Appealing To the Masses: QandA With Oracle President Charles Phillips

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As it is with the other enterprise-software players, the SMB market is in Oracle's sights. And like its rivals, Oracle is turning to the channel to increase the sales footprint needed to reach this segment of the market. The Redwood Shores, Calif., company recently began allowing partners to resell its business applications, of which several -- Oracle E-Business Suite Special Edition and J.D. Edwards OneWorld -- are designed specifically for small and midsize customers. Oracle president Charles Phillips is helping to oversee the SMB efforts and steer Oracle's toward continued profitability. Phillips recently spoke with VARBusiness managing editor/technology Carolyn A. April about a number of initiatives the vendor has under way.

VB: How would you characterize Oracle's SMB strategy?
Phillips: We are in a stronger position to go after the midmarket than we've ever been. Frankly, we already have been stronger than most people thought. We recently classified our applications customers; of 30,000 of them, more than 19,000 are in the SMB space. We are making that part of our ad campaign, to show just how big of a player we are there.

Our products are more flexible and easier to implement than SAP's, and for that reason we routinely beat SAP in that SMB segment. SAP has a reputation as a big, global applications company, so many customers have interpreted that as, "It's not for me." And rightly so -- it's a complex product.

We see SMB as a growth market. We have plenty of products there, and now our issue is distribution, which is our only limit on growth. Our products are taken care of, we have resellers that want to work with us, and we are eager to bring on more partners. We have cleaned up the partner program and taken steps to make it more mainstream in terms of lead generation. Our partners used to do their separate events, and we'd do ours; now everything we do is with partners.

VB: What's left to do on the distribution side?
Phillips: I believe the next phase is enablement. We need better and deeper training for partners. Today we have built a team specifically for [training] the applications partners because they don't all necessarily have the skill sets to sell the products.

VB: Is there a place for Oracle software among the smallest of the SMB companies?
Phillips: I was just in Phoenix yesterday, and I did one small company visit with about 40 people. They were running Oracle eBusiness Suite, and they have been for several years. Is it where we target? No. But when you get to $5 million to $10 million in revenue, that's where we start to play.

VB: How have things been going since Oracle's decision to open up the applications side of the business to the channel?
Phillips: We are getting a lot of interest from channel partners signing up and asking questions and raising their activity level. We are getting calls from our side of the channel about IBM [and its partners] once again selling J.D. Edwards software. We are serious about this effort and have a lot of resources there to support the channel. Some resellers say, "Wouldn't it be nice if I had one partner with a couple of products that can meet the same customer needs?" They like that we have Oracle [eBusiness Suite] and J.D. Edwards positioned to do both.

Also, we took the technology that our internal consultants use to rapidly implement our products, the Oracle Accelerators, and formalized it into IP that we give away to our partners now to use [when deploying applications]. There are about 1,200 business flows that ask customers' questions about their businesses and in about an hour generate the right product instance for them.


NEXT: Oracle's managed-services strategy.

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