In part one of this exclusive interview, John Wookey, Salesforce.com's EVP of social applications, discussed his firm's vision for its Rypple offering. In part two, he offers a stark assessment of the Cloud prospects for SAP and Oracle from the perspective of someone who used to work for both...
HCM has become the latest front line in the Cloud apps market following SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors, Oracle’s purchase of Taleo and the identification by both of Cloud-start up Workday as a major competitive threat. To that end, some have speculated that Oracle has reprioritised its Fusion ambitions around HCM rather than the CRM space.
Wookey’s not so sure. “HCM was always a big part of the Fusion plans when I was there and it’s one of the reasons for their Taleo acquisition as well,” he opines. “There are big overlaps with areas of Fusion there. Even In the downturn HCM systems have continued to grow with the shift towards Cloud-based systems partly because they are just easier to acquire. You can take them on in incremental steps.”
Wookey’s departure from Oracle was widely speculated to indicate differences in strategic direction between him and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison – who at the time was still in his ‘Cloud is just water vapour’ phase. So does Oracle now get the Cloud?
“Some people at Oracle get Cloud, some don’t,” he shrugs. “RightNow is a good offering, so is Taleo. But the story gets challenging when you have them both as part of the overall offering. RightNow Desktop Agent is a .Net product for example, so they either have to accept they’re using that or they’ll have to re-platform it.
Meanwhile at SAP...
What about Wookey’s other former employer, SAP? The acquisition of SuccessFactors brought with it the added benefit of securing the services of Lars Dalgaard to drive the firm’s revamped Cloud strategy. In fact, it’s temping to question which was seen to be the greater benefit: SuccessFactors or Dalgaard.
“They bought both. Clearly it was sensible as they didn’t believe internally that they could go fast enough with Business ByDesign. They had to move more quickly,” responds Wookey, adding that there are issues with such a move. “Bringing in such a strong personality and bending the direction of a company that is very entrenched – that’s a challenge.”
And it’s not the only one, he adds. “They have the on premise stuff separate. How they decide what to sell – on premise or Cloud? They have competing solutions,” he notes. “The distribution strategy is also an issue. The move from traditional licensing to subscription licensing can’t be done over night – they will take a hit. Ariba took a three to four year hit when it did this.”
Then there is the technology challenge facing both SAP and Oracle, he suggests. “SAP Business ByDesign and Oracle Fusion have some similarities in that they are both based on the premise that the right idea is to build a complete end-to-end suite with one data model, one set of workflow tools, one UI etc,”says Wookey. “I’m just not sure that’s the right model anymore.
“You need to build your apps around consumable services. More and more people will want to consumer very specifically designed business services from potentially different providers. If you tell people that they have to use a specific platform, well that’s what we did with Oracle and SAP.”
Heroku and mobile
But isn’t there an argument that the same can be said of Salesforce.com’s own Force.com platform? “We have people who use Force.com but we also have people who use Heroku,” insists Wookey. “That’s a pretty adaptive model. It’s one of the reasons that Marc went out to buy Heroku. Oracle has the problem of having on premise and Cloud on one code line and that’s really really hard to do.”
For his part, Wookey also identifies mobile application development as a priority for Salesforce.com. “We have a mobile first philosophy at Salesforce.com – iPhone, Android, iPad, other devices. It is our responsibility to bring services and information to those devices,” he declares.
“Everyone has a smart phone. We see people in pretty horrible conditions in terms of their education or their housing, but they have an iPhone. It’s become a priority and I think it’s the right priority as they have to be connected. The Occupy movement in San Francisco was literally right outside the Salesforce.com headquarters. Now some 20-30% of those protestors were homeless people who looked pretty desperate, but they had access to this technology.”
As Salesforce.com expands out its portfolio, it’s clear that Wookey will be playing a major role in shoring up the firm’s competitive defences against his former employers over at SAP and Oracle. As rivalry in the Cloud apps space becomes ever fiercer and the forthcoming battles between Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP get ever more febrile, Wookey’s insight into all three firms is likely to serve him – and his latest boss – well.