The enterprise SaaS market is a hard one with no true dominant player. Maybe that’s what makes it so competitive. At the end of September, I wrote a couple of notes describing how Oracle has quietly become an essential cloud applications company. While Oracle and “quiet” usually don’t blend, I believe that’s exactly what is happening in the SaaS space. Oracle’s newfound enterprise app success is due in large part to the use of a SaaS model to rapidly evolve its comprehensive software suite in both breadth and depth of offerings with hundreds of new features delivered quarterly. I don’t sense these are features thrown against the wall, but rather highly considered. Oracle recently told me that over 80 percent of updates to its cloud applications come directly from customer feedback.
Regardless of what you may think of Larry Ellison, most will agree that he is obsessed with winning. Under his leadership, Oracle has been executing on its customer first strategy (every vendor claims that, but the customer feedback data point Oracle shared turns a marketing claim into a reality) for Fusion Cloud Applications for more than a decade and this focus has opened up a huge competitive advantage for Oracle and its customers.
Today, all Oracle Cloud Applications are written on the new and improved Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and all the flows are on the same data model and the same Oracle Fusion platform. I didn’t have many nice things to say about its Gen1 Cloud, but I think Gen2 is competitive and its on-prem, hybrid play is the easiest to understand as it’s a carbon copy of what is in its public cloud. So, what does that mean in practical terms, what’s the benefit?
It means having a software platform that integrates the way companies do sales and marketing, the way they generate proposals, automating and unifying the way companies think about a flow from an advertising campaign through marketing to selling. Contrast this with traditional CRM systems, which are built to audit sales reps' activities and rely on manual efforts to populate opportunities.
Like many, Oracle is also leveraging its extensive industry domain expertise to deliver vertical solutions. Oracle likes to say, many talk about going vertical, but we actually have the expertise.” The most recent example is the recently announced cloud-based customer experience (CX) management solution for the communications industry.
Oracle Digital Experience for Communications is a suite of industry-specific applications that capture and analyze customer-interaction data from front and back-office operations. Service providers should be able to better understand its customers' unique buying behaviors and preferences and quickly launch compelling new offers and products, provide better service, and increase sales. This industry needs help and I’m hoping Oracle can do this.
Because Digital Experience for Communications supports the TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture and Open APIs, service providers should be able to quickly integrate existing applications with the solution to provide a consistent and accurate view of customer and billing data. Coupled with a new user interface built for the industry's unique workflows, it is designed to give service providers the data and tools to improve how to create and launch service offers, sell across channels, fulfill and monetize services, and deliver proactive care. Digital Experience for Communications also offers communications charging, operations support, and billing and revenue management.
Oracle has a plan to help organizations in every major industry transform the customer experience. Think financial services, retail, electric utilities, etc. And I believe this plan is unique as unlike Salesforce and other CX players that are only now starting to acquire the industry expertise required, Oracle has been focused on building extremely deep industry domain knowledge for many, many years.
“Future of CX” event
This brings me to Oracle's latest chapter on the "Future of CX" which I attended today.
The main challenge facing all organizations is unifying data from across business functions to rapidly address customer expectations.
I see Oracle rethinking how to unify data structures, application flows, and shared experiences across the front and back-office processes, highlighting that traditional CRM systems are only one component of today's complex sales and commerce challenges. Oracle brings front-office channels and back-office applications together on a unified platform that can provide one view of the customer and business. This is another distinct differentiator between Oracle and Salesforce and for that matter, Oracle and any other cloud applications provider.
It’s black and white- Salesforce, Adobe, etc. have no back-office applications. As a result, those companies can’t help their directly customers manage their finances, inventory, supply chain, staff, etc. without costly and complex integrations. And this was by design. In the old world of CX those areas where simply not a concern to CX providers, but as every major brand in the world will tell you, we are no longer operating in the old world.
In practical terms, this means vendors like Salesforce.com and Adobe cannot manage the way a customer gets billed, how an organization ensures it has the right products in stock to meet changing customer demands, how an organization ensures products and services are delivered on time, how an organization makes sure staff are delivering the right experience. In other words, it’s a big deal. A really big deal.
In contrast, Oracle not only has both, but has created a huge lead in the back office (read cloud ERP) and as I explained this summer, that lead appears to be getting bigger and bigger. Sure, you can connect Salesforce, Adobe, etc. to a back-end with a mountain of APIs or create a separate data lake to link the two, but I believe that is more complex and doesn’t provide real-time capabilities sales teams need to move the right opportunities forward and close deals faster. It also doesn’t help marketing, customer service or any other teams that have to quickly react to changing customer expectations.
Back to sales and commerce. Oracle has today introduced several new sales and commerce innovations within Oracle Fusion Cloud Customer Experience to improve the virtual selling and buying experience. You can read about them all here.
If you’ve read my analysis, it’s been a long time since I had nice things to say about the Oracle cloud. I have enjoyed watching the rise of Oracle cloud applications, which, from my vantage point, came out of nowhere even though Oracle has laser focused on the same cloud applications strategy for the last decade. The move to a SaaS model was significant, and the products are more comprehensive and feature-rich today, enhanced by the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.
I believe Oracle is in a good place right now, with an innovation cycle aligned with industry opportunity and customer needs.
It seems as though COVID is touching every aspect of our lives and business. COVID is forcing selling and marketing models to change. Everything is moving to digital selling, as sales reps cannot visit customers anymore.
I believe the Oracle value proposition plays well here. The system does everything for customers. It can take an advertising lead through an opportunity nurtured in the marketing system to become a proposal through the customer reference database with suggested actions to the sales rep based on machine learning.
The pace of business is accelerating, and the pandemic has pressed fast forward on all of those changes. I believe the customers who have moved to Oracle Fusion Applications from Salesforce are nimbler now with less risk to the company. A testament to the benefit of continuous investment through a real SaaS model connecting the front and back ends in a targeted, vertical model. Sure it’s not going to be easy to unseat Salesforce, but it is evident to me that the puck has shifted locations and Oracle has a much more direct way to get there. There’s a ton of competition in this space from Salesforce and Adobe, but there are black and whites that Oracle can provide, which I believe, gives it a leg up.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.