Oracle's Mark Hurd talks Fusion Applications, customer satisfaction and SAP's HANA

As co-president of Oracle, Mark Hurd is tasked with selling an ever-increasing array of new software and hardware products, such as the Exadata database machine and Fusion Applications, while figuring out how to keep the company’s vast installed base happy and fending off competition from the likes of SAP.

Hurd spoke to IDG News Service on a variety of topics during an interview at the Collaborate user group conference in Denver. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

IDGNS: Oracle has said there are more than 400 customers of Fusion Applications, which became generally available in October 2011. Are you happy with the rate of Fusion Applications adoption?

Oracle’s Mark Hurd

Hurd: We sort of think of it in different categories. If we went to HCM [human capital management], we think we’re doing quite well. In terms of cloud, SaaS deals, we think we’re winning all deals internationally in HCM. We think we’re doing quite well now in the U.S. We’ve got a great team, our product is maturing, we’ve got lots of go-lives, references, etcetera. In sales automation, we have a tougher competitor. We’ve made a number of acquisitions in the social space. We’re integrating those into sales automation. We’re going to market later with that product than with HCM, and that’s the place where we’re really driving hard for more business. We don’t typically think of Fusion Apps as a single thing. We think of it more in these various pillars.

IDGNS: Oracle has made a long-term commitment to its other application product lines, such as Siebel and PeopleSoft, through the Applications Unlimited program. But is the ultimate goal to eventually move all customers onto Fusion Applications?

Hurd: We really haven’t announced any intention to phase out any context of our apps. Our view is that we’re going to have Siebel customers installed for a very long time. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of customers. Fusion is a modular solution, so you can now be a PeopleSoft customer and get access to recruiting, or get access to compensation workbench, or performance management. We are not pushing at all a rip-and-replace sort of strategy, we’re giving the customer ultimate choice. I think there will be a PeopleSoft track at Oracle OpenWorld 2020.

IDGNS: The big complaint about Oracle’s sales force has been that they are aggressive and call on customers from multiple angles. You mentioned in your Collaborate keynote that you’re trying to make life easier for customers. Can you elaborate on these plans?

Hurd: We’re hiring a lot more salespeople. Part of the reason for that is because we think we need more coverage. Second, we are making them more specialized. We feel like it’s important a salesperson knows a lot about HCM and feels comfortable calling on a head of [human resources], instead of a generic apps salesperson. We’ve now got [salespeople] supported with more technical people and we think that’s good for customers at the same time.

You said Oracle’s salespeople are aggressive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We don’t want people to be passive, we want them to be working with the customer and helping the customer achieve their objectives. One of the things we’ve done a lot at Oracle is change [sales] territories, and that sort of exacerbates things. We’re really culturally changing that. Next year we’ll be working really hard on getting continuity and consistency in the sales relationships. This is a big deal to us. We’re spending a lot of time on this.

IDGNS: SAP has made it clear it wants to take database market share away from Oracle with its HANA platform, especially by replacing Oracle’s database underneath SAP ERP (enterprise resource planning) implementations. Do you feel threatened by HANA?

Hurd: If I’m a CIO and I think of the things that will make me great, I don’t think [migrating to HANA] gets on the list. I think what gets on the list is, do I innovate? Do I help improve that customer experience for my company. I think there has to be a clearer mission than just, let’s replace this, let’s replace that. There needs to be some value-add. Are you going to take your core ERP and change out the infrastructure, with the risk that it falls apart, the risk that it doesn’t work? Our view has been for SAP, particularly, if they want to spend their time and money going after database, that’s great. I’ve heard people say they should probably have about the success they’ve had with their middleware strategy. [SAP has said HANA is the fastest growing product in its history.] There’s a lot of people that want to go do a bunch of stuff. If that’s their most innovative thing, good luck to them.

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