When the chairman of a company that employs more than 130,000 people offers his perspective on whether COVID-19 will permanently change office culture, it’s worth paying close attention.
“It’s already happened, and it will never go back,” said Oracle’s Larry Ellison during a recent online discussion. “It’s not like we’ll never go back to the office, but we’ll never go back to the office 9 to 5. …It makes no sense, at least in our industry. So people will figure out how many hours they should be in the office, and how many of their hours they’ll be working at home.”
Ellison, Oracle’s chairman and chief technology officer, shared other insights and opinions during a wide-ranging discussion November 9 with Rob Tarkoff, the executive vice president who leads Oracle’s cloud customer experience (CX) business, which includes applications that support people in sales, marketing, service, and ecommerce.
For example, Ellison shared his view on why sales automation applications must do more than manage sales opportunities. “Sales automation should help you sell more, not just forecast better,” he said. “That’s a fundamental distinction between first-generation sales automation and second-generation sales automation.”
Below is more from Ellison on the changing role of sales software, his thoughts on the three stages of software maturity, and more on how he thinks the pandemic will change the workplace. (You can view the entire conversation between Ellison and Tarkoff on demand.)
How Software Can Help People Sell More
Software industry sectors always begin with single-purpose applications—sales automation was a prime example—but the really powerful stuff happens when companies connect information from all parts of their businesses.
It’s those connections that will help salespeople sell more, Ellison said. One example: Being able to set a precise delivery date might be the linchpin to closing a deal.
“The answer of when can you actually ship the machine or ship the product requires an understanding of what your inventory is,” Ellison said. That requires companies to connect their sales and supply chain systems, which Oracle enables with its integrated Oracle Cloud CX and Oracle Cloud SCM application suites.
Oracle extends that kind of integration to its Fusion finance, human resources, and other cloud apps. For example, by linking its finance systems to its sales and service apps, a manufacturer gives its salespeople visibility into a customer’s purchase history and thus enables them to offer the customer more-informed product recommendations, while also ensuring that its field service reps have all the needed repair parts for the products the customer owns. “The integration is not simply a set of integrations around different front-office products like sales and services,” Ellison said. “It’s also an integration between service and the back office and sales and the back office.”
We’re in Stage 3 of CX’s Maturity
Stage 1 of software maturity is one-off, single-purpose products, such as the first rudimentary cloud-based salesforce automation apps that Salesforce.com created. Stage 2 brings integrated suites of applications, such as Oracle’s Fusion cloud applications, which include not just CX but also finance, manufacturing, supply chain, and HR applications.
Stage 3 of the maturity cycle comes when applications are tuned to the unique needs of companies in telecommunications, financial services, healthcare, and other industries. “We’re actually reaching the final stage of maturity in the marketplace,” Ellison said.
For example, Oracle is developing applications that combine its Oracle Cloud CX capabilities with those for the telecommunications industry. Oracle plans to offer more of these CX packages for industries. Oracle already provides specialized applications for telecom and a number of other industries—apps to manage clinical trial data, improve the efficiency of utilities’ billing, and combat money laundering. Oracle will lean on that institutional knowledge to tune its CX capabilities for industries, Ellison noted.
“Most importantly, it’s a collaboration with our clients, who help us design these products, help us fully understand what their requirements are,” he said.
More on How Office Life Will Change
“Geography is getting less and less relevant,” he said.
Zoom videoconferences give employees and companies new options in terms of work location. As more software tools, such as Oracle CX Service, are integrated with Zoom, so that a service problem can quickly escalate to a Zoom call to solve a problem, the importance of location will continue to diminish for many roles.
“If you love New York, stay in New York. If you want to buy a big house next to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, go do that,” Ellison said. “We suddenly give employees choice of where they want to live, how they want to work, when they want to work, using these modern digital tools.”
That’s not true for all jobs, of course. If you work in a Tesla factory, he noted, you’re going to the factory. And some companies will want their teams together in the office, for any number of reasons.
But having at least the option to work remotely will be important. Ellison noted that customers who had Oracle Cloud applications in place—both front office to back office—faced much less disruption during COVID-19 than those still using on-premises systems.
“When people were ordered to stay home, everyone could continue to work with Oracle NetSuite, everyone could continue to work with Fusion,” Ellison said. “I don’t know if they like that, but it certainly allowed the employees to stay home, to do their job, and for their companies to do well during the shutdown. If you didn’t have those kind of systems, and you had to come to work, a lot of those businesses suffered because they didn’t have modern digital systems.”