Oracle had their first HCM World conference from February 4th to February 6th in Las Vegas and it rolled out the big guns - both CEO Larry Ellison and President Mark Hurd presented - something you usually do not see at an Oracle conference - except for Oracle OpenWorld. It was good to see both executives so well versed in people processes and the HCM pitch.  

Nobody questions Oracle on technology, so whoever had the idea to de-emphasize the technology aspect for the sake of the thought leadership aspect, deserves the big kudos on the Oracle side. Apart from a demo between Mark Hurd and Gretchen Alarcon - software was relegated to the many track sessions. And beside from Larry Ellison's presentation and a few glimpses of Chris Leone's - it was never the talk about the technology - but always about the challenges and struggles enterprises and Chief People Officers face every day. And the good news was - Oracle lead with the business problem - and not the technology, a radical departure from the past the traditionally wanted to convince customers mainly on the technical merits of its products. Doesn't work for the HCM audiences, so good move to adjust to it.

Oracle HCM Cloud Progress

We were surprised by the uptake of momentum of Oracle HCM cloud back at OpenWorld - but can now report continued momentum in customer uptake. Oracle is close at moving calendar date and go live progression on a proportional scale - which is a pretty encouraging sign. Customer go lives are all over the globe, speaking for a good sales effort beyond North America, which can be a challenge for US based vendors.

More importantly, the road map is not fizzling out in terms of functionality richness, and the upcoming release R8 (sorry all details were under NDA) includes new functionality in the areas that are hard for all vendors to create and  maintain. It was equally good to see that Oracle is tackling (and needs to keep tackling) the integration issues - both horizontally with other applications as well as internally to Oracle HCM Cloud between the Oracle Fusion HCM side and the Taleo side. This integration remains one of the weaknesses of the Oracle HCM portfolio - but Oracle is confident that it can convince customers to accept the integration issues due to significant functional leadership on the recruiting side. And while that functional leadership is certainly given for now - it will be an area to keep a watchful eye on in the future.

Oracle also had the bravado to let the analysts play on the new iPad app - and can now successfully claim that even analysts can use their HCM system. Few other vendors have given the opportunity to the analyst community and this certainly raises the ante from a competition perspective. From the 90 minutes using the iPad app we can say that it's highly functional, easy to use and built in such a way that it is highly likely to make an every day user (like a manager) happy using it.


Next steps for Oracle HCM cloud

As mentioned most information about the roadmap was under NDA - but Oracle lifted the kimono on a few areas that can be shared:

  • Workforce Optimization - Oracle plans to get into the workforce management arena starting with the support of mini and macro re-organizations. Oracle HCM cloud will allow to analyze and predict worker and / or organizational challenges and opportunities, model and plan actions derived on these findings and then execute on them at a certain point in time. 
  • New and expanded Mobile HCM - Oracle plans to deliver a new mobile experience both for tablets and smart phones. Interestingly Oracle also offers some offline capabilities - something of immense value for real mobile work warriors. 
  • BI Benchmarks - Oracle plans to provide more insight around the recruiting process - leveraging it's strong market position with Taleo, which enables 11% of all US hires, add 1.2 million job openings per quarter and features profiles of 417 million job candidates. 
  • Work Life Apps - Oracle donated a fitbit to HCMWorld attendees and organized a step competition amongst the attendees - a great showcase of the soon to be released Work Life Apps the company is planning. 
Screenshot of the new HCM Cloud User Experience

Social matters

Oracle - starting with Larry Ellison - did not get tired at stressing how important the social aspect of HCM are and how well Oracle HCM cloud can support them - given that Oracle Social Network (OSN) is baked into the platform that Oracle HCM cloud is build upon. 


The scenarios Oracle stressed were - not surprisingly around 

  • Collaboration - Enable users to collaborate and find expertise in the context of their business process. 

  • Discovery - Enrich employee profiles and job descriptions with reputation and influence in social media communities. 

  • Referrals -  Syndicate and post open job requisitions and source candidates through social networks.

  • Consolidate - Bring together all social media activities for HCM. 

Oracle is also shipping a number of social HCM applications - of which two are publicly known. The first is My Reputation, a capability that analyzes social activity, allows also for integration with 3rd party social networks and rewards users for participation and brand building activities. The second was  more enablement around social sourcing, allowing for automated employee referrals, job posts to Twitter and Facebook and capabilities to build talent communities. 

These are all compelling scenarios for HCM professionals. The main challenge Oracle has with the integration of OSN is the harsh user interface change between the Oracle HCM cloud user interface and the OSN interface on the iPad product. This maybe temporary - but better be addressed by Oracle, sooner than later. 


BigData  Plans

Oracle sees two aspects of BigData and HCM. On the one side the enrichment of all HCM data with BigData, e.g. the capture and availability of social streams and feeds - on the other side the capability to benchmark on the huge data available across the Taleo customers. In both cases Oracle has the technological capability to pull both aspects of - with the second scenario having more immediate impact on the recruiting function.


Integration matters

As mentioned before - the Fusion DNA and the Taleo DNA are on different technology platforms and Oracle has chosen to integrate Taleo - not to re-write recruiting functionality from scratch on the Fusion Appliations technology stack. On the positive side it means that Oracle has very good - some say market leading - recruting functionality at hand - on the negative side it means there is an integration effort that needs to be addressed in every customer implementation that spans across Oracle HCM Cloud. 

The good news is, that the company is looking at providing better integration, starting with a single master data set for work structures, employee master and an unified profile. Oracle also pledged a consistent user experience across mobile and desktop and common reporting and analytics - making the different back end systems a non issue for end users. The most important ambition though is around the convergence to a single technology platform - including a common programming model, common exstensibility framework and a single security and role framework.

Oracle even went so far to release a roadmap - unfortunately under NDA - but rest assured the analyst community will monitor progress and we would applaud publicizing it sooner than later. Oracle should be encouraged to do so - as the public plans for integration between Fusion R8 and Taleo 13B got a very good review with clients, prospects and the partner ecosystem.


Peoplesoft - Alive & Kicking

The Peoplesoft update by Paco Aubrejuan was again very valuable, it remains intriguing how powerful and strong the product and brand are. Customers keep moving and upgrading - all the way to the latest release, 9.2. And if Oracle keeps supporting customers well, the end is not in sight (yet). On the contrary Oracle is investing  more into Peoplesoft, even with latest technology - as the press release around new in memory applications for Peoplesoft HCM. It will be tough to find a software asset acquired approximately 10 years ago that get an in memory capability added in 2014. Ultimately a showcase that Oracle keeps investing in acquired products and creates values for customers using these products - the whole Apps Unlimited program (our take here). 



All in all a very promising first event for the expected HCMWorld conference series. Oracle talking business best practices is a welcome change, the investment and  momentum around Oracle HCM Cloud continue with traction and the roadmap is rich in new functionality. Even though Oracle has come a long way on user experience, it now needs to tackle cross product suite usability concerns (between Oracle HCM Cloud and Oracle Social Network) and share and deliver to it ambitious integration and convergence roadmap for the underlying technologies behind the different pieces of Oracle HCM Cloud.