Oracle’s new local managing director has taken the reigns at a time of great disruption but is eyeing even more change, hoping to organise the company around the customer – not historically a point of strength of the IT incumbent.
Cherie Ryan, Vice President and Regional Managing Director, Oracle ANZ tells Which-50 that means making the company more approachable and easier to navigate.
“We kept it really simple: customer first, partner first,” Ryan said.
“That sounds really simple, it’s actually incredibly difficult to put into place. Because, culturally, there’s a massive change.”
Standing in the way of change are several of what Ryan calls Oracle “myths” that suggest the exact opposite of customer centricity.
Ryan joined Oracle as sales director in 2019 following senior account roles at Salesforce, Lenovo and Microsoft. In less than a year at she was promoted to VP and Regional MD of the cloud and database giant, taking the top job in June last year.
She is now responsible for all lines of business and all customers in ANZ. She reports to regional president Garrett Ilg who reports to Oracle CEO Safra Catz, the Israeli-American billionaire banker who has led Oracle since 2014.
Ryan says this gives her almost immediate access to the top boss, something that has been invaluable in spurring change. More importantly, though, Ryan says she spent the first six months on the job speaking directly to customers to better understand what they need from Oracle and how the company must change to deliver it.
The reorganisation won’t been easy, however, for a US$39 billion, four-decade old company notorious for its complexity, inaccessibility and, when things don’t go its way, litigation.
The new local boss insists that reputation is unwarranted but Oracle is indeed undergoing a massive cultural shift in the region to bring the business back to the customer.
Oracle’s goal now is for its customers to have a holistic understanding of the company rather than one based on traditional interactions with certain lines of business. For partners, Oracle wants to be more involved in delivering their technologies and supporting them after they’ve made the sale, according to Ryan.
“Behind that is a huge amount of cultural change within Oracle, and I’ve been driving a lot of that cultural change … It’s really been about pulling together – pulling together people.”
The change is occurring at a time of great external upheaval as well, driven by the rapid digitisation brought on by the pandemic and the growing realisation that companies’ have responsibilities beyond their shareholders.
But Ryan attributes much of the internal change at Oracle to the leadership of CEO’s Safra Catz, who shared the role with Mike Hurd until his death in 2019. Ryan says Catz has unified Oracle markets into regional groups and implored local leaders to put the customer first.
Practically, that has meant Oracle Australia’s leadership team now includes a representative from all lines of business. Oracle’s various teams – for things like cloud, licence and consulting – are also “encouraged” to work together at a customer level, according to Ryan.
“I’ve really tiered that down through the organisation to make sure that we are representing the kinds of behaviours that we’d like our teams to represent. And by doing so, it’s beneficial to our customers.”
Ryan says since taking the job seven months ago she has already spoken directly with more than 50 Oracle customers. In that time Oracle has also launched its official Australian partner network, formalising several of the relationships it has with global systems integrators.
Not your father’s Oracle
Creating lasting change within the organisation is hard enough, selling the market on is another battle. Infamous for aggressive sales tactics, poor support, lobbying, erroneous claims and even suing their customers, Oracle has decades worth of hostility to repair.
For her part, Ryan says there are several “myths” about the cloud and database incumbent which she says is working hard to dispel them.
“We’re not your old CIO’s Oracle, let me put it that way,” she says.
“There’s many CIOs that have engaged with Oracle in the past and then they move into other positions. And then they’ve either left behind a view of Oracle or are taking it with them. And I want to dispel that [view].”
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According to Ryan, the myths include Oracle is inflexible and difficult to do business with; Oracle is a “legacy” solution; Oracle is too expensive; Oracle lacks agility; and Oracle’s cloud offers little difference from the market.
That legacy reputation was well earned at times. IT leaders who dealt with it in the 1990s will recall a local operation that treated its legal department like a profit centre. One Which-50 reporter for instance recalls a story he wrote where the company tried to charge a West Australian government department over $200,000 to swap out a CPU. The demand was only withdrawn after the intervention of Oracle’s APAC VP at the time
Ryan says Oracle has addressed or is addressing each of the grievances and notes many are the product of any large incumbent technology businesses. She also says the mission critical nature of Oracle products and the size of the investment companies make in them will always bring added attention and scrutiny.
“[Oracle being hard to do work with] is a myth,” says Ryan, “That’s no longer the case anymore.”
Ryan also says the perception that Oracle is old technology that organisations are looking to move on from is unfair given the solutions the company now offers, stretching from on-premise, to hybrid, to cloud, and many of the apps and services in between.
She concedes Oracle and “choice” haven’t always been associated but insists the company is now building around its customers, including giving hem more options.
“Absolutely, Oracle and choice [now go together],” says Ryan, “We need to show you what that choice is because where you put your workload is your decision.”