Oracle SVP for CRM, Anthony Lye, opens up to Stuart Lauchlan about the tech giant's plans for RightNow, the 'False Cloud' and the transformation of CRM to customer experience.
There’s no doubt that Anthony Lye is happy with his lot. The Oracle SVP for CRM says: “I sit here now with the best CRM portfolio on the planet and with an organisation behind me that is building for the Cloud.”
That’s a boast of course that many rival vendors will take exception to, but Lye makes his case: “There are two main opportunities just now. The first is the Cloud and we are executing well in the Cloud with Fusion Apps and the Public Cloud."
Lye goes on: “The second opportunity is the transformation of CRM to customer experience. CRM is now largely seen as a tool to automate internal functions. Customer experience is the stuff that touches the customer. Customer experience is more on the minds of B2C companies than B2B, but it is coming to B2B. I've always maintained through valid data points that the B2C market is bigger than the B2B one. And there we see IBM as our main competitor, not Salesforce.com, not Microsoft. They don't have anywhere near the capabilities that a consumer-oriented company would deploy. But in the public Cloud it is definitely Salesforce.com."
It was the focus on both Cloud and customer experience that led to Oracle last year making a successful takeover bid for Cloud CRM firm RightNow. It’s hardly the first firm that Oracle’s acquired – Lye himself was ‘acquired’ in Oracle’s takeover of Siebel – but it was the major one to take place since Oracle’s new found enthusiasm for the Cloud went live and loud.
So now that RightNow is part of the Oracle arsenal, what next? “RightNow had been very successful and had some really good products. We’d get no benefit from disrupting that,” says Lye. “We’ve given them more engineers and we want to accelerate product development so that they can continue to grow in B2C. Then we want to take those engineers and that development and build out stronger B2B solutions as well.
"Over time we will integrate RightNow Service with Fusion and allow them to share contract and account information and to pull opportunities from Fusion Sales into RightNow Services. Then we’ll co-locate them so that we have Oracle Public Cloud and RightNow in the same data centre. We’ll build out the Fusion APIs and extend the RightNow offering to support Java as well as PHP. Over the course of many months and years, RightNow will start to take up more and more of the Fusion stack.”
War with Salesforce.com
The RightNow acquisition beefs-up Oracle’s overall Cloud credentials, adds Lye. “RightNow has done more in Cloud are the mission critical areas than anyone else,” he argues. “They have a platform that allows people to self select when they want to take new versions, for example. So they don’t have to take updates, they take them when it’s convenient. And RightNow’s downtime is minutes. In service environments, that’s critical. RightNow has tenancy at the application tier, but it separates at the database tier. Isolation of data is something that customers like and you should build stuff that customers like.”
That last aspect also gives Oracle a stick with which to beat Salesforce.com, reckons Lye. “[Salesforce.com CEO] Marc Benioff is now pounding the streets on a mission because he’s made such a noise about multi-tenancy that he can’t change from that, so he has to make multi-tenancy a differentiator – and it just isn’t, it really isn’t,” he says. “But he’s stuck with that. We have the benefit of being later with the Cloud and as such picking up more of the modern technologies and ideas.”
Benioff of course has gone head to head against Oracle and its Cloud intentions, accusing it of perpetrating the ‘False Cloud’. “What was that all about?” asks Lye rhetorically. “I’ve never once had a customer say to me, ‘Hold on, isn’t this a False Cloud?. It’s nonsense.”
In fact, he argues, Oracle's definition of the Cloud is far more pragmatic than many other vendors. "Cloud is such a nebulous term," he observes. "We have Public Cloud and Private Cloud. [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison names things really well – the names may not be sexy, but he just calls things what they are. So we have Oracle Public Cloud and Oracle Private Cloud and everyone can understand the difference.”
Indeed Lye seems to reckon that the odds have moved in Oracle’s favour in any Cloud apps war with Salesforce.com. “We can beat them, I’m convinced of that,” he says, “Fusion Apps are looking great, we’ve done such a good job on that. We’ve nailed extensibility. We’ve got one stack. Marc Benioff has five stacks in Force.com, Apex, Sites, Pages and VMforce – although we don’t hear much about what happened to that one. But he’s ended up with five stacks to manage, five different systems, so that when you build something in one stack you have to integrate it with the others. You just end up with a mish-mash of infrastructure.
“So yes, we can beat them,” he concludes. “We absolutely can.”