Posts Tagged ‘On-demand’

Fusion is big, potentially powerful, based on new technology, backward compatible and not available yet.

Larry Ellison began taking the wraps off Fusion at his Open World keynote on Wednesday.  His appearance on Sunday with Sun CEO Scott McNealy was just for poking some fun at IBM, this was the real deal.  Fusion is a big idea and this post will leave something out – that’s a given – but here are some important impressions.

There are ten applications and I don’t write fast enough to have copied them all down from Larry’s slide.  For sure there was CRM but also GL, Deal Management, Territory and Talent Management too.

The applications are based on SOA architecture, the UIs have embedded BI.  There are six thousand database tables, 6,500 objects, 20,000 views, 10,000 task flows and the applications are code complete and being tested by customers.

Fusion is based on industry standards like JAVA Fusion middleware which Larry said is the first such deployment.

Fusion applications are scheduled to debut next year and while that is a little disappointing it is entirely in keeping with the purpose of a keynote – forward looking statements right?  Ok.

I saw some demos but as I said in a previous post, I want to see a birth certificate.

Fusion applications are modular and they are designed to be deployed as full replacements for other older Oracle products.  Modularity enables them to also work side by side with existing applications so that there is no need for a wholesale replacement.  There are also new applications that have no analogs with the older product suites so it is good that Fusion and legacy applications can work together.

Like a lot of CRM products coming out these days, the Fusion applications, based on a SOA architecture are intended to operate behind your firewall in a single tenant manner or at some other data center in either single or multi-tenant mode.  This approach neatly straddles the diverse deployment options that some people feel they need today and gives a company like Oracle the flexibility to support all of them with one code set.  This neatly solves the problem of how to convert Oracle’s product set from premise-bound to cloud resident by leaving the decision to the customer.  That’s good, fine even and it does a lot to close the discussion about on-premise vs. on-demand, or does it?

The trouble with running a private cloud is that as soon as I make a modification to the system I might be making the product unique and unsupportable putting me back into the same version conundrum that many hope to avoid.  I need to know more about this.

Interestingly, in no demo did anyone talk about Fusion code or coding beyond Larry’s statement about JAVA.  I suspect that is not because you can’t get into coding some arcane part of your application but I hope coding is infrequent and at a level of abstraction sufficiently removed from the guts of the operation to make it possible to have one version of code for the whole planet.

The Fusion applications, specifically the CRM stuff, are compatible with Oracle’s Social CRM gadgets and widgets and I expect that it will offer fairly robust support for enterprise computing when the applications hit the street.

The UI looks nice.  I don’t know what the technology is that supports it but it has an Adobe Flex look.  Nice job on that – it will give all those Gen Y people coming into sales and other front office disciplines a feeling that they are using something as modern as the games they play on the home computer.

That’s about all I feel qualified to say.  We need to see more but for now it is very good to see Oracle redeeming a promise it made a few years ago when it went on a buying spree in the front office market.

Key Findings for OOW #2

Posted: October 15, 2009 in CRM
Tags: , , , ,

This time a little more serious.  Ok?

I am a software and CRM guy so that’s the focus of this piece.  Much of Oracle Open World (OOW) was table setting.  It was all interesting and valuable but it was also a lot of independent data points.  There was lots of cool CRM introduced for sure but it all lacked a certain coherence until the Fusion announcements.  That’s not a bad thing by the way, just a reflection of the maturity level of so many products.  Some interesting stuff:

Support for retailers and anyone who wants to support employees who are directly involved with customers.  For example, handheld applications that bring customer information to devices in support of sales clerks.  Not just the customer’s size and account numbers but things like intelligent offers and any loyalty points accumulated so that a pricing negotiation can happen on the spot.  The same technology supports users on their mobile devices to do things like buy train tickets and other self-service purchases.  This was not really new for Oracle but it has been improved and it looks better with each iteration.

I have several problems with the self-service example though.  The demo was from the Swedish Rail Service and it showed how customers can buy travel packages and trade in frequency travel points —  you get the idea.  But there’s no infrastructure for this in the U.S. of A.  For this application to work we need a high-speed rail infrastructure and that will take about ten years (LOL).  Good thing Oracle is looking at foreign markets.

I attended the afternoon half of a Chief Sales Officer Executive Summit or some such thing on Wednesday afternoon.  It was very good.  Lots of high-octane sales executives from billion-dollar (or equivalent) companies talking about their success with Oracle-Siebel and Oracle CRM On-Demand and their successes.  They had an economist give a quick analysis of the world economy and for a practitioner of the dismal science, he sounded upbeat.  I regard this as a contra indicator of something, just not sure what.

No surprises there in the following sense.  CRM and SFA are pretty mature, the biggest gains we are likely to see going forward will likely be in more enlightened use of the products by the high-octane talent.  I am not optimistic in the short term for the following reasons.

Anthony Lye did a good job presenting the state of the union in SFA mediated selling today.  Most people still use spreadsheets to make forecasts — letting error and unpredictability enter every time a sales manager decides to spiff up the data or apply a fudge factor.  Lye’s slides showed only a tiny fraction of users had forecasts that were worth anything (i.e. accuracy rating of 90% or better) yet we keep messing with the data.

I have an idea.  Rather than futzing with the data in spreadsheets, let the forecasts stand as they are and make accuracy a criterion for sales compensation.  Then stand back and watch things improve.  Short-term pain for long-term gain.

Ok, Oracle showed plenty of good technology (including Fusion apps as part of some demos) like that described above, for B2C segments and even more for B2B but the thing you come away with is that Oracle is really focused on the enterprise.  Oracle has a lot for the mid-market user – it’s more about what you don’t buy in that case – but they really groove on the sophisticated and complex selling that goes on in billion dollar companies.  They have apps that solve problems that mid-market companies might not even encounter.

For example, the Oracle deal management application takes a lot of data about what a customer has bought already, their price tolerance, the value of a deal, what other companies might be paying for similar deals and derives a statistically relevant price for the deal.  This happens automagically after the sales representative has fed a few data items into the system.  Management, meanwhile, had set a few parameters in the system and out pops a price that the boss will, if not love, then certainly tolerate.

Smaller companies don’t do this kind of thing much.  They’re focused on closing as much business as they can at the end of the quarter.  Too bad, because Lye’s slide deck included one chart that showed the 30% of companies knew they were leaving money on the table – but they were not sure how much they were leaving.  Maybe there is broad applicability for deal management.  Ya think?

My impression of the related sales applications is that they were best for companies that sell to managed accounts.  You know what I mean, two companies have long term relationships and sell parts, components, raw food and the like to a large group of repeat customers.  That’s not the only kind of business they do but it’s significant and the Oracle apps work well in that large environment.

Oracle also has some apps that I find more interesting for things like territory planning and while they got some attention in the executive summit I could have used to see more.  My favorite is something that helps find the “white space” in a territory.  I wasn’t familiar with the term white space until this week but now I can use it almost as much as the Governator says technology.

What white space refers to is the knowledge that a territory acts like a buffer.  It can absorb only so much before it gets saturated (think of a kitchen sponge here).  Once the buffer is saturated it won’t absorb more so it’s smart to know at the start of a year how full your territory is – especially if you plan to assign quotas that your people have a realistic shot at making.  Ok, the white space application helps the manager figure this out by taking account of things like the target density in the territory, what’s already been sold, the average sales cycle, price points and other relevant information.  That’s cool and my only critique of this and other cool stuff is that Oracle didn’t show it off enough for my taste.

These are some of the applications that separate Oracle from other SFA vendors and they represent some true differentiation.  I hope they do more with these apps.

I was going to write about Fusion now but this post is getting long so the next post will be about Fusion.

Well, that was interesting. CEO Marc Benioff just completed a speech at Oracle Open World, perhaps the ultimate example of co-opetition.  It was apparent to me early on that Marc’s purpose for being there was to refute Larry Ellison’s rant at the Churchill Club in which he compared Cloud Computing to vapor.

I got a hint earlier today when someone said that the event had been put together quickly, which to me confirmed the need to refute Larry who spoke a couple of weeks ago at Churchill.  Benioff started out by graciously telling the audience that he had worked at Oracle and attended Open World many times in his 13-year career, even presenting on the same stage he was now on.  He went further pointing out that the Oracle database is one of the key components of the Salesforce service and thanked Oracle executives for the graciousness.

But there was little doubt in my mind that Benioff felt he needed to refute Ellison’s off the cuff assertions at the Churchill Club.  He did that with ease and just when you might have thought he’d reached the end of his talk, he brought up the CIO of EMC Corporation Sanjay Mirchandani to discuss that company’s hybrid CRM approach that includes Salesforce and Oracle for on-premise CRM.  It was almost as if he wanted to say that Salesforce can play the hybrid game as well as Oracle.

I guess the Open World setting proved too much of a temptation for Benioff.  It’s in the same city as Benioff’s office.  The venue was easy to get, Michael Dell another big Salesforce customer spoke at Open World this morning and was available to be on stage with Benioff for part of the afternoon.

There’s little doubt that Benioff was able to refute Ellison but the bigger question for me was why he felt he needed to.  We haven’t seen this kind of action for many years and it makes for lively times in these challenging days.

Open World most resembles Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates in that there is such variety that you never know what to expect.  At any moment there is equal probability that you will be dazzled, challenged, delighted and perplexed.

This being journalism, perplexity reins as a dominant topic and perhaps the most perplexing thing about the meeting is the show floor which includes large booths from the heavyweights in the industry a.k.a. Oracle’s greatest competition and greatest customers, for example, SAP and Microsoft.’s booth sits long and narrow moored on the show floor like an aircraft carrier in a crowded harbor.

By the time most of you read this Marc Benioff will have spoken and we will at last have an answer to the question haunting the halls of the Moscone Center.  Why would Benioff speak at Open World, the user meeting of one of his staunchest competitors?

You can make all of the arguments you want about how Salesforce relies on the Oracle database to serve its millions of customers, you can invoke arcane game theory to explain this apparent cooperation among competitors if you like – after all the Nobel Prize in Economics was just awarded to two social scientists who studied this phenomenon.  Still you are left with an irreducible Why?

Benioff speaks at one today and may have an answer.

In CRM kudos have go to Anthony Lye and his team for their top to tail work with the Siebel and CRM On-Demand suites and the dogged determination to prove the necessity – even desirability – of hybrid premise-based and on-demand approaches to CRM.  I will not digress into a discussion of my oft repeated belief that this is a transition state on the way to full Cloud Computing in deference to my hosts and I only wish they would give up the sophomoric assertion that cloud computing is simply vapor.

The CRM team is bristling with innovations for large and small customers –announcing twelve new products, eighty customer driven enhancements, thirty-one new features, a REST API, CRM availability in Microsoft Outlook, and a new Siebel version coming this year.  I think there’s more but maybe my note taking is not so good.

Larry Ellison spoke on Sunday night — a cameo in Scott McNealy’s keynote.  Ellison made the expected and highly believable statements that rather than letting Sun sink into the, uhh sunset, once the merger is completed, Oracle would increase its investments in Sun systems beyond the hefty investments that Sun had been making.

Oracle’s stewardship of PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, Siebel and fifty-five other acquisitions (according to Safra Catz) provide the needed street cred here.  Ellison even had fun poking IBM about an internal program they call Sunset reminding all that one man’s sunset was another’s sunrise.  He then proceeded to announce significant benchmark superiority over Big Blue.  Some things don’t change, benchmark competition is one of them.

But Sunday was McNealy’s time to shine.  The justifiably proud Sun CEO rattled off a slew of Sun’s leading innovations in CPUs, memory and file management, operating systems, and, of course, JAVA.  Many of us forget how many devices run on JAVA code — without any “JAVA inside” branding — but it’s a lot and McNealy was happy to provide a glimpse.

Ellison will speak on Wednesday to conclude the meeting and my contacts keep telling me that my questions such as those about integrating the sprawling software suite will gain clarity then.  We’ll see.

Perhaps the most interesting moment of the show for me so far came on Sunday at the end of McNealy’s speech.  He showed a slide meant to sum up his experience at Sun as well as the operating philosophy the company has been run by.  The slide said we (Sun),

  • Kicked butt
  • Had fun
  • Didn’t cheat
  • Loved our customers and
  • Made money

(I am not a hundred percent on the last bullet, note taking again.)

McNealy concluded by saying of the merger of Sun and Oracle, “Larry’s going to like his new toy.”  The statement immediately put me in mind of Newton’s famous summation of his own career when he said near the end of his life:

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

I can’t think of a better description of why these very bright people work so hard to make electrons dance.  Sure, it’s profitable but at the end of the day it’s even better if the ride has been fun.

As luck would have it, I knew nothing about Larry Ellison’s rant at the Churchill Club on September 21 about cloud computing when I wrote last week’s piece on cloud computing.  I saw it on YouTube.

You have to admit that Larry is a heck of a showman and the video is fun to watch.  But whenever someone in that kind of situation starts to nit pick over definitions it says to me that they’re hoping no one will notice that they might be a bit threatened by a next generation technology.

Various analysts have pointed out the cloud is really an amalgamation of several technologies including Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  I can’t disagree with any of that though it is a rather mechanistic summation, but my reaction to all this parsing of nomenclature is, so what.

Say what?

Really, so what.

My take on cloud computing is different, it’s part cultural and part historic and the two are twisted tightly together.  The history of the technology industry is one of overcoming shortages and cloud computing is part of that progression.

When storage and memory were in relative short supply we kept data on tape and programs on punch cards.  We responded by building more and denser capacity until the shortage went away and we found ourselves with extra capacity at greatly lower costs.  We had capacity to spare and instead of wasting it, clever individuals built the relational database.

Computing power has always been short but once we got into Moore’s Law the curve kept delivering new capacity to burn every eighteen months or so.  Did we waste it?  Some did, but enterprising souls built the graphical user interface of GUI and graphics cards and they changed computing.

Along the way as these improvements became ubiquitous and cheap — then something magical happened.  We started branching out and the improvements didn’t stay in the confines of enterprise computing.  They leaked out into a plethora of unimaginable products.  Consider the iPod, for example, nothing but a tiny computer with a baby-sized disk.  Talk about unintended consequences, I know some people were thinking about these devices but there weren’t that many and look at the effect this one device has had on our culture.

iPod is only the best known example but there are many others.  For example, our cars are now bristling with processors and memory for fuel injection, ABS brakes, navigation systems (probably with a DVD in your trunk) and more.

But we are not done.

Then it was bandwidth.  Ethernet was an interesting standard but it was slow.  Bright minds turned their attention to networking, changed the way our applications use networks so that they use less bandwidth and others made more of it available culminating in the ultimate consumer bandwidth, the Internet.  Tell me that hasn’t changed your life.

What’s different today is that we have a relative abundance of everything.  If it comes to us as a service we no longer think about all of the provisioning and cost that was once part of our calculus.  Platforms and applications coming in as a service ensure that bright minds can dream big and who knows what they’ll come up with?

So far all of that abundance has enabled us to build not artificial intelligence, that appears to still be in the future, but artificial, or should I say synthetic, relationships.  I mean social media here.  The relationships we maintain through social media are available to us because the cost of maintaining them in time and effort and real dollars is so low that it might as well be free.  And the power of these relationships is that at any time, for the right reason, they can become full blown active relationships that provide friendship, information, help or anything you might expect of a friendship.  And, of course, physical distance is much less of an issue than ever.

Our advances in technology have been the sometimes-surprising results of efforts to overcome scarcity and other adversities.  Social media is a child of the ubiquity delivered through the Internet and it is still in its precocious early years.  And logically, social media is not the only advance we should expect from this ubiquity, though I can’t say what the next things will be.

So when I hear someone, even kiddingly, say that cloud computing is nothing new or that it’s just water vapor, it makes me think that someone isn’t getting it.  We only have a few faint ideas about what cloud computing will ultimately yield and that alone is why it is so important.

What is on-demand?

Posted: September 30, 2009 in CRM
Tags: , ,

I have an on-going conversation with an industry executive about the nature of on-demand, SaaS and Cloud Computing.  The central question is what is it exactly?  Our conversation is always thought provoking and I come away from it with at least some additional perspective.  Some times I think the discussion is incredibly philosophical like the question about a tree falling in the forest — does it make a sound if no one is there to witness it?

I was always flummoxed by the tree question.  Of course it makes a sound I thought.  But then my kids, who are musicians, explained to me that sound is the perception of certain energy waves emitted by the falling tree.  Kids!  When the tree falls it certainly makes those waves but unless an ear and therefore a person or some other animal is there to hear it the energy is never converted into sound.

So my conversation with the executive goes like that.  Is SaaS just application hosting with delivery through the Internet?  Is it SaaS if the hosting service is completely within the company?  Can a company with such an infrastructure support remote sites that way and claim to have its own cloud?

These are all good questions and they are issues that we are still dealing with.  The SaaS and Cloud Computing market is still so new that there are many issues like this that have not been nailed down yet to everyone’s satisfaction and they may never be.

It is my belief that you can’t separate SaaS or Cloud Computing from a multi-tenant architecture.  Over the years, and as I have written before, the difference between SaaS computing and conventional applications that are hosted have dwindled to a small core largely consisting of the multi-tenant issue.  Initially, conventional applications were client-server and hosting them meant using virtual private networks and high server overhead.  They were definitely not SaaS.

Vendors have done a good job of bringing those client-server applications into the Internet age — the user interfaces run in browsers like SaaS applications do, and some even offer the capability of multi-tenancy.  Some vendors have become good at offering a choice of hosting options to customers, so are then truly SaaS?  Are they candidates for Cloud Computing?

The answer is complicated, like the issue of sound and the falling tree.  First things first.  As long as a customer has the option of multi-tenancy then I think it’s not possible to call a solution SaaS or Cloud Computing.  In an optional setting like that the vendor still has to manage and maintain multiple versions of the application and with that comes all of the overhead and complexity of conventional computing.

Ironically, a vendor who offers the same software as both single-tenant and multi-tenant instances straddles definitions.  A customer using that software as a service in a multi-tenant mode is using a SaaS solution.  But a customer using the same software tucked behind another company’s firewall in single tenant mode is simply using a conventional solution and the same can be said of a company using a single-tenant solution in some other data center — that’s just facilities management.

As for Cloud Computing, I think it’s not possible for a company to have a private cloud.  A private cloud is like an old cell phone gathering dust on a shelf somewhere.  The very idea of the cloud is of a network, a communally accessed resource for accomplishing a growing list of personal and business pursuits.

I suppose a company could have and make good use of a private section of the cloud but there is a big difference here.  Private clouds imply many incompatible little networks and what good is that?  Recall that Metcalfe’s law says that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users.

But I think the best way to come to terms with SaaS and conventional computing is through the business model.  True multi-tenant SaaS leaves the user completely unconcerned about the nitty-gritty of system ownership — the licenses, the versions, the compatibility, the hardware capacities — all of that is hidden and immaterial to user decisions about provisioning.

The multi-tenant SaaS business model is simpler and much less costly and for that reason it is catching on globally, especially in places where infrastructure costs are simply not affordable.  More importantly, though, it’s clear that multi-tenancy is the new standard because the business model is a better fit for the times and for the growing world market.

I expect that single-tenant solutions that look very SaaS-like will be around for a long time for several reasons.  Most importantly, there is customer demand — some customers are still not on board with the idea of multi-tenancy either for personal reasons or because of various restrictions.  Second, many vendors have not yet converted their technology and so they will continue selling what they have.  Third, some vendors’ business models can’t stand the strain of converting — it may still be too early to try to convince investors that a business model shift makes sense.

Business model conversion may prove to be the biggest obstacle.

I am looking forward to the fall user group meeting season.  Name a company and they’re having an event for customers and/or analysts.  I can easily count Salesforce, Oracle, Sage, RightNow, SAP and Microsoft having events before then end of the year and there are many smaller companies hosting them too.  Personal commitments are preventing me from going to all of them but nonetheless the frequent flier miles will add up.

I heard a delicious rumor that Marc Benioff will be speaking at Oracle Open World.  In fact, it’s more than a rumor but I will believe it when I see it.  Of course, Benioff at Open World makes perfect sense, it’s as natural as HP being there but I know what you’re thinking.  Why?

I think it’s a great example of that old word, “co-opetition”.  On some levels you compete and on some levels there might be a vendor-client relationship.  For example, Salesforce uses the Oracle database heavily and is one of a small group of  companies on the planet that gives Oracle a heavy duty workout.  No disrespect to others, but Salesforce occupies a unique place for while other companies might have more users in, say, an e-commerce setting, Salesforce operates a very different paradigm that we all know is becoming the center of the IT universe.

I am looking for big things from all the majors — announcements that I hope will propel our industry and the economy as a whole as we gear up to get out of this recession.

  • Oracle has to deliver on some of the promises made during its acquisition phase a few years ago.
  • Salesforce can easily announce some new initiatives in CRM and Cloud Computing.
  • Sage announced recently an initiative in cloud computing and I am looking forward to details.
  • RightNow made a play for HiveLive thus getting into social CRM and they’ll no doubt have more to say late in October.
  • SAP has been quiet lately so it would be a natural for them to break out with an announcement in December in Boston.
  • Finally, Microsoft is having an annual analyst event in November and I expect them to keep up the momentum of recent CRM announcements.
  • On the next tier several companies are also planning smaller events and it will be interesting to see what they do too.

The smoke signals suggest an industry that is planning an early breakout from the recession.  I wish them luck and hope their timing is on target.