What is Oracle offering the Procurement profession?

Oracle Open World was the first big technology conference of the new decade that caught my attention.

I’d heard rumours for a while that they were in the process of stepping up their capability and presence in the market.

Going back a couple of years they were regular contributors at eWorld but they weren’t at either event in 2019.

However, people in my network, mainly experienced sales people, mentioned that they had received approaches on Oracle’s behalf and for a while, people in the sector talked of them as the most likely company to buy Coupa.

That talk quieted down last year, probably due to the Coupa share price, but I thought it well worth attending the event at London’s ExCel conference centre to see where procurement (and supply chain) features on their agenda.

I think it’s important to state this event was very much covering the entire Oracle technology stack so it was never going to be all about procurement.

However, there were very few familiar faces from the procurement world at any of the lead sponsors’ stands, the likes of Deloitte, Accenture and IBM all of whom are regulars at the likes of Procurement Leaders, Ariba Live and Coupa Inspire.

And despite a large number of sponsors and partners spread across a very large area (I hit my step count for the day by 10.37am 😁) there was little evidence of anyone with a clear procurement or supply chain focus.

So I searched the event app to see what I could find.

Early in the day, there was a supply chain presentation led by a US based FD, which I thought was a strange choice. Unfortunately, it clashed with an opening keynote covering diversity in the workplace. Looking at the solution later on the stand (see enclosed pic) it is clearly focused on transport and planning.

However, during lunchtime there was the only dedicated procurement session I could find on the app. It featured Nina Junehead, Merchandising & Replenishment CIO of Swedish retailer ICA.

There wasn’t much time to dig into the capability of the solution in a 15 minute presentation, but the discussion around how ICA is going to manage its Supplier and SKU data going live on the Oracle data hub in the next few weeks was the most interesting element.

Obviously it’s difficult to judge the capability of the solution on so little evidence, but it didn’t feel like they are ready to go head to head with the likes of SAP Ariba, Coupa and Ivalua. It occurred to me that this could be an opportunity for some of the best of breed tools to target Oracle’s install base.

So I have to conclude that the amount of time dedicated to procurement at this event perhaps tells its own story about Oracle’s priorities.

Those priorities were in sharp focus when the CEO gave her opening keynote.

She talked about Oracles second-generation cloud being “like no other” with the emphasis on greater security. She told us how not even Oracle can see your data. She referred to an architecture driven by people who understand the criticality of customer data.

In an effort to reassure customers still operating in premise she told everyone that even Oracle is running public cloud and that the true digital enterprise benefits from using the vast quantity of data held privately and securely. Other comments that got my attention included:

>> AI and ML don’t just sit on the side, they’re implemented throughout the tech stack and being used in many ways.

>> Supply chain planning that once took weeks now takes an hour.

>> HR can analyse employee performance using it in their HCM solution.

>> Finance is operating with virtually no manual entries and all sorts of analytical tools.

She asked the audience “Are you truly in the cloud? Are you getting updates every 90 days, patched and upgraded without you touching all on the same code. Otherwise you are faux cloud.” A statement that felt like it was aimed at some of the competition.

She told us that they are investing $6bn dollars a year on R&D for its cloud solutions. Let’s hope some of that goes on procurement!