Oracle Roars

You have to give Larry Ellison credit. When he makes up his mind to do something, he’ll take on the biggest and the baddest in order to win. He faced down the Federal government when he acquired most of the competitors in the ERP market in one massive gulp.

And he swallowed them with very little apparent corporate indigestion.

Now Larry has set his sight on the king of SaaS and arguably of CRM, pointing both barrels on SalesForce.com. Given my first encounter with SalesForce tech support this morning, I find myself on the verge of urging Ellison on.

Aside from being a hosted offering based upon the bones of Seibel CRM, there is little newsworthy about the product itself except for the integration of some social media flavored features. For example, any object in the data (a contact’s name for example) can have a “sticky note” slapped on it, and anyone with access to the data can add to the note and monitor the resulting conversation.

I have not seen this in action, and cannot comment on the viability, but it and the way the release was promoted show a few realities and long-term trends about technology marketing.

Consumer to enterprise: The roles of consumers and enterprise technology consumers is now reversed, with the consumer market leading in innovation. Smart enterprise technology vendors will spend more time paying attention to the Darwinistic nature of the World Weird Web and exploit resulting mutations that have applicability inside of corporations. Getting employees talking to one another about specific issues is on the top of that “social networking” list, and thus the “sticky note’ concept appears to be a good idea.

Enterprises are communities: Any organization, including enterprises, are by nature social entities — groups of people voluntarily banded together to achieve a common objective … namely earning a paycheck. Online social networking will become a larger part of what enterprise IT will enable because there are real, tangible benefits to getting employees working together in ad hoc ways. FedEx’s Fred Smith has long said this.

Blogers are buzz: The most note worthy marketing aspect of Oracle’s announcement is that they fed the news to bloggers before anyone else. We know from various studies that peer-level news is considered more reliable and valuable by the receiver. Oracle fed bloggers the details about the product first … and under embargo … to assure that buzz about the launch would occur on day one. Buzz marketing is now the lead, with analysts and trade press being left behind. Learn to leverage it.

SaaS is Enterprise: Amazon, Google and SalesForce ironically have proven that the cloud is more than “good enough” for enterprise use. For non-process and non-transaction applications, more and more enterprises will adopt services as opposed to software. For marketing people this complicates the product mixture, almost ensuring that you will have to consider a services model as part of your product mix.

Larry remains dangerous: Oracle has the market might, cash, and smarts to change the rules of most any game. Ellison has always been a dangerous competitor, and his rather ruthless nature is only getting uglier. If you are anywhere close to his core markets, keep looking over your shoulder and keep innovating to stay ahead. Short of the ever-more-likely anti-trust intervention, Oracle will grow to be the new Microsoft.


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