Road Report: Oracle Spring Analyst Event 2023
May 24th, 2023
A few weeks ago, I attended the Oracle Applications and Industry Analyst Summit in Redwood Shores, CA (blissfully less than 30 minutes from home). This blog summarizes what I think you all would most like to know from the event, but the high-level summary is below:
- Oracle attributes its growth to new customer acquisition versus a land-and-expand approach from other parts of their business
- Oracle has embarked on significant UX, speed, and responsivity investments that make the product look and feel more consumer-grade
- Oracle is taking a pragmatic and relatively conservative approach to generative AI
New customer acquisition driving growth
Previous Oracle metrics have indicated strong growth and the Oracle team indicated that much of this growth is coming from new customer acquisition (versus a land-and-expand approach from other parts of their business). The session was dotted with examples of customers that transitioned from both SAP and Workday (an interesting contrast from the Workday session in March, where customers’ previous HCM providers went unmentioned). The team also mentioned that a lot of their growth is coming from EMEA and Latin America.
Oracle’s broad messaging around why they are achieving that growth came down to three key points:
- Everything customers need
- Innovation that matters
- Committed to customers’ success
On the first point, Oracle shared a summary image of its portfolio of applications and infrastructure (see Figure 1). I’m sharing it here since I haven’t previously written about Oracle for our ThreadHeads, and some of you may be unfamiliar with the full breadth of Oracle’s offerings.
Figure 1: Oracle’s portfolio of applications and infrastructure | Source: Oracle, 2023.
When asked specifically why they are winning, the team stated they have “clear, non-arguable product and service differentiation.” Specifically, they called out:
- The pace of innovation and adoption
- Oracle ME elevating employee experience
- Mobile-responsive front-end
- “A complete, fully connected candidate journey”
- “Intelligent” automation
- Personalization without customization
- “Native, mature HR HelpDesk and case management”
- Natively developed payroll options, scale, and ability to handle complexity
Further, the team called out that they have invested in the following within Oracle HCM Cloud:
- Strategic integrator (SI) and independent software vendor (ISV) partner ecosystem expansion
- Global payroll
- App and platform extensibility
- Near-zero planned quarterly maintenance downtime
- Employee experience
- A modern platform, including improved security, performance, availability
- Redwood UX experience
- AI/ML and Generative AI
In addition, as many of you may know, Oracle has a very strong industry focus, and they featured many stories from the following industries:
- Financial services
- Communications and professional services
- Consumer packaged goods and groceries
- Gaming, hospitality, and quick-serve
- Industrial manufacturing and logistics
Finally, the Oracle team talked a lot about customer success, indicating their “reference-ability and advocacy are at an all-time high.” They also specifically called out their customer community and the conversion of customer ideas to product, adding that roughly 80% of their roadmap is sourced through customer collaboration (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Summary of Oracle’s Cloud Customer Connect Community | Source: Oracle, 2023.
Oracle’s primary message is that they are gaining net-new customers and this is a result of greater customer satisfaction. This is interesting, in that Oracle’s strength over the years has not necessarily been customer satisfaction. Oracle is investing in accelerating time to value for customers and providing more resources for them through templates, learning resource centers, and a strong customer community. At the summit, we didn’t see any meaningful numbers such as NPS, though they did have a few happy customers there to speak to us. Given that this is the first Oracle I’ve attended in a long time, I will look forward to future opportunities to better understand and assess customer satisfaction.
UX, Speed, and Responsivity Investments
Oracle has significantly invested in its Redwood design and development system. This is designed to be a modern UX, which the team characterizes as a “collective reinvention of how Oracle customers interact with technology and consume information.” The components of this design system are listed in Figure 3. Oracle indicated that within 9-12 months they will have completed their comprehensive UX upgrade.
Figure 3: Summary of Oracle’s Redwood Design System | Source: Oracle, 2023.
Examples of the new UX are in Figure 4 and samples of the new Redwood pages and flows are in Figure 5.
Figure 4: Examples of the new Redwood UX in Oracle HCM | Source: Oracle, 2023.
Figure 5: Sample New Redwood Pages & Flows | Source: Oracle, 2023.
A consistent theme throughout the discussion on product improvements was product responsivity, availability, and speed. For example:
- Greater responsiveness: With the new UX, Oracle now is leveraging single page applications, meaning there is a micro-application built within a single web page. This makes it highly performant and stable, and results in a more seamless and responsive experience for users.
- Accelerated performance: The team mentioned their speed is 30% faster than previously. This also extends to search (see Figure 6).
- Improved availability: The team stated they now currently have a 99.9% SLA for uptime. The team specifically called out that their 90th percentile downtime is just 2 hours per quarter. This contrasts with 5-6 years ago when that number was estimated at around 16-17 hours on average, and 24 hours for large customers. It also contrasts favorably to the planned downtime of other major vendors in this area who today require 4 or more hours each week. Expect Oracle to have the average downtime cut to 20 minutes per quarter next year.
Figure 6: Summary of Improvements in Oracle Search | Source: Oracle, 2023.
Most of these improvements are designed to reduce friction in the Oracle user experience. This is a good thing, especially as it relates to consumer-grade UX, speed, and responsivity. Users expect this as table stakes from their Work Tech software and Oracle is making sure it will be present moving forward.
The most notable improvement comes from the improved downtime numbers, which are expected to further improve. Downtime is something most users don’t see unless it meaningfully impacts their day-to-day. Oracle is investing to make sure it doesn’t.
All that said, based on what I saw, it doesn't appear investments are pushing the needle on innovation. As far as I can tell, none of this is going to change how work is done or dramatically simplify it. In the future, I hope to see more from Oracle on this front.
A pragmatic and conservative approach to generative AI
Oracle is taking a highly pragmatic and conservative approach to generative AI. As shown in Figure 7, they see a relatively small overlap between the problems that AI is currently good at solving and those that businesses need to solve today.
Figure 7: Schematic of the overlap between generative AI capabilities and business problems | Source: Oracle, 2023.
The Oracle team’s plan for evolving the use of generative AI is shown in Figure 8. As you can see, their initial focus is on assisted authoring, summarization, and suggestions.
Figure 8: Schematic of how Oracle sees the evolution of generative AI use cases in applications | Source: Oracle, 2023.
The Oracle team sees a virtuous cycle from combining generative AI and existing AI, as shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9: How Oracle sees generative AI and existing AI working together | Source: Oracle, 2023.
The team plans to continue to invest in their product’s AI competencies by focusing on the below areas:
Figure 10: Summary of Oracle’s AI capabilities focus, now and next | Source: Oracle, 2023.
Finally, Oracle articulated its “radically practical approach to AI” as the following:
- Allow user and use cases to determine technology
- Start with a baseline, simple model; iterate
- Assess potential negative impact and implement guardrails
- Build features for specific use cases; leverage for general AI services
- Validate with real-world data and users in collaboration with customers
Of all the recent analyst briefings I have attended, Oracle was one of the most conservative when it comes to generative and next-gen AI, as particularly illustrated by Figure 7.
While I am always for practicality, this seems like a time to dream, not to allow existing users (who do not understand the tech nearly as well as Oracle’s technologists, I would wager) to drive the discussion on what they should do. To be clear, I am not one to encourage anyone to chase bright and shiny objects – but I am one to encourage people to fundamentally rethink existing work and processes in an effort to simplify and improve. I’d like to see Oracle doing more of that.
One thing I did appreciate, though, was Oracle’s awareness of the need to earn customer trust when it comes to new LLM capabilities and training on traceable data. I’d like to see Oracle be more clear on what these two things mean for them and how we will see them show up to support ethical AI efforts.
I was pleased to spend time with Oracle’s executives and look forward to additional deep dives on products that are of particular interest to our ThreadHeads, such as their learning and performance products. I am also looking forward to opportunities to get to know more of Oracle’s customers and to better understand the value they get from their Oracle implementations.