conclude with these thoughts: if you are a customer - can you trust a company that behaves this way? Despite the many fine people who work at Oracle, can you believe its corporate voice? I leave readers to draw their own conclusions.

Topics: SAP, Oracle

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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5 comments
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  • lol

    LOL! What is the Invitation for? Oracle is strange:S
    thepumpkin1979@...
  • RE: Oracle's double standards

    How dare they! Man you really believe you shake the world when you are insulted that they dont buy your airfare, hotel room, car, lunch, dinner ... as well. Perhaps they should give up on the ultra touchy, ego infested blogger community.

    As to your conclusion .. WHAT???? Because oracle wont buy your airfare customers should be leary of them. Are you high? How in the world does this make any sense...

    Give me a break.
    georgef
    • pls read my comment about expenses below

      George, expenses are a red herring - an unecessary distraction in this discussion. On surface it looks like Dennis is just bitching about expenses, but if you read the links and so, that was just the...see my summary below

      http://dealarchitect.typepad.com/deal_architect/2007/10/oracles-blogger.html
      vmirchan
  • Sour grapes

    The complaint about access to execs I understand, but the gripe about picking up your expenses? Neither you nor any legitimate press should be accepting that if offered - that comes under the heading of "ethics". Shameful that no one seems to care about ethics any more.
    ejhonda
    • Expenses are a red herring

      the expense issue should never have been blown up so high...but Oracle in a blog post said they were not paying expenses to keep bloggers "impartial". To which both Dennis and I pointed out - 7 figures is what Oracle pays Gartner, Forrester and the media each year - how impartial are they when such big amounts are at stake? To which Oracle bloggers hide behind we have no idea how our analyst relations works..as if those colleagues are on a different planet

      .agree petty, and one which could easily have been agreed on and disclosed so people knew what a blogger paid out of own funds and what Oracle subsidized.

      Should Oracle subsidize by picking up expenses?...Now that is a blogger ROI discussion. As independent businesspeople, several bloggers have no corporate travel budget or paid salary to fall back on. Going to the event is 3-4 days of lost consulting (or other revenues) plus 2 to 4K in expenses (Dennis is in Spain). With little clarity on what exec or customer access there would be, there is not enough compelling reason to go to OOW and just mingle with 40K others.

      The ideal scenario to me- We pay with our time. They pay expenses. And we both disclose to the world our respective investment
      vmirchan