Oracle Industry Connection 2014: The Retail Angle

We attended Oracle Industry Connection 2014 last month--its inaugural multi-industry customer conference fashioned after its successful retail industry event CrossTalk. The event offered additional proof points that Oracle's broad set of...

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We attended Oracle Industry Connection 2014 last month--its inaugural multi-industry customer conference fashioned after its successful retail industry event CrossTalk. The event offered additional proof points that Oracle's broad set of applications, technologies, services, and partners are well suited to meeting the needs and aspirations of large and mid-sized retailers in fashion, food, and hardline segments.

Oracle orchestrated its first multi-vertical industry summit last week. Comprised of six tracks--utilities, asset-based manufacturing, financial services and insurance, health sciences, and communications in addition to retail, the event subsumed and extended CrossTalk, the retail vertical event Oracle ran for the last several years. Continuing the CrossTalk format Oracle stepped back in the retail track, and aside from a few sessions focused on V14, let its customer do the talking.

Oracle chose its keynote speaker wisely. Professor James Cash, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School and board member at Walmart and several other public companies, described two key characteristics of the most successful companies. They are governed by boards with thoroughgoing digital literacy, calling them "digital boards".

He pointed to the "astronomical" increase in the number of CIOs joining corporate boards. The most successful companies prioritize technology investment around strategies that ensure they will be in business, not strategies that assume they will be in business. He pointed to Walmart becoming a "predictive retailer" as a case in point.

Oracle also made a wise choice for the retail track customer keynote. Karen Katz, CEO of the Neiman Marcus Group, joined Mark Hurd, Oracle president, for a fireside chat. Technology, she said, lies at the heart of Neiman's three major business goals--becoming an omni-channel retailer, creating a billion dollar ecommerce business, and investing more technology in its 41 stores.

The retailer is complementing these technology investments with the merger of its store and online merchandising and planning teams under Jim Gold. "Our customers do not differentiate between channels, and now neither will we," she said.

Katz called Oracle the "only choice we could have made" for its largest-ever capital project. Beyond its applications and technologies, Oracle brings a community of retailer already on their own transformational journeys and provides direct guidance against needless application customization.

In another session, Luxottica, the world's largest eyewear company, described its business situation, operational objectives, and how Oracle's planning capabilities supported its "fresh flowers" fast fashion strategy. Its "in and out" assortment strategy required a global approach, simplified processes, and new planning models, e.g., planning attributes not SKUs, to tell its fashion story and optimize working capital.

Its localized tailored assortment strategy hinges on product lifecycle management and balancing integrated lead times with store-SKU stocking plans. Key points of Luxottica's assessment in Oracle's favor include: RPAS, optimization, process integration, and TCO.
There's a finally point to be made in this quick rundown. Oracle Retail is very bullish--confident but far from complacent--about its track record and outlook. By its own estimate the business has strung together a win streak that beats just about any major league sports team record.

We see continued balance between the number of retailers selecting Oracle for enterprise transformation and best-of-breed applications and continued customer satisfaction evidenced by steady streams of expansion in existing accounts and go-lives. The business unit continues to command an impressive bounty of R&D funds, is increasing its investment in its partner ecosystem, and building out rollout and application support assets.

Posted by Greg Girard, Program Director, Merchandise Strategies IDC Retail Insights