This morning I participated in a round table conversation with Charles Phillips, president of Oracle, discussing his take on Enterprise 2.0 technologies and how they apply to Oracle's view of the enterprise applications space. While there was nothing earth shatteringly new in what he said, some nuggets emerged.
Later this year, Oracle will be launching its Enterprise 2.0 salesforce with WebCenter at the heart of what it offers. Despite the cheesy name: "If you can come up with a better one then I'd like to hear from you", he quipped, Phillips is putting 'Enterprise 2.0' style thinking at the heart of how Oracle not only sells but trains its ecosystem of partners. "Training all or a handful of partners on a small part of what we offer is very expensivewhen you take travel etc into account. We want to move to a more collaborative environment for online training"
I was particularly interested in four areas:
Q: How does Oracle see the difference between external facing customer groups and internal collaboration from an Oracle E2.0 products perspective?
A: We think the concepts are the same though there may be differences such as the need for strong security for the internal collaborative communities. So for us it is the same product but with different emphases.
Q: Given that Oracle is developing new communities and tool, do you see the external work that people like Eddie Awad is doing becoming folded into these new initiatives?
A: I don't want to pre-announce anything but you can expect to see us deliver some exciting developments in this area.
Q: You seem to be spending a lot of time asking customers questions about their readiness for Enterprise 2.0 style applications. Is this informing product development?
A: There's always a balance to be struck between what customers want and what we can validate putting into development. Right now there is a demand but we're also getting people to think more about presence as the form of environment in which they operate.
Q: What are your thoughts on embedding E2.0 style applications into business process?
A: We think there are three components: tasks that can be automated, data and collaboration so we're working on bringing those together. You might want for example to ask questions about expenses incurred, compare it with other similar expenses or see if the cost is within budget. Enterprise 2.0 applications would help in those circumstances but you can explode that idea out to many other business processes.
Contrary to popular perception, Phillips argued that sales people do wish to collaborate but he agreed they don't necessarily want C-level oversight. Oracle is hoping it can address efficiency among sales led organizations through the addition of social tools that help sale people easily discover content they can use and re-use in their presentations. "There's a series of tags people can apply. People can look at past patterns of use, who's used a particular presentation, share it and so on," he said.
To the more general point about skepticism among business leaders around the value of Enterprise 2.0 approaches, Phillips agreed there is a significant education process to go through. "All businesses should want to find new pockets of demand but we need to show them what can be done. When we get that opportunity, people love what they see."
Those of us used to Oracle are accustomed to seeing its executives in ebullient mood. I detected that Phillips was offering a pragmatic view of the world, not declaring victory and recognizing the real world challenges of collaborative environments. That's to be welcomed. Right now I see a surfeit of applications coming to the E2.0 space and sense that business is in a period of both learning and digestion.
Image by Dan Farber via Flickr