Announcer 1: This is the ERP Advisor.
Announcer 2: The ERP Advisor’s overview of Oracle.
Juliette: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. This summer, ERP Advisors Group is spotlighting the most prominent vendors in the ERP software market. Today we will be discussing Oracle's offerings and providing key insights into our experiences working with them. Shawn Windle is my guest for today, Shawn, thank you for joining me.
Shawn: You bet. Thank you for thanking me after doing so many sessions together to not being like “ehhh! It’s him again.”
Juliette: I love it. It's great. It's great. Oh my gosh, Oracle, to use your words, is one of the big boys in the software industry, one of the largest platforms in the world.
Shawn: That’s right.
Juliette: So, with that Shawn, let me ask you, can you tell us about Oracle and who they are and what they do?
Shawn: I can, I can. Again, as always, if I leave out key details, please tell us; please, please, please, good.
Juliette: We welcome any feedback.
Shawn: Seriously, it's the truth.
Juliette: For sure.
Shawn: So, Oracle is a really interesting company from an ERP perspective. Every ERP we talk about, we talk about the needs. You have got to know your needs, but the other thing we say is that every company is totally different. When you really understand how these vendors are set up and what their history is; that's where you start to realize, “oh, that's why they are that way.” Oracle was founded in 1977, so it’s been around for a long time. Not that long though as we have both birthdays.
Juliette: I think maybe a little bit older.
Shawn: I know, right? Exactly, but you know, they really started around the development of technology around databases. Now there may have even been other things that I'm not even aware of, but Oracle was really one of the main founders of the Relational Database Management System, the RDBMS.
Shawn: And that's Larry Ellison and a lot of other people for sure. But when you think about the underpinnings of what makes ERP, ERP, you could really go down a woohoo, a very, very, very, very deep rabbit hole. And we don't usually do that on these calls because like we talked about, we're focusing more on the real guys and gals out there that have to make these decisions. When you’ve been at IBM for 25 years and now you move over to another company like you know what you're doing. You don't need our calls. That's not who these calls are for, so if you’re from IBM for 25 years, you might just want to end it now.
Juliette: And been through several implementations and selections.
Shawn: That’s right.
Juliette: What have you.
Shawn: You made the decision, “oh my friends all work over there, I can make a few calls.” That's not who this is for. This is for a half-a-billion-dollar distributor who's out there like “oh my God, I've been on the same app for like 20 years and I have got to get off this thing; what do I do?” That's whom we're talking to. Good. But that being said, Oracle really is this concept of a relational database management system, which was sort of a new way of building enterprise applications out; a new way of storing business data over what was there before.
There were cards, there were flat files--like I programmed in *COBOL*, believe it or not--and all the data is just in this flat file, and it's just there, and the program reads it and has to do all this parsing and everything. The Relational database management system changed that, where we could point to data index at primary fields that I can quickly get out of my own realm very fast there. But the bottom line is when you think about Oracle, you should really think with these guys are pretty tech-savvy. They're all tech savvy, but Oracle's like bottom stack all the way up to “I'm going to enter my timesheet,” sort of tech-savvy, that whole thing. So, I mean along the way, like we talked about on some of our other calls, Oracle made some really strategic acquisitions from some other enterprise application vendors; that sort of helped them to build out their stack.
They've bought many other enterprise apps along the way. I believe I’ll have to check on this for sure, but like Micro Switch is one of the top point-of-sales systems. You can go to a restaurant, you see Oracle Micros, that's one of their solutions. They have great solutions around transportation management solutions that dispatch and trucks and running there. They've got other supply chain planning solutions or CRM solutions. And Oracle's really made major acquisitions in the middleware, technology, the architecture, and the hardware side as well as some storage companies and Exadata some other things that they've done over the years. And then you also have this Oracle Cloud infrastructure which also kind of focused too over the last 10-20 years. Where they're looking at cloud computing and network services and storage services, they really are trying to bring together a full stack of solutions.
Juliette: Full package, right?
Shawn: That's exactly right. So, I like that approach a lot, we'll get to the apps in a minute. I like it because, and I've said this on industry analyst calls before, enterprise apps are actually pretty dangerous to be in that business. Because wouldn't you love to be--if you were into this kind of stuff, which I know you're not-- a hacker that’s known as the one who brought down Oracle? So, you can imagine what these guys and gals are putting up with on a day-to-day basis in terms of attacks.
Shawn: So, the fact that they have full volition over the whole stack is actually a strategic competitor to these guys. So love that about Oracle, but on the ERP side, that's where we have some legacy systems, that we'll talk about, and then we have the newer systems going forward called Oracle Cloud Fusion ERP, Human Capital Management, which competes with Workday, and many other advanced planning with the Hyperion Financial Management solution; which I think is now called Oracle CPM, Oracle Corporate Performance Management used to be Hyperion which is one of the top planning solutions in the world. So, a really nice application stack, and when we're talking about Oracle, that's what we're talking about. It’s a lot, and there's NetSuite too, don't forget that.
Juliette: Right, exactly. Well, let me ask you this, what are Oracle's most prominent features? Can you talk to us a little bit about that? And then maybe I can also tag team it with what kind of industries is NetSuite a good fit for?
Shawn: So, with that, we’ll separate Oracle from its products right now. Oracle owns NetSuite which was a purchase made maybe five or six years ago.
Shawn: So, it's somewhat recent but not really, but it kind of is. You've got NetSuite, that's the key thing, which is really a global business unit, it's kind of a separate product. Then you have Oracle Cloud and that's a different product. And then Oracle Cloud has Oracle Cloud infrastructure; there are all the infrastructure tools there. And then there are the Oracle Cloud Enterprise applications, so Oracle Cloud Fusion ERP, I believe is the most recent name, the names have changed a little bit--it's a little bit like Microsoft.
So, there's an ERP solution. There's a Human Capital Management solution, like I mentioned, there are planning solutions. There are a bunch of other solutions that sort of fit under Oracle’s side. The thing with Oracle that you really have to understand is that Oracle of all of the customers, of all of the vendors that we work with, they're probably the ones that took the most responsibility to say “you know what? We have to get all these apps onto a new platform,” when cloud really became more prevalent. So, they looked at JD Edwards, they looked at PeopleSoft, they looked at Oracle e-business suite, which were the apps written on top of their relational database management system.
Juliette: Right, right.
Shawn: There are like 20 words that converged, bringing together all the concepts of bringing the apps onto one platform or fusing. That's where this concept of fusion came in, “how do we fuse all these assets from these different solutions into one that has the best of all these applications?” And Oracle has spent billions and billions and billions of dollars doing that. I would say they are near the end of that process for sure, and the products themselves that are coming out of that are pretty good.
So, to get back to your question around industries, the Oracle tools work across services, they work across manufacturing. Definitely across multi-company, large conglomerate businesses supporting the financials around multiple entities. Consolidation of those kinds of capabilities for sure, financial reporting compliance for public companies, great, great, great, great, great solutions for that for sure.
Juliette: OK. Well, can you talk to us from your experience working a lot with Oracle NetSuite, what are the different platforms they offer? And why does Oracle tend to win over their competitors?
Shawn: There’re a couple of reasons. There's definitely a sort of tech savviness to an Oracle deal. So, if we have a company that has Oracle people that are their database administrators, their custom apps run on Oracle infrastructure, they're definitely more inclined towards the Oracle platform, that's one reason. I think another reason is they have a killer install base. If you look at PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, e-business suite, or several other things they've purchased over the years, those customers don't necessarily want to take the risk of going to a brand-new platform sometimes, so they'll stay with Oracle which is good.
I do think that Oracle probably struggles, in just my own teeny tiny little opinion here--this is just Shawn Windle, is the execution in the market hasn't been as good as we'd like it to be. Just yesterday I talked to a client that we selected Oracle e-business suite for 10 years ago and now they're like “ok, we're ready to get more into the cloud and whatever else.” They started working with a representative, who then changed. And then they had another person that they were working with, but that person doesn't know anything about this particular company. When I talk to organizations, I hear that a lot. But we have found the road to the truth at Oracle, where we now know the people we need to talk to that can really substantiate what the products are.
Juliette: Right. That's right.
Shawn: And I'll tell you, inevitably the thing about Oracle that I love is that there are really great people that have been with the organization for a long time, and they really care about providing the right technology solution for their customers. So, I would say of all the vendors, I have to think about this one, I think Oracle is more aligned around values if you will. I mean not to say that SAP, or Workday, or the others aren't there, they are, but I just think Oracle as an organization has really done a good job.
“We know what's best for our customers, therefore we're going to make these strategic investments, and we're going to suck it up. And try to do the best we can with these technologies because someone got to do it.” They just bought Cerner, which is a huge healthcare company software solution, and they're doing that because the healthcare records are very fragmented, and somebody has to take the responsibility to get this patient information in a way that doctors and healthcare providers can be more efficient and effective with helping people.
Juliette: That's right.
Shawn: I'm sure there's money, and there's this and that, I get it for sure. But no one else is taking on that problem.
Shawn: So that's what I've seen from Oracle is that Larry Ellison, the owner, was also a pretty good investor. He was a very early investor, like THE investor in NetSuite.
Juliette: Right. Right, right.
Shawn: As well as in Salesforce and those two investments alone may have been enough for an individual to probably say “I'm out. I'm going to go.”
Juliette: He could have started it, made his money, and moved on but he stayed with it, right?
Shawn: He stayed with it. He could have said “hey, I'm moving to the beach,” now he didn't just move to the beach, he bought a beach. On an island, I think it's Molokai in Hawaii.
Juliette: I don't know.
Shawn: Oh yeah, he owns, I think it's Molokai.
Juliette: Oh, ok.
Shawn: Which good for him, because this guy, if you think about the technology, this is the thing that, I'm kind of getting a little bit off base, but it's good for our listeners to understand this. But it's not just about Oracle Relational database management system, the infrastructure, and then the apps, it's not just about that. It's the ecosystem that's around these organizations and it’s the people, that have learned the skills and are there to implement and do all the stuff. And Microsoft is the same. SAP is the same too. But from an Oracle perspective, I was definitely there, so I have insights.
Juliette: You know first-hand.
Shawn: I know first-hand. But if you think about the millions of people that this team of Larry Ellison and his partners, I think maybe I'm kind of looking here quickly, Bob Minor, Ed Oates, etc. I don't know how long those guys were there if they're still there, but we certainly know Larry is still there. That guy has ridden it out since 1977 and he's still the head. I think about that one person and all the people that he's shared the power with, including me personally. In our organization, we don't make any money from them now, but we still look to their solutions. I think of all the people at NetSuite. I think of all the people I knew who do ABS. I think of all the people who did PeopleSoft. I think of all the clients that implemented JD Edwards and how JD Edwards ran their businesses, that's what I love about Oracle. And I think you could again say that about all the vendors for sure, but just for me personally, I've seen that I've experienced it and that's what I do like about this company is they're willing to take on these challenges because they know it out of duty, in the technology space someone got to do it.
Juliette: That’s right.
Shawn: SAP does it too. Microsoft does it too. But it just has been my experience that Oracle will take a really hard problem that, sure there's going to be return in it because that is the thing. When you're dealing with Oracle and their salespeople, there is a reputation in the market that they're pretty tight in financial terms. They're going to put the screws to yeah. Yeah, they are. And sometimes I'm like “oh my god, guys, come on, you got to be a little more flexible here.” We had a client like that recently, but you know, I at least know where Oracle’s coming from, they're trying to make money, they're trying to take healthcare and make it something that is better for people, and that.
Juliette: Well, a client knows what they're getting with NetSuite.
Shawn: Exactly. They know what they're getting with Oracle Cloud Fusion ERP. They know what they're getting when they work with Oracle, and some of our clients have literally said “I'm not doing business with Oracle.” I'm like “ok, fine.” I'm still going to make sure that they don't offer something that you really, really need in place. Ok, they don't, fine we'll go on to somebody else. To be honest with you--today's a very honest day by the way.
Juliette: Yes, I appreciate that.
Shawn: Yeah, I can think of one CFO right now he was like “yeah, we're willing to look at anything, except for Oracle.”
Juliette: Preemptively, they were like “we don't even want to look at that.”
Shawn: When you dig under the covers a little bit “yeah, well, we did have a contract for 500 users, and they did an audit of us, and we had 1000 users. And then they gave me a big bill and I didn't really want to pay the bill.” Oh, ok. So, there are sides to everything, but that's the thing, Oracle's out to maximize return for shareholders and so they are going to do those audits and they are going to say “hey! You’re only supposed to do this. You’re doing that, you owe me and we’re going to go for it.”
Juliette: Makes sense, and if a client signed a contract and it's in there.
Shawn: That's right. That's right. Now, could they be nicer about it? Could they be a little more like, “hey, let's collaborate and maybe we'll split it in half?”
Juliette: Of course, of course.
Shawn: I don't know, sure but at the end of the day, you know what you're getting with Oracle. That's the key.
Juliette: Right. Well, you touched on this a little bit, and can you maybe expand more on what a client should consider or expect from NetSuite's pricing structure? Could you talk to us a little bit about that?
Shawn: Yeah, yeah. Again, you've got Oracle and then you have each of its products, one of them being NetSuite, which has a pricing methodology. I think we talked about that a little earlier this summer too. We went into a whole in-depth on that. It's users and modules, and then some technology stuff equals your full price right over a certain amount of time and then there's an annual cost. Pretty straightforward; same model with the Oracle Cloud Fusion ERP with HCM that pricing is very much driven on what you're actually licensing. It's a very evident, clear, what the pricing model is based off of. So super straightforward.
Shawn: Now recognizing that pricing is list price, that there are negotiations you can do there, for sure, up to a certain point. They're not going to give it away for free unless you're like a nonprofit, and then they usually do have nonprofit pricing where they give you free licenses up to a certain amount, and then you have to purchase more; it's very evident and clear what their license model is.
Juliette: What if a client chooses NetSuite but doesn't need all the offerings that Oracle has to offer? All the offerings Oracle has to offer, can they negotiate their price based on what they would use, or do they buy what they buy?
Shawn: Yes, to both. They buy what they buy and there are negotiations. So, if I think of all our deals that we've negotiated, I think Oracle is willing to look at negotiations. I mean, there are definitely set rules and policies, but at the same time there is a situation where maybe a certain client needs a portion of the application, but they get other stuff too. We've seen that Oracle is willing to say, "ok let's figure this out where it makes sense for you.”
Shawn: Are they going to do that every time? Absolutely not. I don't want to set that as a policy, but I do just want to say that because it's important for people listening to this, as they're talking to Oracle, they need to be clear, “here's what I need.” Don't just say, “oh my God, the pricing is terrible.” Well, the price is terrible because you're probably buying something you don't need.
Juliette: That's right.
Shawn: If it's what you needed, you'd look at and say, “oh, I guess that's what it is. Oh, but I don't need this, this, and this,” tell them and be willing to share that in a way that's constructive. Don’t shove it down their throat.
Juliette: Right, right.
Shawn: And then I think they're willing to at least look at that and see if there's something they can do. They might not be able to, but at least have that discussion.
Juliette: Ok, well, thank you for sharing that, and let me ask you this, from your experience what is the partner ecosystem with Oracle, what does that look like?
Shawn: The ecosystem for Oracle is diverse. Unlike some of the other calls we've done recently, there are a lot of partners around the Oracle ecosystem, tons and tons and tons like Oracle World is the conference that Oracle puts on every year. It used to be in San Francisco--I'm sure it'll still be in San Francisco when that opens up if it hasn't already--and they'll be 10 - 20,000 people there. They kind of take over downtown and put carpets out, it's pretty cool, actually, it's super cool, especially when the weather is nice.
Shawn: That's the thing about San Francisco, you have got to be careful of the weather.
Juliette: That’s right, you never know.
Shawn: But there are partners that are all the way down at the database layer, at the data center, cloud services layer at storage. There's the infrastructure then there are the apps, and there are lots of different apps of partners out there that focus in micro verticals, not just a vertical or an industry, but a micro-vertical. So, in that organization, Oracle has probably the richest partner ecosystem of any ERP vendor, by far--I know that I can say that and stand up and be proud with that because that’s true.
Shawn: The other vendors have different models. SAP has a ton of partners too, but they tend towards bigger kinds of organizations. There're some midsized partners, but then there are bigger ones. So, Oracle has bigger midsize partners, also teeny tiny. There might be a firm of five people that all they do is one tiny thing, and then there are firms like Tata Consulting Services or PWC, that I think we saw recently one of the vendors has 10,000 people in their Oracle practice in one of the Big Three management consulting firms.
Juliette: Oh, wow.
Shawn: Tons of people in just that one area, and just that one thing. So yes, there are lots of partners for sure.
Juliette: Well Shawn, I think Oracle is huge like I said.
Shawn: Huge. Mammoth.
Juliette: We could continue this conversation for a long time, or we'll have to do another series, but thank you for, as always, sharing all your experience and knowledge with us.
Shawn: Glad to do it.
Juliette: It means a lot.
Shawn: Thank you.
Juliette: Thanks for joining me. Continue to be on the lookout for this limited multi-part series that will help advance your ERP knowledge and allow you to take advantage of over a century of combined ERP experience from our expert consultants here at EAG. Thank you again for joining us. We'll see you next time.