I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past years exploring the world of enterprise software and cloud – two distinct areas that are tending towards a greater and greater intersect. In my journey of discover I’ve been fortunate that, as well as lots of conversations with customers, I’ve had deep engagement with software vendors to help me in my journey. I wanted to compare and contrast the approach taken by three very well know vendors in the space, Oracle, NetSuite and Salesforce.

First some context. I live in New Zealand but most of my work is in the US. This means that time zones and travel are a somewhat complex hurdle to overcome – I don’t make life as easy as I could, I acknowledge that.

Salesforce

I’ve had interaction with salesforce at the highest levels now for a number of years. I’ve spoken with the co-founders, Marc Benioff and Parker Harris and have been lucky enough to have been invited to their DreamForce conference on a number of occasions. Salesforce has obviously drilled its PR agency on the value that influencers like myself can bring and I have been staggered at just how engaged salesforce has become with myself and others like me. But it’s more than just the PR team, they seem to have a holistic approach to the way they engage with me – allowing that engagement to truly be two way. From PR to AR, from exec outreach to market strategy – it’s a holistic approach towards engagement. From ensuring that our visits to user conferences run smoothly, to proactively providing us the information e need – timely product and business announcements, access to executives for further insight and comment and a simple engagement in the conversations we have.

While I have some criticisms of salesforce’s approach to enterprise software – things like vendor lock-in and a tendency towards vapor-ware – I cannot fault them for the way they engage with bloggers and analysts like me.

NetSuite

NetSuite is a company that follows a similar approach to salesforce – I have had awesome conversations with everyone from CEO Zach Nelson down and these conversations have enabled me to gain a strong perspective on where they are as a business. As with salesforce, I have some criticisms of NetSuite (they’re a little slow moving on the social side of things for example).

NetSuite SVP of PR/AR Mei Li does a great job of ensuring that I get what I need – when I need it

Oracle

A couple of years ago it became apparent that my deeper involvement in this space necessitated a deeper engagement with Oracle. Some helpful PR/AR folks at the companies above put me in touch with some of their senior Analyst Relations execs. I reached out to this exec and received a reply saying that my details had been passed onto someone else with the Oracle PR machine. This person…. failed to respond.

Fast forward six months ago and Oracle’s local PR agency contacted me to advise that Oracle exec was going to be in new Zealand and inviting me to his presentation. I attended, had a really interesting session with him, recorded a video (that due to a dodgy camera was lost – my bad) and returned home, more aware of Oracle’s strategies in the space.

Which brings us to this week’s Oracle Open World event, the annual mega-conference that Oracle runs (although, in fairness I must add that OpenWorld is a similar size to salesforce’s DreamForce event and hence shouldn’t be anymore challenging with regards to analyst engagement). Having had no contact I contacted Oracle PR looking for some targeted and contextual information around announcements at the event. The reply was telling;

Hi Ben – all of our OpenWorld media information is available on http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/mediakits/openworld-2011-media-center-508004.html

 

Thanks,

[redacted]

I responded saying that I didn’t really consider a web URL to constitute analyst outreach but… whatever.

Which brings us to a call that I finally received from some APAC Oracle PR folks. It was great to have the contact but pretty much it consisted of telling me that OpenWorld was a big event, that hey were really busy having worked for the week preceding the event, and that the best thing I could do was look at the public list of press releases to find out information. In fairness the person I spoke to did ask me if I had any specific questions, of course it’s hard to have questions when you don’t actually know what’s going on…

What’s Going On Here

Oracle obviously don’t want to be proactive in engaging with me – they might deny that, but I can’t help but feel like that’s the case. That’s fine, perhaps they think I’m a little to positive about their competitors. Of course my response to that is that it’s very easy to be so when I only ever hear one side of the story.

But deeper than that this is an example of how Cloud, social, connected and agile is changing business. Organizations like salesforce and NetSuite are using  host of tools in order to assess sentiment, engage with influencers, and generally understand what’s happening in the world. Oracle on the other hand… offers me the URL for a list of press releases.

Sigh

The bottom line here is that we (the industry observers) can no longer be put into defined buckets – there’s not a bucket for analysts and one for bloggers, one for press and one for customers. We’re different and hence need to be treated individually, it’s possible to conclude that how a vendor treats those who think, write and opine about it can be paralleled to how they feel about heir customers, their industry and their world. Maybe that’s overstating it a little, but having that’s what it feels like me at the receiving end of all of this.

Disclosures

So being 120% up front here… both salesforce and NetSuite have covered my T&E to attend events – it’s pretty obvious they do so in order to ensure that I’m well briefed on stuff….

Update 1

After writing this post I received a pretty good email from Oracle APAC PR giving me an update of news announced thus far and with a promise that I I’d receive timely notice of cloud-related announcements. We can but hope.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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