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CIO Blog: The Wind of Change at Oracle: Thoughts on ‘transformational leadership'

CIO Blog: The Wind of Change at Oracle: Thoughts on ‘transformational leadership'

This was the first time I had heard an Oracle person say aloud that Oracle customers “don’t like us” and that his job was to transform the organisation and its relationships with customers, writes IT lawyer Jennie Vickers.

In 1989, the German Rock Band the Scorpions visited Moscow and were inspired to write the song Wind of Change about the end of the Cold War. I was working at EMI Music in London at the time and was struck with the power of the song and the lyrics, despite not being a rockchick in any way!

Watching the changes in Oracle Corporation in recent years these lyrics spring to mind.

Writing about Oracle OpenWorld three years ago, I talked about the change I was detecting, led I believed by Mark Hurd, CEO. The arrival of a whole conference stream on Customer Experience really was significant, coming as it was from a company, which seemed to care little about their customers and nothing about any experiences they were having. I have to say that three years ago these suggestions were met with a degree of cynicism from industry insiders.

At the recent New Zealand Oracle User Group Meeting in Auckland, the new Oracle Corp Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, Tim Ebbeck delivered the opening keynote.

This was the first time I had heard an Oracle person say aloud that Oracle customers “don’t like us” and that his job was to transform the organisation and its relationships with customers. Customers and partners have been saying the same for years but no one was listening.

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Recognising that established businesses like Oracle are now facing competition from businesses in the emerging economies with no legacy systems needing change, Ebbeck talked about the skills leaders needed to develop in order to survive.

Oracle ANZ boss Tim Ebbeck
Oracle ANZ boss Tim Ebbeck

Transformational Leadership requires a whole new mindset and approach and in his keynote Ebbeck shared his top 10.

Rule 10 of his Transformational Leadership rules, which is almost Monty Pythonesque, is “Make Up your Own Rules” but until you are ready to develop your own:

1. Nothing beats being as good as we can be;

2. Expect less of other people’s leadership and more of our own;

3. We all have choices, values and passions and we need to use them;

Read more: Big rewards from big data – and some provisos

4. Personal brand is everything-have one and cherish it;

5. Life is not fair - get over it;

6. Settle for nothing less than you deserve;

7. Keep perspective and never take it personally;

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8. Do it differently and innovate incessantly;

9. Balance the game; and

10. Make up your own rules.

Talking to a number of Oracle people, it is clear that this transformation is really underway and that this is not just rhetoric. Ebbeck has been out listening to customers, partners, suppliers and staff and having come in from the outside is not wedded to the legacy way of “being Oracle”.

As the Scorpions said,“The future's in the air I can feel it everywhere blowing with the wind of change.”

A future for business that involves a better relationship with Oracle, may not be as momentous as the future post Cold War but it should mean happier customers, the importance of which, in a world where cloud options abound, cannot be underestimated.

Challenge your business model before someone else does

The Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) in San Francisco was traditionally about tech geeks gathering to talk databases and Oracle product enhancements as well as, of course, receiving an injection of inspiration from Larry Ellison.

At OOW2014, however, change was in the air with Ellison in a new role as Chairman and CTO (instead of CEO), the cloud being a constant instead of the wannabe, and new combination of geeks and suits sharing centre stage.

Speaker after speaker highlighted how never before, in the history of OOW, has the importance of an organisation’s IT and business people working closely together, seemed so urgent or so obvious.

The discussion on human capital management, for instance, reflected the new recognition of the importance of technology in managing HR administration, so that managers and leaders again become empowered to lead their people in the digital transformation.

"Speaking as a suit" said Duane McLeod Chair of EnterpriseIT attending his first OOW, "I was impressed with the mix of technical and business topics on the agenda. I would really encourage business leaders to get themselves to a conference like OOW to hear about how technology is changing the way they (and their competitors) are doing business. Being on the ground gives you the opportunity to have invaluable 1:1 discussions with leaders that are already 10 steps ahead."

“Technology is the biggest thing in business today … becoming much more difficult for a company that cannot integrate technology to do really well in the market place.” Throwing down that challenge, Capgemini took the stage to unveil the result of their three-year research project with MIT Center for Digital Business, with the publication of a book Leading Digital-Turning Technology into Business Transformation by George Westerman and Andrew McAfee (MIT) and Didier Bonnet (Capgemini).

Out of the research findings, Capgemini has also created an updated and evolved strategy guidebook called “TechnoVision 2014”, as a companion to its existing Digital Transformation Framework. Introducing the idea of digital business Pierre Hessler of Capgemini said “ digital is really about intelligently meshing the old and the new”, emphasising that it was not about throwing away the old strategies entirely.

Hessler in unwrapping Technovision2014 also said that: “Successful digital transformation depends on the right level of intensity in both embracing technologies that can change the organisation as well as in creating the leadership and governance to make change actually happen”.

After the presentation Chris Day, CFO of Z Energy Limited, said “An inspirational insight into the opportunities available through the effective use of digital technology. The TechnoVision framework is gold”.

Organisations which fail to grasp this latest revolution and/or which fail to do anything about it, will be the ones which see their business model challenged and the options left fading away.

Jennie Vickers (jennie@zeopard.com) is principal of Zeopard Law.

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