Oracle Cloud Innovation Hubs Drive Culture Change and Customer Focus

Oracle has created a series of teams, called the Cloud Engineering and Innovation Hubs, to work closely with customers and help establish cloud culture at the large software vendor.


Jun 11, 2020

Oracle has created a series of teams, called the Cloud Engineering and Innovation Hubs, to work closely with customers and help establish cloud culture at the large software vendor. These centers serve as a focal point for cloud strategy and co-innovating with customers on their unique projects. Many of these projects use technology to address important issues in society.

In this fascinating conversation, we speak with Brian Rasmussen, Oracle’s Group Vice President who leads the company’s Cloud Innovation Hubs. Also joining us is Skye Hart, who is a Cloud Engineer at Oracle.


This transcript has been lightly edited.

Michael Krigsman: Innovation is the foundation of cloud. We're speaking about the Oracle Cloud Innovation Hubs, a program that brings together both technology and business. Brian Rasmussen and Skye Hart of Oracle. Brian, how are you today?

Brian Rasmussen: Doing great, Michael. Very happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Michael Krigsman: Brian, tell us about the Cloud Innovation Hubs and about your role.

Brian Rasmussen: My role is, I'm Group Vice President of Cloud Engineering here at Oracle. I'm in charge of the Cloud Innovation Hubs. Basically, what I do is, we have multiple different hubs across North America and also India as well. I lead our Cloud Engineering Innovation Centers in Austin, Texas, Reston, Virginia, Burlington, Massachusetts, and Santa Monica, California.

Michael Krigsman: Skye, welcome to CXOTalk. I'm delighted to chat with you. Tell us about your role at Oracle, please.

Skye Hart: Hi, Mike. It's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Skye and I'm a cloud engineer in the innovation hubs. I develop and deliver transformative cloud solutions to organizations and, essentially, bridge the gap between our technology and the customer experience.

Michael Krigsman: Brian, what are the Cloud Innovation Hubs?

Brian Rasmussen: They are centers of cloud innovation and engineering in order to help transform the company. When I say transform, what I mean is Larry Ellison's fundamental vision around cloud transformation is three things.

  • One is transforming the culture towards one of customer-centricity.
  • One is transforming the skillsets, meaning more hands-on builders supporting our customers, developers, and architects. Educating them and supporting and guiding them on their journey to the cloud.
  • Then the third is transform scale. No customer gets left behind. Every single customer is going to have one of our cloud engineers to help them succeed with dedicated technical expertise in order to scale.

Fundamentally, what that means is rather than just selling our customers enterprise software, we're really codeveloping with our customers, cooperating with our customers, enabling our customers to innovate. There is a cultural change aspect we can explore on that, but that's basically what our charter is.

Why did Oracle create the Cloud Innovation Hubs?

Michael Krigsman: What was the purpose for starting the Cloud Innovation Hubs? Oracle has a very large cloud infrastructure program. Why Cloud Innovation Hubs?

Brian Rasmussen: Oracle has a very well-known reputation as a provider of top quality enterprise software. Selling our customers’ software is very different than enabling, encouraging, and supporting them to run their actual businesses on our cloud. It's much more technical. It's much more labor-intensive. It's much more of a cooperative model.

Another is in order to transform the skillsets. What are your ideas? What do you want to do as a business? How can I help you succeed as a business? We provide hands-on builders/developers for our customers to really help support their innovation, support their migrations, and make sure that when they invest in Oracle that they succeed so that we can grow with them.

Creating a customer-centric, cloud computing culture

Michael Krigsman: Brian, it sounds like this customer-centricity, this, shall we say, cloud culture was really a driving force behind the establishment of these hubs.

Brian Rasmussen: Yeah, that's absolutely true. Oracle has a very entrenched footprint in the database space. That's very well known. We've done an excellent job of developing, maintaining, and growing that.

A lot of our customers have been interested, for some time, in being able to move those workloads to the cloud. Cloud is ultimately, in the end, about simplicity and it's taking something that otherwise could be complex, say, if on other clouds, and making it very simple and autonomous by taking those capabilities and enabling them as a service.

Michael Krigsman: Skye, what's it like being an engineer in the group?

Skye Hart: It truly feels like a startup. You walk into the office and you're greeted by a hundred skilled individuals with their own unique talents and wonderful ideas. The innovation hubs are mostly a space to create and imagine the art of the possible to help our customers achieve their own goals.

Michael Krigsman: Brian, a lot of this has to do with the difference between cloud and on-premise. How would you summarize these differences, these differences between cloud and on-premise?

Brian Rasmussen: There is a difference. On paper, they seem very similar. They're all using technology to run various different applications, business applications of various different innovations. In reality, there's a fundamental difference in the way that you partner with your customers.

In the first model, when you're selling enterprise software, very often it would be up to the partners, meaning our customers' partners, implementation partners, consultancies, or the customers themselves, to implement the solution. Whereas, it's much more deeply intertwined.

You're providing either platform as a service or software as a service, even infrastructure as a service. Their entire business, their innovation model, their operations model depends on your services. It depends on SLAs. It depends on how they operate. It depends on capabilities.

Because of that interwovenness, there is a high degree of dependency and reliance upon our services, one, being up and running, two, being very capable and, three, being very flexible. Because those needs are fundamentally different when you're selling enterprise software versus when you're actually running your customer's business on our cloud, we basically have to have a different operating model.

Talent management for cloud culture

Michael Krigsman: What do all of these differences mean for Cloud Innovation Hubs?

Brian Rasmussen: When our customers succeed, we succeed. That's part of the aspect that we look for in hiring is people with very high EQs, very high IQs, very technical that can learn and grow very quickly. But also, part of it is the customer centricity and screening for that. If you get the right people brought in then, of course, having the technical capabilities we just outlined, you're able to put them in the right direction supporting our customers.

Michael Krigsman: I have to imagine that it's much easier to find engineers with specific technical skills than it is to find engineers with those skills who also have that EQ, that focus on the customer, and the desire to help customers. That's really hard to find.

Brian Rasmussen: That's where the gold is, right? It's for our customers. Ultimately, to succeed, they need both.

They need a partner who is going to listen to them. That's ultimately what our customers want. That requires EQ. It requires maturity. It requires executive presence. It requires good communication skills.

Then, okay, you've listened to me. You understand what my business problem is. Now, how do I actually get that up and running? That requires very heavy lifting engineering skills.

It is both and we do recruit for both. We do train for both. We do retain for both. It is a process.

Skye Hart: I also think that what our generation can bring to the table is a lot of bilingual leaders. That term is new and it's not just, "I'm good at technology," or, "I'm good at business," "but I'm also good at philosophy, psychology, and art." It's that bilingual leadership that will push us to the next level and modernize the workforce.

Michael Krigsman: Skye, when you mention bilingual, what do you mean by that?

Skye Hart: Bilingual is the idea that you're not just good at one area. I'm not just strong in technology. I'm also strong in business. I'm strong in art. I'm also a creative.

It's that left brain, right brain duality. It's that creativity versus workforce, you know, business orientation both combined.

Projects at the Cloud Innovation Hubs

Michael Krigsman: Brian, how do you categorize the kinds of projects that your organization takes on?

Brian Rasmussen: There are three groups that we chartered with. One is adoption, one is consumption, and one is innovation.

  • Adoption is really helping our customers succeed with their investment, make them good, get them right on their first investment into Oracle's cloud.
  • The next is consumption. That's, how do we help our customers grow their business on our cloud? Do whatever it takes to make them successful. We are vested in their growth. Without their growth, we do not grow.
  • Then the third is innovation. With the recent Coronavirus, COVID pandemic, there was an absolute flood of requirements from our customers from all sectors of business from the public sector, from all of our lines of business, our key accounts group, our enterprise group, our midmarket group, SMB, healthcare, insurance, individuals. Just needing help is really what it was.

One way that we kind of invested in that is we took that innovation aspect and started responding very quickly to get them applications, the PPE application where we recently won a World Health Organization award for on their hackathon. Some of the other solutions that we've been doing for COVID to help with the analysis of data to help solve, you know, a very huge, global problem. It's us helping them grow, helping them succeed.

In this case, most of that work was done really pro bono. We developed multiple applications, deployed them all, and just really to try and do the right thing at a very important time.

Michael Krigsman: Can you give us a couple of examples of projects or applications that you've developed?

Brian Rasmussen: For example, COVID breaks out. We're not going to ignore that. Our customers need a PPE marketplace. We're not going to ignore that. They need a chatbot to help their customers work from home. We're not going to ignore that. Those types of projects we just do and help our customers with as best as we can.

Michael Krigsman: Where do you see the Cloud Innovation Hubs going? What is your vision for the future?

Brian Rasmussen: Once you have those toolsets built into our cloud, into our database, into our SaaS applications, then the customers can come to us and say, "Well, what if? What if you could provide a series of analytics that can help me run my business better? What if you can help me find the next customer? What if you can help me optimize my business?"

Those are powerful questions when businesses can focus on that instead of, "Well, what if my database wasn't going down every third week?" Those are a totally different set of questions. One is a technical set of questions and Oracle has been developing that IP for 40 years. We're the best in the world in that, undisputedly. Our platforms inherit those engineering values as well in the cloud and in the SaaS platforms as well.

Beyond that, "What's the next thing? Help me think smarter about my industry. Help me think smart about my applications. Help me think smart about my own individual business. What can Oracle do there?" We have a very powerful message around machine learning there.

Michael Krigsman: I must say that I really like this customer-centric approach. It almost makes me start to think, is there a sort of warm, softer, and fuzzier Oracle that's emerging here?

Brian Rasmussen: Cloud is fundamentally about customer success. You have to have empathy. You have to really care about your customer success. You have to care about your customers, care about their project timelines, care about their budgets, care about what they're facing with COVID. There is an aspect of empathy to that for sure.

There's also an aspect of innovation. Innovation cycles are shortening dramatically and you need to have the services as well as the people trained to deliver those services ready.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for business leaders who look at this and they say, "Yeah, I want to build this kind of team"? How do you find these people and how do bring together engineers and folks that have that empathy?

Brian Rasmussen: There are three parts we really look for is the technical IQ, the EQ, and the commitment. If you have those three things, that's really the DNA that we're looking for is to drive that culture transformation to help our customers really succeed, to help us innovate for our customers with our customers.

Then the last is, of course, there's a retention aspect. You've got to make sure that you have leadership programs in place and career progression paths, which we've been able to very much solidify really over the past, I'd say, six months, to be able to develop, identify, and retain that talent.

Michael Krigsman: Skye, what advice do you have for engineers who want to be bilingual, as you described it before, who can speak both business and technology?

Skye Hart: My favorite poet, Rumi, once said, "Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I'm wise, so I'm changing myself."

I feel like that poem embodies the transformation that Oracle is experiencing today. I think, with a lasting goal to help our customers, we can all become a lot wiser.

I encourage all of the new engineers out in the field to ask, "What inspires you? How can you develop solutions to help those around you? How can you move from knowledge, you know, that's bountiful to imagination?"

Michael Krigsman: Well, I think, ending on the great poet Rumi is an excellent place to finish up. Brian Rasmussen and Skye Hart, thank you both for taking the time to speak with us today.

Brian Rasmussen: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you, Michael.

Published Date: Jun 11, 2020

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 655