Vice President, Product Strategy, Oracle Fusion Strategy
Location: Redwood City, California
Q: How would you define innovation?
A: I see innovation defined in two ways: One way involves creating a product that has never been available and bringing it to market. That means brand new concepts and brand new ideas that people didn't even know they needed until Oracle said, "Look at this amazing solution!" The other way I define innovation is taking something that has existed for a long time, and saying, "Let's find a better way to do it."
Q: How do you think Oracle's innovative culture benefits its customers?
A: The most important benefit we bring to our customers is our ability to take the scope of our customer base, scale our products, and bring new solutions and new opportunities to our customers that they may not have even thought of yet. For example, a few years ago on the human resources [HR] side, there was a lot of input from our customers around HR service delivery. We were able to look at that and say, "Wow, a lot of the concepts they're talking about sound a lot like CRM. What would happen if we took these CRM concepts around tracking cases and tracking service requests and applied that to an HR product set?"
In a lot of cases when we're dealing with our customers they don't necessarily express problems in terms of a technology solution, but rather in terms of business processes or outcomes they're trying to achieve. We offer a distinct advantage because we have this amazing capability built into our technology stack that allows us to show customers what would happen if we brought visualization into a business process. This is a great example of how we're able to address customer challenges through a unique process that they've never had before.
Q: What do you feel makes the Oracle solution stack exceptionally versatile, particularly when viewed in the context of social networking?
A: When you look at newer concept like social networking and you see how companies are exploring it, quite often you find there are two different responses. One is, "Well, let's put together a pilot project and test it out." The other response is, "No, I don't want to do this, and there are a lot of reasons that I can come up with for why I shouldn't." I think where Oracle adds a lot of value is through its ability to take a concept like social networking and say, "Well, we understand this from a technology standpoint, here are some specific ways this could benefit you, and here's how you can find some business value that maybe you didn't know existed."
Q: What prevents innovation from flourishing?
A: Any time you get into an organization that has a "not invented here" mentality, it tends to squelch innovation because people aren't willing to take ideas from other places and apply them in unique ways. You really need to have openness to new ideas, regardless of where they come from. You also need to be able to define your tolerance and say, "I'm willing to put a pilot project in place and although I may not be ready to roll this out all over the place, and I may not be ready to release this as a product just yet, I'm still willing to give these people the space they need to experiment, because it could lead to an amazing breakthrough."
One of the other challenges that restricts innovation is that, quite often, the people who are innovative are not necessarily going to be following the exact processes. It becomes a matter of deciding how much control you put in place on your organization activities? I think companies really need to value people who are creative, engaged, and who want to come up with new, creative solutions. In my experience, I've always found that employees who are engaged and excited about what they're doing will come up with new, creative opportunities. If they're fired up, they'll want to dream up that great new way of doing something because they're thinking about it throughout the day, over the weekend, whenever.
Q: Within the various organizations at Oracle, where do you see some of the most innovative activities taking place?
A: I see a lot of creativity and innovation happening at the intersection between the business requirements that come in from the business strategy teams and the functional design that's handled by product management teams. For example, my team has had the opportunity to go work with the Oracle Fusion Middleware folks and say, "You've got this brilliant technology and that's so exciting for us because now I can build on top of that and bring something new to market." This is one of the most innovative opportunities we have, which is the ability to take that technology component and deliver it within the applications for our customers.