Oracle massive software suite, important components of which were assembled during the company's aggressive acquisition strategy (41 companies over the last 45 months), has yielded an impressive product road map. Oracle presented its grand vision to the 43,000 attendees of OpenWorld, its annual user conference which was held this past week in San Francisco.
The product suite is impressive, and includes building blocks based on database, middleware, and applications, as shown in the slide below:
The significance of this vision becomes apparent when meaningful product groupings are overlaid onto the stack. For example, the following slide shows how Oracle's governance, risk, and compliance product set reaches into all parts of the stack.
Each component of the stack is a large world unto itself. As an example, the next slide presents the Fusion middleware suite:
This integration strategy is intended to buy market share and make Oracle a one-stop-software-shop for customers. As Charles Phillips described (quoted by ZDNet's Dan Farber) during a meeting with my Enterprise Irregular colleagues (read Jeff Nolan's account):
“The strategy is to deliver more and more out of the box for customers, packaging integration between Siebel and SAP, for instance. Only a third of [IT] spend is off the shelf. The obvious thing for us to do is get that two-thirds. We have more to do to give [corporations] less reason to build it themselves,” Phillips said.
Such a broad strategy does involve risks, one of which is complexity, which Jesper Andersen, Oracle's senior vice president of application strategy, acknowledged in a conversation. Jesper said that the company is investing to help Oracle employees and customers understand the pieces and how they fit together. While the strategy has resulted in great breadth and diversity, an ever-changing product landscape (resulting from ongoing acquisitions) carries risk that customers won't understand which products to buy and salespeople will not be properly trained to sell those products.
Despite these risks, the vision is forward-thinking, incorporating the latest Enterprise 2.0 and service-oriented architecture technologies. Unlike most Enterprise 2.0 vendors, this is a large-scale, multinational-ready vision of Enterprise 2.0:
One of the more interesting Enterprise 2.0 applications described at the conference is "social CRM," which uses a simplified user interface to access enterprise data:
While the product suite is big, and growing, fellow Enterprise Irregular, Brian Sommer, takes issue with Oracle in the area of customer value. Brian says:
Value was clearly a missing in action component at this conference. In one telling panel, five Oracle executives each recapped what they believed were the more critical messages for this year's show. If I listened correctly, not one of the individuals used the word value. After this panel, I approached an Oracle communications executive and relayed my concern about this to him. Without compelling value propositions, net new sales of product in the marketplace will likely languish.
Brian is correct in asserting that customer value was not an explicit theme at the conference, and with Oracle's history of arrogance, perhaps that wasn't surprising. Nonetheless, Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of development for Oracle middleware platform products, did link his technical products to business value, which cannot be ignored:
[Your] organization gets the ability to go consistently from your strategy and plans to operational decisions, and from operational decisions to what we call insight to action -- the ability to go from operational decisions to take actions that improve how the business functions."
In summary, was I impressed by Oracle's product strategy? Yup, I certainly was.