Wednesday, 25 March 2015 15:09

Digital disruption is here, deal with it: Oracle execs

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'Digital disruption' is a fact of life for Australian businesses, according to Oracle. Few would argue with that in the light of what's happened to bookshops and music stores, plus suggestions that around half of our occupations may be wiped out by automation by 2025.

"Our customers are seeing massive disruption," said Oracle Australia and New Zealand senior vice president and managing director Tim Ebbeck.

Organisations need to manage this disruption, leverage the disruption in order to innovate, or both - otherwise they are in trouble, he said.

"Timeframes are getting shorter and shorter," Ebbeck warned, so organisations need to experiment and fail quickly if their ideas don't work out.

IDC APAC associate vice president Chris Morris (pictured, second from right) warned that Australian industry faces a skills challenge. "We don't have the right range of skills to take advantage of these [opportunities]," he said.

Unsurprisingly, Oracle thinks it has at least part of the answer. Vice president of big data and advanced analytics Neil Mendelson (pictured, right) said that although in Silicon Valley "everybody wants to do it like Facebook" and do their own systems development and integration, further afield there is a realisation that "the value isn't in the construction job" but getting business benefits from the system. Hence Oracle's Engineered Systems and Oracle Cloud offerings.

But established companies need to keep running the existing legacy systems - perhaps for regulatory reasons - alongside new cloud-based systems. Oracle can help the transition "from where they are to where they're going," he said.

Oracle Public Cloud vice president of product management Preshant Ketkar (pictured, centre) observed that "we live in an app-centric world," giving the example of Uber, which "disintermediated a 300 year old industry."

We know what he means, but it is probably more accurate to say that Uber's success comes from replacing existing intermediaries (taxi booking services) by doing a better job for both passengers and drivers, and by acting as an efficient intermediary for many private hire drivers. Its role in assisting unlicensed private hire operators to work under the guise of 'ride sharing' is another issue.

But as Ketkar pointed out, an app alone is not enough: "you need a modern, agile platform that allows you to stay ahead."

"The back-end platform is getting secularised" thanks to PaaS, leaving organisations to concentrate on the next big app rather than having to buy and maintain the supporting software and hardware, he said.

Furthermore, vice president of engineering Chris Armes (pictured, left) pointed out that in the world of apps, 99.9% availability is not good enough - if it doesn't work, you've lost the customer, he suggested.

Ketkar also warned that the ability to change business processes is still being outstripped by the rate of change of apps and other technological aspects, and getting around that "is not trivial."

The Australian public sector is the most challenged and most lethargic, said Ebbeck. "Cost is critical" as grants from governments are falling. So these organisations need to innovate in order to reduce their traditional spending, and thereby deliver better service for less money.

Mendelson expects governments to get into the data business, rather than leaving the private sector to monetise public data.

Citizens may have the right to access public data, but that does not necessarily extend to making money from it, he suggested.

And although governments struggle to deliver the best service at the lowest cost, they are increasingly trying to do so. "They're looking at other business models," said Mendelson.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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