Steve Cox of Oracle: Cloud’s Lure is Return on Investment


return on investmentSmall Business Trends: Can you tell us a little about your role at Oracle and your personal background?

Steve Cox: Sure, I have been with Oracle Accelerate Global Programs for Oracle, focusing on two programs for applications with midsize customers, Oracle Accelerate and Oracle Business Accelerators. I joined Oracle in 1997 as a consultant and since joining, obviously I worked as a consultant. I did three years in product development and since 2003, I have been focusing on the midsize segment.

Small Business Trends: Can you explain what Oracle Accelerate is?

Steve Cox: Oracle Accelerate is Oracle’s brand and strategy for midsize applications. Partners who are members of the Oracle Accelerate program offer complete package solutions for customers that include our applications, rapid implementation tools and methodologies, their services and their Internet property.

Oracle Business Accelerators, are cloud-based rapid implementation tools developed and maintained by Oracle, and only available through proven and qualified partners.

Small Business Trends: You mentioned they are cloud-based. How does this help companies get up to speed and moving in the Cloud?

Steve Cox: Cloud computing brings companies within reach of the same powerful technologies and latest innovations that the largest companies in the world enjoy.

The Cloud can offer the ability to compete with these larger companies with lower cost. You create a configuration that allows customers to have the flexibility they need to maintain what makes them unique, and what gives them a competitive advantage.

Small Business Trends: How quickly are you able to help these companies get started?

Steve Cox: Most customers that I speak to move through five key phases on their journey. Oracle, and our Partner Ecosystems, provide support and professional associates throughout each of these phases. So that first step is aligning your organization’s business objectives and goals. Understanding those goals and aligning with how you are going to consume your software – whether it is in the Cloud or on the premise.

Then they need to use a cloud readiness service to reduce complexity and automation. Are you ready for the Cloud? Is your IT system ready for the Cloud? You should get complete implementation of migration services that can deliver the best practice and tools to help you succeed.

Small Business Trends: When you say, “ready for the Cloud, ” what does that mean?

Steve Cox: First thing is, you need to determine a return on investment on your IT project. Whether you are going to purchase applications in the Cloud, or whether you are going to move your IT back into the Cloud, or whether you are going to be able buy SaaS services.

You need to understand what would be the return investment. You need to invest to support growth. You need to understand the opportunities that the Cloud and any IT system provides. I think you need to understand the jargon:

  • How do you make the most of a limited project?
  • Where are you going to invest?
  • Do you have the right resources in place in terms of people, time, etc?
  • Where do you start?
  • What are your business priorities?
  • Where do you have to invest first, to get maximum return on the investment, maximum bang for the buck, if you like?

Small Business Trends: Are your customers and prospects looking to go to the Cloud to get to the next level? Or are they going so they can be more efficient?

Steve Cox: They are doing it for economic reasons. When you come to the Cloud, there is a lot of promise there that you can improve your return on investment. It can lower the cost of the adoption, and that is always on top of mind.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the biggest challenges that companies face when they make the move?

Steve Cox: I have never come across a company that plans enough. If your organization is expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate of 20% or 30% or more, what effect is that going to have on your priorities and challenges? What are you likely to be facing this time next year, or the year after?

The next question is what other resources available? Nearly everyone I have spoken to has a real good grasp of their budget. And then there is time. How long does it take for me to realize the return on an investment?

The next one really comes down to time scale. That is a measure of patience. When do I need to do this? Do I need to do this because my business is changing and I have to maintain competitive advantages? Or to improve it? Do you need to do it now, or can you look forward and say, “By this date I need to achieve X and Y.”

Small Business Trends: What functional area are companies really looking to the Cloud to get up to speed with?

Steve Cox: The Cloud option has a head start in CRM and human resources simply because it is a model that has lent itself to those two business areas. But I would say that in every conversation I have had with every customer and every partner, they look at it on a very broad basis and they tend to look across all the areas. They want the back office to front office solutions. They want to be able to support human capital management (HCM).

Small Business Trends: You have already laid out where you see things going over the next two years. Is there anything else that you see that will make this kind of move, something that midsize businesses in two years will not have to think as much about doing? Is going to be that easy in two years to do it?

Steve Cox: We have talked about the time scale, budget, business priority and challenge. I think it is going to be a lot easier to make the decision to adopt having made that adoption a lot easier. But it is still a decision you need to think about.

This interview about return on investment is part of the One on One interview series with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above.