I was in Lisbon, Portugal yesterday, attending Oracle EMEA's marketing kick off. This was unusual on three counts:I tend to stick it to Oracle on any and every occasionIt's rare for someone with my background to be invited to these affairsI'd been invited to present on how the 'markets as conversations' meme worksWhile I didn't sign an NDA, some things are best left where they were discussed.
While I didn't sign an NDA, some things are best left where they were discussed. However, I want to use this blog as an opportunity to both thank Oracle for the privilege and feedback some observations based on what I experienced.
Andrew Sutherland,VP technology EMEA presented first. Apart from the fact he knows how to hold a crowd, Sutherland accurately demolished myths around Web 2.0 such as it's a waste of time, a sign of laziness and represents too much form over function. He then showed a quick video about how Oracle is embedding Google generated data, RSS and other Web 2.0 forms of data into Oracle CRM applications as a way of reducing friction in multi-person deals.
While Sutherland used the 'social' moniker from time to time, I wasn't convinced that at this stage of evolution, Oracle is fully on board with wider thinking in this area. That was confirmed when other Oracle managers talked about 'their definition' of Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0. Even so, Sutherland did a great job convincing attendees that there is value to be had from these new classes of mashed up applications. Such was the performance that I found myself sipping the Kool-Aid.(heaven forbid!)
Sutherland would be a hard act to follow under any circumstances and I am no natural comedian. Nevertheless, I slogged through 120 slides in under an hour and then spent the next two hours answering a steady stream of good questions. One that caught me totally on the hop: 'How do you continue to monetize education services when bloggers are putting so much information out onto the web?' I've no idea but I know a man who might. Another: 'How might we make customers look great but without all the baggage that goes with PR?' This was a terrific question which I chose to answer in email, illustrating with a few things I've seen in recent times. Yet another: 'I wonder how us older folk are going to adapt when we see what's going on with our children?' A clear reference to the Millenials issue Larry Dignan discussed the other day.
This last question is possibly the most interesting. I variously met with people who have been with Oracle 8,12 and 20 years. When you've got that amount of accumulated corporate DNA swilling around your veins, it is extraordinarily difficult to see the world in any other way. Especially when your view of the world is colored by the kind of financial success that Oracle has enjoyed in recent times. I had an answer for that, neatly expressed in one of Hugh MacLeod's cartoons shown here. (I liberally stole from Hugh's collection with his permission.)
For me, the most gratifying part of the day was the enthusiasm with which Claus-Peter Unterberger,VP EMEA marketing greeted the presentation. He wanted controversy (as if that would be difficult) but as with all these things, it's important to stop short of pummeling the audience into submission and illustrate where the company's ecosystem is doing well.