Oracle’s president Charles Phillips was in London today hosting a discussion on Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. Amongst a discussion that Dennis Howlett rightly categorizes as “interesting but not earth shattering” probably the most interesting news was that Oracle is in the process of setting up a dedicated Enterprise 2.0 sales force.
The new sales force will swing into action at the beginning of Oracle’s next financial year in June and will be tasked with turning customer interest in, and understanding of, the potential benefits of collaboration into working projects.
Duplicated across Oracle’s regions and reporting to the regional head, the Enterprise 2.0 sales team lead with the WebCenter platform for composite applications, as well as more traditional software products such as Oracle Portal and what was formerly Stellent content management software. Oracle’s Beehive next-generation collaboration platform will also be in the mix, although Charles was less forthcoming about the details of the new enterprise collaboration product.
What he did say is that the Enterprise 2.0 sales force will be made up of both BEA and Oracle sales and consulting experts and will make use of the Oracle Insight Program consulting service to analyze customers’ business processes to identify opportunities for the deployment of internal and external collaborative applications \.
The sales force will engage with both business and IT managers and will have an eye on enabling enterprise-wide strategic adoption of collaborative software, although most of the obvious opportunities are likely to be departmental or focused on specific applications – such as CRM and SCM.
Charles Phillips noted that there is customer interest in Enterprise 2.0, but that a lot of education is still required to turn that into deployments. He said the question he asked customers is “are there groups of people you’d like to collaborate with more easily?”
Given that most companies are interested in the views of their customers and uncovering unfulfilled demand, the answer to that is invariably “yes”, but then the conversation has to move on to identifying business processes that can make use of collaborative technologies and examining use cases. That will be the role of the new sales force.
With customer deployments thin on the ground Charles also shared some details of how Oracle is making use of collaborative technologies. The company is currently working on a new collaborative environment for training partners on its product stack, for example, in recognition that given Oracle’s rapid rate of acquisitions it is difficult and expensive for partners to keep up to date – and difficult and expensive for Oracle to keep its partners up to date.
On the developer side there’s Oracle Mix, which sees the company extending its collaboration with the developer and user communities beyond its user trade shows, and providing an environment where it can quickly respond to customer feedback. Oracle is also using collaborative technologies within its internal developer and sales organizations to make it easier for employees to identify experts and expertise with the organization.
Kathleen recently noted that social enterprise or Enterprise 2.0 software is not a market in and of itself and that the market for internal applications is likely to be dominated by IBM and Microsoft given their dominance in traditional collaboration software. If Oracle is to crack this market, it probably does need to be more proactive about taking the Enterprise 2.0 message to existing and potential customers.
If we assume that Enterprise 2.0 is not a market, then a dedicated Enterprise 2.0 sales force is probably not a long-term strategy. In terms of identifying new collaborative application opportunities the market and pointing customers in the right direction, it does make sense, however.
What did come across in the conversation is that this is designed to be a practical and pragmatic approach that will hand-hold customers into Enterprise 2.0 adoption, rather than just slapping some 2.0 t-shirts on the sales team and sending them off on the back of the bandwagon.