Global CIO: Oracle's Mark Hurd Calls Out Deadly IT Strategies

Hurd outlined several world-shaking trends while speaking with some of Oracle's largest financial-services customers and prospects.
Two of everything of every type of every species from every corner of the globe. And they've done that because their unshakable belief is that to do otherwise—to purchase from a significantly smaller set IT partners—would shift too much power and control and lock-in potential into the hands of those preferred vendors.

But meanwhile, Hurd said, the hidden and insidious cost of that policy has come in the form of massive IT teams forced to plow through endless integration, endless configuration, endless tuning, and endless testing.

The solution, argued Hurd, is a more homogeneous stack in which everything from servers to databases to middleware to applications to storage and more is optimized for ease of installation and configuration. "We take over ownership of that cost," Hurd said, allowing customers to refocus their people and time away from internal busywork and toward customer-facing growth initiatives and engagements.

In saying that, Hurd emphasized—repeatedly—that Oracle is as open as any IT company in the market and will happily work with other vendors as specified by customers. But he also gently noted that those heterogeneous configurations can't tap into the "secret sauce" of optimization that comes from having deep engineering-level integration at all levels of interaction.

Here are a few other compelling points made by Hurd in his opening remarks or during the Q&A session:

The customer-expectation gap: Hurd relayed a funny story about driving to the airport with his daughter and and being "impressed" that when he made a phone call to try to find out at what gate an incoming flight would be arriving, he was greeted by a voice-recognition system instead of having to wait interminably for a human being to answer. "I thought, wow, this is great—this is real progress," he said with a laugh. "Of course, the voice-recognition system didn't work at all—I'd say, 'San Francisco' and it would ask, 'San Diego?' over and over. But to me, even though it didn't work, that was progress because my generation was trained to expect and accept bad customer service. My daughter looked at me and said that I'm the only person in the world who would try to do that," and she then used her iPhone to get the gate information in a few seconds. So as this new always-on, always-connected generation comes of age, Hurd says, companies will have to find ways to rapidly and elegantly close that yawning expectation gap in customer service.

Vertical-market extensions of Exadata? Hurd said the Exadata phenomenon has been extraordinary and that Oracle is looking at a range of ways to further exploit the potential of the fastest-growing product in the company's history.

It's not always IT's fault: Hurd chuckled as he relayed some experiences in which CEOs are all too eager to their IT organizations for whatever is ailing the company. And as the pace of global business accelerates, he said, this misconnection or disconnection between what the business needs and what IT is being asked to deliver can be deadly.

The iPhone as optimized system: Hurd used Apple's hugely successful device as an example of a consumer-market analog to Exadata, describing how the software and hardware are engineered from the ground up to work together beautifully.

(For additional insights and more-extensive verbatim comments from Hurd, please check out this article from my colleagues at Insurance & Technology, and this article from my colleagues at Bank Systems & Technology.)


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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