Oracle President Mark Hurd: We don't set out to be hard to work with

Oracle President Mark Hurd knows that some customers think Oracle is hard to work with. Some have even moved to third-party support as a result.

DENVER – When Oracle President Mark Hurd was told that some feel Oracle is difficult to work with, he put his tongue firmly in his cheek.

"I've never heard that before," he said, as members of the audience laughed. "You're the first person who has ever told me that."

The exchange came at the Collaborate user group conference happening in Denver this week, when Constellation Research Principal Analyst R. Ray Wang conducted a Q&A with Hurd. Wang grilled Hurd on topics such as cloud computing, contract negotiations, and third-party support. On negotiations, Hurd acknowledged that some customer engagements can be difficult. But he claimed it wasn't by design.

"We do not want to be hard to work with," he said. "We don't sit in a room and strategize about how we can be harder to work with."

Hurd said that Oracle is hiring more salespeople to target customers on specific products. The reasoning? The salespeople will know more about the product they're selling if they're not selling as many – they can focus on one and know it front and back. At the same time, he said Oracle doesn't want its customers to feel bombarded by different salespeople every day. That said, there are plenty of Oracle customers who do feel that way. Wang solicited questions from the Collaborate attendees before the Q&A, and more than one asked why Oracle was difficult to work with.

Some Oracle customers have moved to third-party software support and maintenance. For many the move is done for cost savings, but for others, the real added benefit is improved support.

Ross Stores, Inc., a Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer with almost 54,000 employees, moved to third-party support company Rimini Street about six years ago and hasn't looked back since. IT Applications Director Rajesh Patanaik said the initial reason was cost. The company was faced with an expensive upgrade for its PeopleSoft human capital management and financial and supply chain management software, and decided to weigh its options. In the end, it decided that the money was better spent on opening new retail stores rather than upgrading an IT system that it didn't think needed upgrading.

"Every company like us will get to a point where you need to decide whether you want to do a multimillion-dollar upgrade just to get a new toy," he said.

Patanaik said a major benefit that Rimini Street provides is support for software customizations, something that other Rimini Street customers have echoed. But according to Hurd, customizations and modifications aren't always a good thing.

Hurd said that businesspeople usually get whatever business process they want, no matter the consequences from the IT backend. That results in a lot of application modifications, which Hurd said has "manifested itself into spending a lot of money to get something less than perfect."

But according to software customers like Patanaik, it has also manifested itself into what he said was "freedom of choice." Ross Stores doesn't feel like it has to upgrade just because Oracle ends software support for a particular version.

"We want to decide on when to upgrade our ERP rather than the vendor telling us when to upgrade," Patanaik said.

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