At Oracle’s fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Safra Catz heralded a new dawn for the vendor’s 45-year-old culture whereby customer success takes centre stage.
Again, this message was reiterated by Catz during her keynote speech at last week’s Oracle CloudWorld conference, but details as to how exactly this would play out for partners and customers remained vague.
Thankfully, Gary Miller, Oracle EVP of Customer Success Services, was on hand to explain the substance behind that much-used industry phrase ‘customer success’.
“The way I see it, customer success is getting the real value out of an Oracle investment, whether that’s on-premises or cloud,” he said. “Customers know what they want to achieve and then either with us or a partner, they get there quickly and get there right the first time. It’s not just the end result, it’s the mindset of the journey.”
Vague as the phrase sounds – indeed no vendor would ever promote customer failure – Oracle has clearly put its money and resources where its mouth is, with the channel playing a key focus.
Miller’s customer success team blends teams from consulting, partner success, customer success and Oracle University which aims to deliver projects under the maxim: ‘co-sell, co-deliver".
“We put it all together, but we did it consciously so we wouldn’t compete with partners,” Miller explained. “We don’t bid on big implementation. But we looked at what’s needed in-market and there is not enough Oracle Cloud implementation capacity. We’re working with partners on training and certifying – the number of certified consultants has doubled in nine months.”
Key to customer success, according to Miller, is successful implementations of Oracle technology. Part of ensuring that requires much deeper conversations between partners and Miller’s team.
“A year ago, my team did not even talk to partners at a strategic level,” Miller said. “But with all the big systems integrators now, we have an engagement model. We all agree we have to get projects right the first time. Let’s not re-do anything; the partner may not even be re-doing anything; they may be kicked out.”
Another change is a new project methodology, which contains four steps in this exact order: educate, innovate, implement and operate. Previously, said Miller, partners would “go straight to implement” and “take everything they had in the attic” rather than take time to help customers fully understand what their cloud transformation should be.
One of partners’ first big questions about Oracle’s new focus will be around how will their ‘successes’ be measured. Given the cloud-driven and consumption-based shift across the IT industry, this is understandable.
According to Miller, his team’s partner success managers meet every month and examine a partner scorecard that looks at revenue, projects, renewal rates. Part of this also examines whether the partner implements everything the customer bought.
In addition, there is the Oracle Cloud Catalyst Program, an internal scheme that’s run through Oracle Cloud University.
Explaining the scheme, Miller said: “Partners put in US$10-US$15 million and with that they get a bunch of things. If they register a successful deal with Oracle, then they get money back. If they sell and resell the cloud, they get certain things back.”
A different model of success also applies to his own team. “I have to tell my team ‘It’s partner first’,” he said. “The customer success managers (CSM) receive their bonuses based on consumption and renewals. They’re incentivised to work well with partners because if the partner cancels one year later, it hurts them. “
On a technology delivery front, Oracle has also made several changes that will affect partners. One of these is the construction of a digital platform that’s designed to automate the “whole lifecycle” of Oracle’s technology. Built in conjunction with the likes of Oracle’s biggest partners, Deloitte, PWC, DXC Technology, the platform will allegedly hand over Oracle’s own intellectual property to help deliver projects.
“Don’t waste your time coding and configuring because our platform can do that for you,” Miller said. “That helps them with the demos, the test and development environment. They can do those in days instead of six months.
“In the past, [partners] would have said we charge those six months. But, if they can get all this done, then they can add more value somewhere else. It’s a big shift, but it’s a way we can do things together. Partners are responding very well.”
Miller also claimed that Oracle would be on hand to help when partner “gets stuck on the job” and requires technical help. They will also be given free Oracle Cloud Infrastructure training and technical account managers.
“We’re giving the partners stuff we never gave them before,” Miller added. “Oracle is a different Oracle. We are giving them our IP and we are here to support them. The co-sell/co-deliver strategy means we have to work together.
“We are working on partner engagement: we’re looking at where they want to focus; which industries and countries and what are their skills. It’s a two-way street: partners have to trust us, but they see we are changing.”
Looking at whether Oracle’s idea of customer success was lacking in the past, Miller reiterated: “We have always cared about customers. We had customers buying SaaS, ERP, OCI or database, and then they would expand. They were going to all different places, but they would email Safra and say: ‘We want one Oracle’.
“Part of the cloud transformation is to get that aligned and that means engaging the C-suite and have those conversations around the whole table to find a common goal.”
Eleanor Dickinson attended Oracle CloudWorld in Las Vegas as a guest of Oracle.