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Updated: 2 hours 10 min ago

Tackling Strategic CIO Issues of 2015 by Oracle's CIO, Mark Sunday

Wed, 2015-03-25 12:50

Technology evangelist Ben Kepes states in a recent Forbes article that “cloud will be the default way of delivering technology in the future.” And who better to lead a company’s cloud strategy than the CIO, who has direct access to the business and the C-suite?

Because of their pivotal positions, CIOs are in both the enterprise spotlight and the media spotlight. In February, Oracle’s Bob Evans published his "Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2015." As a follow on, Oracle’s Mark Sunday writes a how-to article for CIOs. As Oracle’s CIO, he writes from a place of experience, credibility, and success.

Sunday organizes his article around 11 roles that CIOs need to take on—or hats they need to wear to face the challenges and issues of 2015. One is “The Digital Disruptor.” He passionately believes CIOs need to be out in front of the fundamental shifts in business that are being caused by big data, cloud, mobile, and social. Second, he advises CIOs to be the BFF of the CMO, CFO, and CHRO, who are new strategic stakeholders. Another recommendation is that IT be an enabler of customer loyalty by providing employees with the technology and tools to interact with a broader community and protect their company's brand.

Sunday's hefty list shows us how many aspects of an enterprise are dependent on IT—which ultimately rest on the CIO’s shoulders. Their jobs hold incredible challenges and responsibility. You might want to use this post from Oracle's CIO to connect with some of your customer CIOs.

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“Speeding up the innovation cycle with SaaS” by Steve Miranda

Tue, 2015-03-24 14:56

It wasn’t so very long ago that cloud discussions, and department pleas to adopt cloud, raised the hackles of IT departments. IT professionals ranged from being wary to resistant. Now, in many companies, the foe has turned into a friend. In this post, EVP Steve Miranda (pictured left) takes a crack at answering the question: “How did IT became a friend of cloud?”

Miranda gives a brief, but concise, explanation of the traditional on-premises process, which made it very difficult for IT departments to deliver what the business was asking for. On the flip side, the power of the cloud lands vendors and IT departments in a place that is much more sustainable, more efficient, and more relevant. Miranda says, “In essence, the cloud has made it possible for vendors and software providers to deliver a better product to customers faster and at a lower price.” That’s good news for IT departments.

Read the article: Speeding up the innovation cycle with SaaS


Smart HR IT Brings New Insights to Age-Old HR Challenges

Tue, 2015-03-10 14:44

A Guest Post written by Oracle's Aaron Lazenby, Profit Magazine

In the age of digital disruption, there’s plenty to distract executives from their core mission. Chief human resource officers (CHROs) are no exception; new technologies (such as big data analytics, social recruiting, and gamification) have the potential to transform the people function. But executives have to balance the adoption of new technologies with the demands of maintaining the current business.

For Joyce Westerdahl, (pictured left), CHRO at Oracle, the key is keeping her eye on the business. “Stay absolutely focused on what’s happening at your own company and in your own industry,” she says. Here, Westerdahl talks to Profit about how she assesses her department’s technology needs, how she approaches new IT trends, and what HR managers should be paying attention to in order to succeed.

Lazenby (pictured right): What drives Oracle’s talent management strategy?

Westerdahl: Our main focus is to make Oracle a destination employer. We want this to be a place where people can grow their careers; a place where employees are challenged but have the support they need to get the job done. And we want our employees to stay—for the sake of their own professional development and the growth of the company. Having the right technology in place—to automate processes, improve the employee experience, and add new insights—is a key part of how we make that possible.

But when I look at the talent management challenges we face at Oracle, for example, I don’t think things have changed that much in the past 20 years. There has always been a war for talent. Even during tough recessions, we are always competing for top talent. We are always looking for better ways to recruit the right people. What have changed are the tools we have at our disposal for finding and engaging them.

Lazenby: How has Oracle’s HR strategy influenced the products the company creates?

Westerdahl: Our acquisition journey has created an incredibly diverse environment, from both a talent and a technology perspective. When we add companies with different business models, platforms, and cultures to the Oracle family, we have a unique opportunity to learn about other businesses from the inside and translate that into new product functionality. Integrating and onboarding acquired employees and transitioning the HR processes and technologies becomes a stream of knowledge, best practices, and requirements that feeds into product development.

When I look back at two of our key acquisitions—PeopleSoft in 2005 and Sun in 2010—I am reminded of how big a difference technology can make in HR’s ability to support a robust acquisition strategy. The offer process is complex and critical in an acquisition. With PeopleSoft, we created 7,500 US paper offer packages for new employees and loaded them onto FedEx trucks for distribution. It was a resource- and time-intensive, manual process that took three weeks. Five years later when we acquired Sun, we used technology to automate the process and it took less than an hour to generate more than 11,000 US offers. We were able to generate and distribute offers and receive acceptances in about a week.

Lazenby: How are trends like big data affecting HR?

Westerdahl: The volume of new HR data has become astounding over the past couple years. Being able to harness and leverage data is critical to HR’s ability to add strategic business value. When we develop an analytics strategy for Oracle HR, we start with a strategy around what the business wants to achieve. Then we translate that into data requirements and measures: What do we need to know? How can we measure our efforts to make sure we’re on track? What are the key trend indicators, and what is the process for translating the data into actionable HR efforts?

There is tremendous value in being able to use data to improve the employee experience so we can attract, engage, and develop the right talent for our business. For example, an employee engagement survey we conducted revealed that new employees were having a hard time onboarding at Oracle. We could also see this reflected in data that measures time to productivity for new employees. But with the survey, we had another measure that showed us not only the productivity aspect but also the employee frustration aspect. It’s a richer view of the problem, which helped us shape the right solution.

Lazenby: What do you think HR managers can learn from Oracle’s experience?

Westerdahl: I think the challenges HR faces are mostly the same as they always have been: how to recruit the best talent, how to onboard recruits when we are growing quickly, and how to retain and develop employees. But now technology supports new ways of doing things, so you have to decide how to use IT to solve these age-old HR challenges within your business. The key is turning things upside down and viewing things from a fresh perspective. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Social Insights from the #LeadOnCA Watermark Conference

Thu, 2015-03-05 18:30

A Guest Post by Meg Bear,  (pictured left), Group Vice President, Oracle Social Cloud Platform

Tuesday, February 24 was an inspiring day of thoughtful discussion at the Lead On Silicon Valley Watermark Conference for Women. Over 5,000 people gathered to discuss the issues that matter the most to women in the workforce. I am proud that Oracle sponsored this fantastic event to support the development of women leaders.

These discussions didn’t just happen in person – they carried over to the digital realm as well. Using the Oracle Social Cloud Social Relationship Manager (SRM) platform, we learned that over 6.6 million people were reached via #LeadOnCA. Hillary Clinton was the most talked about speaker (1,922 mentions) and the main theme of the conference was “Women and Men” which encompassed messages about gender equality, and the glass ceiling.

Oracle Social Cloud SRM also provided real time social media visualization of #LeadOnCA commentary across social networks.


Oracle Social Cloud’s data visualization of social media posts about #LeadOnCA

As people posted about #LeadOnCA on social networks, our advanced listening technology filtered these into a beautiful visual displays throughout the conference. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and our expertise allows participants to see what people are talking about in real time.

I’d like to thank Watermark for putting on this event and for their mission to increase representation of women in leadership roles. It is exciting to think of what the future holds for empowered women.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Modern Sales Experience

Tue, 2015-03-03 18:47

A Guest Post by Emily Creech, Oracle Product Marketing Manager

Sales organizations are under continuous pressure to meet targets and deliver results, but the environment has changed – customers are more informed, they have more choices, and their expectations are higher than ever.  This is why we’ve compiled the best and brightest for our Modern Sales Experience Conference taking place March 31 – April 2, 2015, and we couldn’t be more excited! The Modern Sales Experience brings together a prestigious group of thought leaders and innovative companies who are leading the industry and making impactful changes in the areas of Sales and Customer Experience.

You won’t want to miss this event – but in case you’re on the fence and need a few more reasons to attend, we’ve compiled our top 10 reasons. Here they are… in no particular order:

1. Hear from the Experts. This is an extraordinary opportunity to hear from a number of experts. Gartner Research, Constellation Research, Ventana Research, Deloitte Digital, Nucleus Research, Altimeter Group, and G2 Crowd will all be sharing their unique perspectives.

2. Participate in Engaging Workshops.  Choose from a number of workshop sessions and interact with others who are also exploring ways to meet the challenges of customer experience. Workshops include Next-Generation Analytics, Big Data to Inform Smarter Sales, User Adoption Tactics, and Leveraging Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) to build better Customer Experiences.

3. Rock out with OneRepublic.  OneRepublic, the GRAMMY award winners you may know for their hit “Counting Stars,” will host a private concert for event attendees on Wednesday evening.  

4. Listen to Guest Keynote, Daniel Pink. Daniel Pink, bestselling author and current host of National Geographic's "Crowd Control," will share insights on human behavior, what drives and motivates people, and how a deeper knowledge of the habits, motivations, and expectations of your customers can translate into outstanding business benefits. Daniel Pink is an entertaining speaker. Don’t believe us? Just check out his TED Talk.

5. Learn About the Future of CX. Hosted by Rebecca Wettemann from Nucleus Research, a panel will be dedicated to the future with those who are already living it and helping to shape it. A panel of UNLV Lee Business School students will chat with us about their ideas, their opinions, and frank advice on how to accommodate the next generation.

6. Discover Complete Solutions. Product experts will outline considerations, best practices, and real-world solutions for your customer experience business challenges. Topics include Adding Marketing to the Mix, Integrating Sales with Configure-Price-Quote, and How CPQ and Commerce can Lead to Optimal Results.

7. Hear from leading CX Innovators. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from some of the world’s brightest and most innovative companies including LinkedIn, Visa, Presence, and more. This select group will share what goes into a modern sales strategy, how they approach customer engagement, how they measure engagement and their sales teams, and what technologies and philosophies help to craft a modern CX strategy.

8. Network with Fellow Sales Leaders.  Networking opportunities abound at this event from meeting other attendees and industry influencers during receptions to the late-night Customer Appreciation Event.

9. Mingle with Celebrities. Enjoy dinner and drinks while hanging out with celebrities (as depicted as depicted in wax sculptures) at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.

10. Las Vegas.  Need we say more?  The Modern Sales Experience conference will be held at the five-diamond Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino.  

Will we see you there?  More information and a detailed agenda can be found on the Modern Customer Experience Conferences Website. Don't delay registering! Register here.

Forecast for SXSW: Mostly Cloudy with 100% Chance of Innovative Ideas

Wed, 2015-02-25 12:23

South by Southwest (SXSW) is just around the corner, and we can’t wait for the five nerdiest days on the calendar. Thirty thousand of the top influencers from advertising, technology, marketing, and social media will converge on Austin, Texas, to swap ideas and build relationships.

Oracle’s lineup this year is all about the cloud. We have a lot of clouds at Oracle, and each one is designed to make our customers' lives easier. SXSW is a great opportunity to highlight our integrated solutions to these influencers. As Mark Hurd said, “We integrate the products for the customer so the customer doesn’t have to do it. We optimize the software for the solution, and it’s delivered us strong growth."

The best part? We're only getting better at what we do in the cloud. We have a great lineup of customer speakers sharing our stages to talk about their Oracle journeys plus a fun cocktail event again this year. So check out what we have planned for you at SXSW.

Friday, March 13th: A Full Day of Oracle Intelligence

Come by the Radisson Hotel at 111 Cesar Chavez and Congress to see a great day of presentations with Oracle customers. Also check out our Social Intelligence Center to follow all of the #SXSW online buzz.

Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15:  The Accelerator at the SXSW Startup Village

For the second year in a row, we are the premier sponsor of the Accelerator, a competition of the top 48 most innovative ideas, technologies, products, and/or services. This competition will take place on Saturday and Sunday through a series of live demonstrations at the SXSW Startup Village. Don’t miss this!

Sunday, March 15th: More Great Sessions

Tuesday, March 17th: One Final Session Before Heading Home

If you aren’t able to go to Austin, follow the conversation on social:

  • Oracle (@Oracle)
  • Oracle Social Cloud (@OracleSocial)
  • Oracle Marketing Cloud (@OracleMktgCloud)
  • Oracle Data Cloud (@OracleDataCloud)
  • Oracle Customer Experience (@OracleCX)

Peter Rowley: "Definition of Insanity - Using the Same Performance Management Tools and Expecting a Different Result"

Wed, 2015-01-28 12:14
Peter Rowley (pictured left) enthusiastically believes in the power of HR technology to transform HR and, ultimately, transform a business.  Rowley,  works in Oracle HCM Solution Consulting and recently wrote an informative article about performance management tools and processes.

According to Rowley, “organizations continue to expect that the performance management process will drive business change and transformation and greater results.”When companies don’t get the hoped-for results, they try making some cosmetic changes to their existing system or retrain some staff and managers.  However, the modifications might only improve the experience to a small degree, but not the results. Why? Because the business, the workforce and the underlying psychological contract have changed dramatically, “but one of the main tools to drive change [the performance management process] remains static.”

So now companies are starting to make some radical changes with new tools and modernized approaches to performance management. Managers are switching from a very structured and formal approach to doing regular check-ins to assess progress, managing with trust, and leveraging social tools. And of course, “our HCM Cloud applications are reflecting this shift in thinking and underpinning this new approach.”

There are plenty of good details in this article and plenty of good reasons to share it with your colleagues.

Oracle Voice: A Technical Innovation from Oracle

Wed, 2015-01-28 12:12

Oracle is a big company, but it can turn on a dime to beat the competition.

One of the charters of the Oracle Applications User Experience team, explains Misha Vaughn (pictured left), Director, Communications & Outreach, Applications User Experience, is to explore emerging technology and possible enterprise use cases and quickly turn that into product. Oracle Voice, for sales reps who use the Oracle Sales Cloud, is a great example of that.

In October 2013, the UX team tested a prototype of Oracle Voice on Oracle sales reps at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco and gathered feedback to build a solid product. It became available on iTunes in June 2014.

Oracle Voice allows sales reps to efficiently retrieve and capture sales information before and after meetings. Research shows that we tend to forget what we just learned if we don’t write it down within 20 minutes. With Oracle Voice, sales reps using Oracle Sales Cloud can capture key account information by speaking rather than typing.

The Oracle Voice press release gives you more details on this innovative development.

Oracle Voice is just the beginning of the dramatic technologies coming from the Oracle AppsLab. We're exploring wearables, augmented reality, beacons, and much more—and building applications that enhance the user experience of Oracle Applications using these emerging technologies.

“Five Business Lessons From Oracle’s Mark Sunday” by Ryan Westwood

Tue, 2015-01-27 11:47

Ryan Westwood, Forbes contributor, interviewed Oracle’s Mark Sunday (pictured left) and referred to him as a technology giant, one of the most successful CIO’s in the industry, and a down-to earth guy.

Mark Sunday is a man who knows his own mind. As Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President at Oracle, he has honed a business philosophy that has sustained him through the years as he worked with one computer technology titan after another. That philosophy also has helped him position Oracle as a leader in the industry.

In a recent Forbes article, Westwood (pictured right) synthesizes Sunday’s philosophy into five business practices.

The first is—don’t give anyone a reason to question your motives. “Early in his career, Mark made the decision never to place his own interests before the interests of the company or his department, and he has never wavered in that commitment,” says Westwood. It’s called loyalty and has served him well—as have the other four principles.

You can read about each of them in the Forbes article.

January 21: Swedbank HCM Cloud Reference Forum

Fri, 2015-01-16 10:57

Join us for an Oracle HCM Cloud Customer Reference Forum on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. PT / 12:00 p.m. ET. You will hear Fredrik Rexhammar, Business Information Officer (BIO) in Group HR at Swedbank, discuss the company’s initiative to replace its in-house HR system with a cloud-based HR solution that included Core HR, Compensation, Talent Review and Performance & Goal Management. The goal was to better manage its people and support its complex compensation model.

Fredrik will talk about Swedbank’s selection process for new HR software, its implementation experience with Oracle HCM Cloud, and the expectations and benefits of its new modern HR system.

Swedbank is a modern bank firmly rooted in Swedish savings bank history. It is an inclusive bank with approximately 20,000 employees, 8 million private customers, and more than 600,000 corporate and organizational customers.

You can register now to attend the live Forum on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. PT / 12:00 p.m. ET and learn more from Swedbank directly.

"2015: Year Of The Enterprise Selfie And 9 Other Predictions For Business Technology" by Michael Hickens

Wed, 2015-01-07 13:29

We ponder the posts in late December that list the highs and lows of the previous 12 months. We read about the most popular food trends, baby names, and music videos of 2014. There are lists of top legal stories, top celebrities, and top tech quotes. We remember the ice bucket challenge, ISIS, Ebola, Ukraine, Robin Williams, Cuba, Sony, Taylor Swift, and Uber—all included on some 2014 list.

And then the crystal ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve and we’re flung into 2015 on a short night’s sleep. Come January 1 every news service leads with a list of predictions for the coming year.

Our own Michael Hickins was out in front of the reviewers and the predictors and published a great OracleVoice piece for the Forbes audience on December 29. He says, “The annual ritual of predicting the future of technology is as humbling as it is fun.”

You can tell Hickins had fun writing the article. His ten predictions are snappy, smart, and useful.

January 27th: Acorn Paper Products Sales Cloud Reference Forum

Tue, 2015-01-06 14:42

Join us for an Oracle Sales Cloud Customer Reference Forum on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, with Acorn Paper Products' Jake Weissberg, Director of IT and David Karr, Chief Operating Officer. In this session, Weissberg and Karr will share why Oracle Sales Cloud was the right choice to optimize sales team productivity and effectiveness, while gaining executive visibility to the pipeline. They also will talk about how they were able to streamline their sales-to-order process with Oracle E-Business Suite.

Founded by Jack Bernstein in 1946, Acorn Paper Products Company started by selling job lot (over-run) boxes with five employees in an 11,000-square-foot warehouse. Today, Acorn, which is the end-user distribution arm of parent holding company Oak Paper Products Company, is a fourth-generation, family-owned business with more than 500,000 square feet of warehouse space, operating four specialty product divisions: creative services, janitorial and sanitary products, wine packaging, and agricultural packaging.

You can register now to attend the live Forum on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time / 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time and learn more from Acorn Paper Products directly.

Free Oracle E-Business Suite Video Series

Tue, 2014-12-30 12:20

A Guest Post by Jim Vonick, Sr. Product Manager, Oracle University

Explore the latest features, strategies and roadmaps for Oracle E-Business Suite with the following series of free instructional videos. 

There are over 20 FREE videos covering key E-Business Suite products now available. Take a look!

Examples of Free Titles

  • What's New in Logistics - Oracle Yard Management
  • Oracle E-Business Suite: Operational Efficiency
  • Oracle E-Business Suite Technology: Latest Features and Roadmap
  • Oracle E-Business Suite Financials: Strategy and Roadmap
  • Oracle E-Business Suite Order Management and Warehouse Management: Update and Roadmap

Oracle E-Business Suite Learning Stream

These videos are a part of the new subscription-based learning service called the Oracle E-Business Suite Learning Stream

This innovative continuous leaning solution is designed to help you regularly broaden and deepen your technical and functional skills working with your E-Business Suite applications. Find out how to subscribe to an Oracle Learning Stream by visiting education.oracle.com/streams

As you think about upgrading, take a look at Oracle's cloud offerings to complement your existing E-Business Suite investments. Also, consider our C2C program as a cost-effective way to take incremental steps to the cloud.

Celebrating Social Campaigns with Michelle Lapierre of Marriott Rewards

Tue, 2014-12-16 18:05

An Interview with Michelle Lapierre (pictured left) from Marriott Rewards conducted by Angela Wells, Oracle Social Product Manager

Have you checked out the best and brightest in marketing? The recent Global Markie Awards honored excellence in marketing across a whole range of marketing categories. We are so happy that Marriott Rewards, an Oracle Social Cloud customer, won the Markie award for Best Social Campaign. The category was based on: 1) Effective use of social marketing as a strategy to build brand awareness or turn customers and prospects into advocates; 2) Social media used in new and interesting ways or as the centerpiece of a successful new program; and 3) Seized social media opportunities and generated proven results.

So I (Angela Wells, pictured right) connected with Michelle Lapierre, Senior Director, Customer Experience and Social Media at Marriott Rewards, to hear about this award-winning campaign and what Marriott Rewards is doing next on social.

Oracle Social: Congratulations on recently winning a Markie Award for Best Social Campaign! Before we dive into the campaign specifics, can you describe your organization’s overall social media strategy? How has that strategy evolved?

Michelle: Marriott Rewards joined Facebook in December 2011 and quickly grew to be the largest and most engaged hotel loyalty brand on Facebook (www.facebook.com/marriottrewards). The continuing mission of Marriott Rewards is to engage target audiences around the world through social media channels in a consistent, authentic and meaningful way. The Marriott Rewards social media philosophy is to keep life at the center of the story, not hotels or programs or deals. We believe that our Facebook fans are not only our fans, but they are a diverse community of travelers, dreamers and storytellers. We see our social media channels as an outlet for their stories, not just our own.

Through an emphasis on compassionate and authentic community management and content development, we seek to engage, inspire and keep our Facebook friends coming back to the page on a regular basis. As such, we engage in extended conversations with our Facebook friends and listen to what they have to say, not just when they’re angry with us, but for all the reasons friends speak with each other.

Oracle Social: Can you tell us more about your award-winning campaign?

Michelle: The “30 Beds In 30 Days” sweepstakes was the second Facebook promotion in which Marriott Rewards gave away 30 Marriott Beds to 30 Facebook fans in 30 days. It’s great how much people love these beds! The sweepstakes was hosted on a Facebook enabled microsite, which was responsively designed for desktop, mobile and tablet users. It also lived on the Marriott Rewards Facebook page as a tab. As with the 2012 sweepstakes, it was co-sponsored by partners ShopMarriott.com and the Marriott Rewards Credit Card by Chase.

Oracle Social: What were your goals for this campaign?

Michelle: Our primary goal was to increase fan acquisition and engagement on Facebook and also to drive traffic to partner sites like Chase Marriott Rewards Credit Card and ShopMarriott.com. Secondarily, we hoped to drive enrollments into the Marriott Rewards program.

Oracle Social: Clearly, this campaign was successful – not just for the award you won, but for the connections you strengthened with your Fans and Rewards numbers. Can you tell us about the results of this campaign?

Michelle: The 2013 “30 Beds in 30 Days” sweepstakes surpassed the results of the 2012 campaign in virtually every way, including Facebook fan acquisition, Rewards program enrollments, and traffic to our partners websites (shopmarriott.com and the Marriott Rewards Credit Card by Chase).

The “30 Beds in 30 Days” sweepstakes increased our Share of Voice compared to our competitors during the campaign. It also generated more positive sentiment around the program in general outside of the contest. According to Oracle Social Cloud’s sentiment analysis, mentions of the Marriott Rewards program and the campaign outside of Marriott channels with a clearly defined sentiment ran 90% positive during the 30 Beds campaign.

Oracle Social: It was great to follow along with this campaign on your Marriott Rewards Facebook page. How did the campaign get started?

Michelle: The original idea actually came from a fan raving about our beds on the Marriott Rewards Facebook page. Our Marriott Rewards Facebook community is an extremely engaged group of fans. Since the idea for the “30 Beds in 30 Days” sweepstakes came from a Facebook fan, we decided to host the sweepstakes through Facebook. It was a perfect opportunity to thank the fans for their engagement, and give them the opportunity to engage with the brand every day on Facebook during the promotion, since fans could enter every day.

Oracle Social: That campaign was a great success. We’re happy for everyone who won a bed, and everyone who was more exposed to Marriott Rewards through this campaign. So what’s next for Marriott Rewards on social? We are followers of Marriott Rewards’ new Twitter handle: @MarriottRewards. What are your plans for that?

Michelle: It’s true—we are on Twitter now! We hope everyone reading this starts following us on Twitter, too. We know that Twitter is another great way for us to connect with our customers and hear their stories. We have also used it as a great way to get out news – like did you check out #SayHiToWifi? One of our first tweets from the new handle announced the news that Marriott Rewards members will receive free in-room WiFi. And, my best advice is to stay connected – something very fun is coming soon!

Dasteel: "Why Marketing Needs To Get Serious About Customer Success"

Tue, 2014-12-16 16:58

Let’s say you’ve narrowed your online search to two hotels near Times Square to celebrate New Year’s Eve. One of the websites gives you all the dimensions, distances, and details of the property. The other includes images of people having fun in the lobby, favorable quotes from customers, and a useful 'things to do and see' column. Which hotel has you, the customer, at the center of its marketing?

In this post published in Oracle Voice/Forbes, Jeb Dasteel, Oracle’s senior vice president and chief customer officer (pictured left), has a bit of wisdom to share with hotels and all other organizations selling products and services: “The difficult truth is that your customers don’t care about your innovation or your products; they care only about the result you can help them achieve.”

So in the scenario above, you’re not just booking a hotel room for December 31. You’re looking for a memorable experience in downtown New York City to ring in the new year. So you want the best place to achieve that result.

Dasteel teamed up with Amir Hartman of Mainstay on this article. Even though consumers want to focus on results rather than products, Mainstay's research shows that the majority of marketing dollars are spent on "developing assets and content describing product features." And Forrester Research reports that “close to 70% of business leaders find the materials companies provide them useless.” 70%? Wow!

So what to do? According to Dasteel, organizations need to communicate in a language that is meaningful to customers with a focus on business outcomes. Your customer (not your product) should be “the hero and centerpiece of the story you’re telling.”

We really hope you will study Dasteel’s insight and recommendations. It could prevent you from wasting money on meaningless marketing assets and contribute mightily to your success.

The New B2B Buyer Experience Ecosystem

Tue, 2014-12-16 16:50

A Guest Post by Justin King, B2B E-Commerce Strategist (pictured left)

E-commerce has a unique value proposition in B2B organizations. Of course, it is about customer acquisition, conversion, and average order value. But it also serves a bigger, long-term purpose.

Customers are in more control than ever before. With 43 percent of Americans retiring in the next eight years, the next generation of buyers is emerging. And B2B purchasers of all types want more online services and tools. As a result, we are witnessing the convergence of customer portals, marketing, social, service and shopping cart sites into e-commerce. E-commerce has become the digital conduit to your customers.  B2B companies that deliver an exceptional e-commerce customer experience offer more control and access to their back office.

In fact, most everything we have done today in B2B e-commerce has unknowingly been to move functions from the back office to the customer. E-commerce is no longer just commerce. It is not just shopping carts and transactions. It is the primary customer facing channel between customers and your back office.

As I explained in my December 9, 2014 post, the role of the ERP is certainly increasing. However, there is more to the back office than just ERP.

It Takes an Ecosystem

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an ecosystem to support a new customer facing channel. A traditional ecosystem is a community of organisms linked together with nutrients and energy flows. The B2B e-commerce ecosystem is a community of systems connected together to deliver a user experience that adds value to your customers and helps them do their jobs easier. That includes:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Order Management System (OMS)
  • Product information management (PIM)
  • Commerce
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Experience management
  • Marketing automation
  • Social

Why is the Ecosystem So Big?

Everything you know about your customers and products sits in your back office, including order history, spending patterns, customer segmentation, product information and contracts to name a few. You need all of that data to build an excellent customer experience. Great customer experiences increase conversion and revenue. Most importantly, great customer experiences make B2B users’ job easier which yields loyalty. Loyal customers return to your site and will spend more.

Ecosystems are dynamic entities. They change. You will introduce new systems; upgrade some and depreciate others.

So How Do We Manage This Changing Ecosystem?

First, recognize the controlling factors. Ecosystems are controlled both by external and internal factors.

  1. External factors include conditioned expectations that customers bring to your site from at-home purchasing. With more customer control comes a proliferation of devices and types of experiences they choose to use.
  2. Internal factors include the complexity and readiness level of your ecosystem. I have a customer with more than 200 ERP systems as a result of multiple acquisitions. They are extremely sophisticated with various levels of readiness. Internal factors affect how fast an organization can move.

Next, start now and move quickly:

  • Begin with the basics: If the goal is to add value and help your customers do their jobs easier, you must deliver on the basics. Help them find information on your website, focus on building great product information and supporting content, and make transacting intuitive. Give your customers a few tools outside of the purchase path like viewing invoices, purchase orders, or punchout.
  • Make continuous improvements in your back office: The data you have in your back office may not be customer ready. Make it better bit by bit. Start planning the types of innovative services you might offer your customer in the future and put plans in place to ready your ecosystem for those future tools.
  • Separate form from function: Integration will become a dirty word at some point in your e-commerce project. If you rely on hardcore integration techniques whenever you introduce a new system or platform, your time to market will slow to a screeching halt. By separating out the experience from the content, data, rules and workflows, you can acquire new systems and data effortlessly. And your internal staff can quickly create new experiences for all kinds of devices and form factors.

Finally, remember an engaging customer experience is about adding value to B2B buyers. Visit them, interview them, watch them work and do prototype testing in a usability lab. Innovate on behalf of your customer and then write me (justin.king@oracle.com) and tell me about it.

The Increasing Role of ERP in Customer Experience and B2B E-Commerce

Wed, 2014-12-10 11:23

A Guest Post by Justin King, B2B E-Commerce Strategist (pictured left)

When most people in the e-commerce industry discuss the digital B2B buyer, they often talk about the consumerization of B2B. Consumerization of B2B means that your buyers bring expectations to your site because they have been conditioned in their home buying experiences. That conditioning creates expectations that you need to meet in the online customer experience.

Consumerization is a big deal. But maybe not the biggest.

In most B2B businesses, there exists tremendous complexity. There are complex ordering processes; complex products with complex attributes; and finally elaborate back-end systems with their own complexity. So, while companies want to create a “consumer-like experience in B2B”, they must do that in the context of the inherent complexity that exists.

The Increasing Role of the ERP System

Of all the backend systems, the complexity of the ERP system is one of the key differences between B2B e-commerce and B2C e-commerce. The ERP is the lifeblood of many B2B organizations. The reality is that B2B companies have to focus a tremendous amount of resources on integrating the ERP to plug into that lifeblood. Think about this:

  • Integrating to the ERP system(s) will most likely be one of the biggest initial and ongoing costs in a company's B2B e-commerce project.
  • Most B2B companies have more than one ERP system because of multiple acquisitions and the time and cost involved in consolidating into a single ERP.
  • Many of the B2B features that exist on websites today are really just about making ERP functions customer facing.

It is natural then to ask, "With all of that complexity, you see the role of the ERP system increasing?"

Yes.

ERP—The Foundation of a Great Customer Experience

In an article by Manufacturing Business Technology magazine, results of a survey describe the significant role of the ERP system in the Customer Experience.

The ERP has a significant role in streamlining interactions with suppliers and customers:

  • Nearly 40 percent of all Industrial Machinery and Equipment (IME) manufacturers surveyed believe the ERP is as vital as the platform that connects the back office and front office
  • Nearly 85 percent of large IME organizations with 5,000 employees or more indicated that their ERP is a vital platform for delivering a good customer experience
  • IME manufacturers have come to realize that providing superior customer experience has to be one of their top initiatives

To improve the Front Office (customer experience), you must consider the Back Office (ERP).

When you think about it, most B2B e-commerce sites are simply about exposing specific functions of their ERP system to customers.

Take for example the shopping cart. By providing an online shopping cart, the online buyer controls order-entry instead of an inside salesperson keying the order into the ERP. By providing online pricing based on the terms and conditions of the contract, pricing moves from the ERP system to the online buyer.

The Customer-Facing ERP

Consider these B2B best practices: providing order status, inventory availability by location, ATP (available to promise), taking payments, and even the online catalog. All of these best practices are about giving B2B buyers more transparency into the back office. Previously, product content was housed only in marketing catalogs and cryptic codes in the ERP; now there is customer-facing product content.

This transparency started very basic, but take a look at the backlog of change requests for your e-commerce site. Are there any patterns related to your ERP? We don't think that is going to stop. If the secret of B2B e-commerce is about helping B2B buyers do their job easier, then that means giving them more and more access to complete self service. That equates to more transparency into the ERP—the new Customer-Facing ERP.