Oracle has some seriously significant things to say to its customers about the cloud, enterprise software, engineered systems, and the rest of its strategic portfolio. And if the company approached the task a little more seriously, it would start winning not just in the eyes and wallets of its customers, but also in the court of public opinion.
Instead, Oracle remains severely message-challenged by the way its CEO, Larry Ellison, puts out the company's message. Ellison manages to create a mess worthy of Newt Gingrich in the Republican primary campaign, turning what should be a discussion of facts and issues into an annoying sideshow, a mix of cheap (and factually off base) swipes at the competition, and some massively hyperbolic claims about the history of Oracle's cloud efforts and exactly how many cloud apps the company has.
Yes, Oracle is an undisputed leader in cloud apps, a position it earned through organic growth (Fusion Apps) and acquisitions, most recently ATG, Taleo, and RightNow. But that's apparently not enough.
At last week's unveiling of Oracle's cloud strategy, Ellison claimed that Oracle has 100 cloud apps, while trash-talking (incorrectly) competitors that he claimed have only recently acquired their way into the cloud or are allegedly saddled with the wrong technology. Ellison also revised Oracle's history by claiming that it started down the road to the cloud with the original Fusion project seven years ago, when that trip really started just two or three years ago.
I'm amazed at the 100 apps claim. I've been following Oracle as close as possible (which ain't easy--Oracle in recent years has been the undisputed leader in running a mediocre influencer program, though in recent months it has been trying to fix that problem), and I simply can't see where that number came from.
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Indeed, Ellison boasted that Oracle is eating its own dog food, running four of its own cloud apps. At that point, a familiar list appeared on the screen: Fusion Sales and Marketing, Fusion Financials, Fusion Talent Management, and Fusion CRM. (I couldn't help tweeting "Where are the other 96 apps?")
To its credit, at the end of last week, the aforementioned, clearly improving influencer team put Steve Miranda, senior VP of Oracle Fusion Applications development, on the phone to clear things up. Oracle, Steve explained, is counting each module of each application set as a separate app, even though Fusion Data Quality Address Cleansing couldn't begin to stand alone without the rest of the Fusion Data Management App.
In the end, Steve and I agreed to disagree on the nomenclature issue: Terminology is all over the map in this market, even, or especially, at Oracle. Indeed, at one point in a presentation Steve gave to industry analysts earlier this year he referred to "suites" of cloud apps (which would definitely open up the possibility that each suite contains multiple apps), while at another point in the same presentation he clearly refers to Oracle's seven Fusion Apps (Financials, CRM, GRC, HCM, Project, Procurement, SCM), using the designation for apps that most of us are familiar with.
Steve pointed out that Oracle doesn't have a monopoly on hyperbole. He's right: A great example comes from a recent Workday press release that claims the company supports customers in 219 countries. That's pretty hard to do: most online sources show a maximum of 193 countries in the world (and, I would imagine, quite a few of them, South Sudan, for instance, aren't exactly places cloud vendors would want to set up shop.)