Oracle Acquires RightNow – First Take

Earlier today I distributed a note to my clients and research distribution list with details on this event.  I am posting below two excerpts that summarize the key points made.

(…) this is not a cloud-focused architecture and not the solution that Oracle should’ve sought for their first application destined to the recently-launched “Oracle Public Cloud”.  The amount of effort, time, and resources to either integrate RightNow into Fusion or to make it more open and public to fit better in their cloud model is not going to be trivial.

While most of my colleagues saw this as a way for Oracle to offer a cloud-based customer service solution, I cannot concur with them.   I may be a little too strict on my definitions, but RightNow is not a cloud-based vendor.

There are also the few people who thought this was a move by Oracle to counter the acquisition of Assistly.  Far be it from it (and if it was, it failed miserably) as they play in different sub-markets and the cloud market is not yet sufficient interesting for Oracle and their clients.

Oracle should’ve acquired a smaller, but more robust and truer cloud offering that would allow them not to only to compete today but also be prepared for a better solution tomorrow.  While RightNow can deliver a fairly competitive solution for the complex contact center market today, their solution is very dated (more so than Salesforce) and not a true representation of a cloud-based solution; at best a hosted-application.

This deal signals a very healthy customer service market, for acquisitions, and we expect to see more acquisitions happening rather rapidly – especially by SAP and potentially Microsoft.  In addition, consolidation moves between vendors would not be surprising either – as vendors left behind are going to want to grow much faster than organic growth will allow them.

Please let me know any questions you may have.

Knowledge In Use Is The New Paradigm for KM

Back in July, yes – I remember that far back, I wrote a piece on new paradigms on Knowledge Management.  It followed the acquisition of Inquira by Oracle, and was an expansion on the short piece I had written on my blog about it.

I wrote that as an article for CRM Magazine (I was not sure when it was going to publish – but it just did, check it).  I wanted to expand the conversation on where knowledge is going and what we need to do different. I want to explore further, and will in my agenda for 2012+, the idea of knowledge in use versus stored knowledge.

Since not all of you get around to Twitter these days, I wanted to bring this to your attention.  Would love your comments either there or here.

Thanks for reading.

Fly Fishing in Facebook

When I was 19 I took a fly-fishing trip with my brother and a couple of friends.  It was a fantastic experience, Argentina is one of the top places in the world for fly-fishing: they don’t stock fish, all wild and they monitor very closely to ensure it remains that way.

One of the places we went to was one of the most famous points down there (sorry, cannot remember the name) where humongous, old brown trout were known to be.  Brown trout are more formidable adversaries than most other – they fight very, very hard.  Fishing in Argentina is no-barbs, catch-and-release; these fish provide a great challenge.

Needless to say, there were lots of anglers — sorry, fly-fishermen around.

We were surrounding the most typical spots where you’d expect to find these fine animals: deep holes, end of the rapids, under the shade, and many others.  None of us were getting anywhere – I mean, some people captured small fish here and there but none of the rumored “monsters” made their appearance.  We spent three days there, trying different things.  Kept getting small fish, but also wanted to see the large ones that the place was famous for.

As we were getting ready to leave on the third day, this older gentleman came in.  He had a very old rod, had made his own flies (we had the ones that we bought at the store, of course, as did most other people there), and went straight to a spot none of us had even attempted to fish before.  A very quiet part of the river where we were sure there were no fish.

He tied his home-made fly to his old rod and using an unconventional technique began to fish.  Of course, we dismissed him – I mean, we had the best rods, flies, and we knew what we were doing: the guides told us where to go, which flies to use, what to do – certainly he could not get better results.  We proceeded to continue packing and storing our gear and almost as we were going to leave, he caught one of the monsters.  It was an incredible show – lasted almost 40 minutes and ended up with a tired fish who lived to count the tale, and an elder gentleman who left and went back home.

Curious, as probably anyone else would’ve been by now, we asked the locals who that person was and how did he get so lucky.  Turns out the gentleman had been fishing that spot for over 30 years (give or take) and knew the fish, what they ate, how to attract them, how to hook them, and how to win the battles better than the “young-ums” with the expensive equipment.

He was not doing it because it was fashionable, he was doing because it was core to who he was, what he liked to do.

And, here it comes, the same applies to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and the many other public social networks.  It seems of late that we are all “young-ums” trying to get the big fish in the social networks, but none of us got a clue what we are doing.  We have the best intentions, the “best” guides (social media gurus), the best  rods (tools for managing Facebook and Twitter presence), and the best — well, the best of everything.  Yet, none of us can say with certainty that we got what we wanted (well, probably almost none can say what they wanted in the first place – right?)

It is time to step aside, let the older gentleman with the beat-up equipment come in, and watch him do his magic.  One thing he knows for certain: the new equipment and more energy won’t mean a thing at the end of the day.

It is knowing where the customers are, what they are doing, and how we can give them what they need in exchange for anything we want back.  Let him show us and lets stop pretending we know something we know very little about.

I mean, fish – n0t customers, fish.

Oracle Open World 2011 – Initial Thoughts

I did not attend Oracle Open World this year, but don’t let that stop you from reading this.

I have been tracking Oracle for a long time, read most of what has been published about the show, belong to sufficient related communities and know many people who were there that I can form a very educated initial thought as to what happened.

I will leave the mommy-and-daddy-are-getting-a-divorce fight between Larry and Marc aside, as the nice circus act it was; I am not an entertainment reporter and have no interest in it, nor do I see conspiracies or meanings beyond what it was: business.  Kudos to both for making the most of it, but has no consequences or meaning beyond the circus it was.

Back to Oracle Open World – I hope you don’t expect too much analysis right now.  There was so much announced and shown that it will take a few weeks to process it.  Same as with Salesforce, which I am just about done with the analysis of the announcements and their position.  It is easy to repeat what was said, but takes time to process, to follow-up with the right people to understand it better and to generate valid opinions.  That will come, with time, as it will for Dreamforce. To me, it is not about who is first but who adds value.  I’d like to be in the second group.

Let me summarize the announcements and first reactions. Four things I got from this show:

  1. Hardware is the way for the future of Oracle (together with software, of course).  Lots of emphasis on hardware and appliances, something I somewhat get excited about (I am a geek after all) and the specs do make my mouth water.  I don’t agree that the solution to the world’s data  and analytics problems  are solved by throwing “bigger iron” at it.  We solve data problems by being smarter, not by sheer brunt.  While I like the hardware specs, I think there is too  much emphasis on it — on all sides.  By contrast, I spent some time at Teradata Partners this week as well, and it was more about the smarts of the software than the hardware underneath – and that sounded so much better to me, closer to reality for the large majority of the market.
  2. Fusion Apps are ready to go.  There are some 100 modules announced as GA at the show, including CRM.  Good grief it took far longer than most ever thought.  I remember forecasting at most 4-5 years for first version back in the days of the acquisition of PeopleSoft, but could not foresee at that time it would take this long.  Six+ years later, the framework and the basic modules are ready. Initial review are not the kindest, but having the framework ready is more important, IMO, than first-generation applications.  I will spend more time diving through the framework, but if it delivers as expected, it will be very interesting to see how it gets combined with the Cloud and Social Network and deployed.
  3. Oracle Public Cloud was announced.  Lots of buzz and cool words thrown around including multi-tenancy, elasticity, True Cloud, and many more.  This is the one that will take longer to figure out as it was sneaked-in (few people knew before hand what was actually being done) and it is mostly on paper right now (according to my sources, “sometime next year” is the release date. Unfortunately, that sounds a lot like “fifty percent done”).  I am glad to see a good story being told by Oracle  .  If you have questions between now and then about what is being said, feel free to contact me.  This is the one that is going to take the longest, and curiously – not the one that offers the most hope for Oracle in my view (that’d be Fusion for now).
  4. Oracle Social Network was also announced.  There is so little to say about this, that the demo was a video instead of the product.  A few people I respect saw it, and the verdict is — not quite ready for primetime.  Also available next year – sometime.  I am glad that Oracle decided to move forward with a lot of the early work they did around Social (they were one of the first companies to put a beachhead in that world, but sadly not much more since then).  I just want to deep dive on this one.  If the promise of social being part of PaaS comes to be, it could be a major coup for them in the Enterprise Software world (especially if they later couple it with Fusion).

I am quite excited for Fusion (for their customer base and their core market) and encouraged that they are finally putting an ante on Cloud and Social – but would not expect too much in either (not their core product).  I think this show was a bullseye for where Oracle is and is aiming to be in the market.

The silly competition with SAP and Salesforce is not as relevant as the battle of the egos would lead us to believe.  Look at the core revenue sources for each of them to understand that the show is not much more than that.  Any vendor that has sufficient smarts to stay relevant knows that they need to focus on their core, unique market that brings in that 60-70% of revenues (and probably larger percentage of the profits) as well as try to carve new markets from the remaining, competitive,  30-40%.  We tend to focus too much on that smaller part of the market where we should analyze vendors’ performance in that larger swath — which is obviously not as glamorous or interesting.

But I digress.

There is so much more work to do understanding and diving behind the announcements and getting those two market swaths to a better light. I Would not want to simply repeat what was said.  Look for some interesting analysis to start coming out next week but not from me yet — it will take me a few more weeks (including a visit to Redwood Shores I was promised).

Thanks for reading.

The Social Wars Trilogy

I must admit I am not very good at giving credit where Twitter is due.

I click on links from my many Tweetdeck columns simply to open articles or blogs and never remember who recommended it in the first place.  For that, and for not knowing who pointed me to this trilogy, my apologies to all who feel slighted – just my foolish manners of work.

Having said that, thanks much to whoever pointed me to this trilogy.  In a three-parts series, Mr. Venkatesh Rao offers a very interesting view of the changing world of Enterprise Software and how we should adapt to the new way of working.  I wanted to highlight it here so it would not be lost in the myriad of tabs you all have open in your browser.

Below are the three links, enjoy.


Speech IVR With Artificial Intelligence Is The Bees Knees

A short time ago I was approached by a friend of mine who is working with a startup called SmartAction.  He asked me if I was interested in a demo of how they are building  a new way to do Customer Service.

You know me, I am sucker for those things – so of course I said yes.

SmartAction has taken a different approach to solving the problems of Speech IVR: using Artificial Intelligence technology to make the navigation faster and more accurate.  If you ever used or implemented Speech IVR you  know that navigation is not the best feature they have – for some reason most of the providers think that simply replacing key punches with similar words is sufficient (hint: it is not).  Even if you get past speech recognition (which by itself can be troublesome when you are fast-speaking analyst with an Argentinian accent), understanding what you spoke is limited to words and simple phrases (what we call guided speech recognition – if I know the words you will say, I can match them faster).  If you stray from them, the system can probably recognize the words you spoke, but not the meaning. I remember one of the first implementations I used of this technology, I tried to buy an airline ticket and took almost 90 minutes to complete (the main problem came down to the credit information, street address and city – and, yes I completed the purchase in the name of research. You are welcome.).

This is the problem that SmartAction set out to improve.  An early startup, their software is quite impressive in the ability to understand Natural Language Processing (NLP) and guide an IVR script with it.  The recognition rates I noted were far above what I had seen before for natural language.  I was sold, there is something there.

Following the meeting they asked me if I could find research to show that Speech IVR and Artificial Intelligence was superior to standard IVR.  I thought it would be very interesting, agreed to do it, and they sponsored the research project.  I focused on the ability to retain a customer in an IVR session (as opposed to “escaping via zero” to an agent) since that is – to me – the measure of a good IVR solution.

I found some very interesting things in that research: did you know you could save almost 60% in time using Speech IVR with Artificial Intelligence? Did you know you can save almost 20% in costs? Did you know that 88% of people hate IVR (well, you probably knew that – but now you have the citation)?

Did you know you can read more about it in the White Paper I wrote (Our Success Rates Have Changed, Listen Carefully)?

If you don’t like reading, did you know you can sign up for the webinar on October 20th and you can hear me talk about it?

There is good information in there – download the paper, sign-up for the webinar… but whatever you do, don’t press (or say) zero.  No one is here to take your call right now.