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Oracle bolsters sales team to tap growing cloud demand

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Oracle Corp, the IT giant best known for its enterprise database solutions, this year concluded a special recruitment drive in Asia-Pacific (APAC). But unlike what one might expect, the new recruits were not engaged to fill the technical positions in the company. Instead, the Fortune 500 company had gone on a hiring spree to bolster its sales team.

Last March, the company embarked on an ambitious goal to hire 1,000 sales personnel within a three-month period. It managed to recruit talents from a “fairly even distribution” across countries in APAC during that time frame. Oracle declines to provide a breakdown of the numbers, but declares the recruitment drive was a success. Today, the recruits have fully integrated into their roles after completing several training initiatives by the company.

“If you follow the IT industry, in particular the talent side, hiring in that number [and] scaling up within a 90-day period is not easy. It was a pretty aggressive goal. We knew that,” Neeraj Shaabi, regional managing director and vice-president, Oracle Asean/SAGE (South Asian Growth Economies), tells Enterprise.

Indeed, it was a bold move for an IT company. The recruitment drive, to put it into perspective, is part of Oracle’s plans to become a bigger player in the fast-growing cloud industry. The company has been actively transforming itself in order to be recognised as a cloud player, while shedding its traditional image of a database solutions provider.

In October, Oracle revealed an audacious plan for its cloud computing business at the Oracle Open- World 2015. The annual event featuring its latest IT offerings is attended by business decision-makers, IT manage ment and line-of-business end users, among others. The company announced plans to widen its portfolio in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), analytical cloud services, cloud applications and cloud integration services. Certainly, it intends to take on the big boys in the industry led by Amazon’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft’s Azure and Google.

Hiring to meet demand
Cloud computing is not a new IT phenomenon, but its increasing adoption and popularity has revolutionised and redefined business models and processes in many ways. For the less tech-savvy, cloud computing or cloud is a service that allows users to store, manage and process data over the Internet without having to build and maintain computing infrastructures in-house.

To put it simply, users are able to perform computing tasks using web based software instead of software installed in the computer’s personal hard drive or local server. Several types of cloud models are being used today, such as public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.

According to the International Data Corp (IDC), spending on cloud IT infrastructure worldwide will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.1% and reach US$53.1 billion ($74.9 billion) by 2019. This will account for 46% of the total spending on enterprise IT infrastructure, the IT market intelligence firm says in a report on Oct 5.

In another report dated Dec 7, IDC says migration to cloud is the main reason IT services in APAC ex-Japan are being driven by growth in IT consulting, systems integration and hosting infrastructure service. It points out that growth in traditional outsourcing services continues to be “adversely impacted” by the shift to cloud, especially as deal size, duration and structure move in favour of a more hybrid IT environment.

Oracle’s recruitment drive was in response to growing demand, says Shaabi. The company had taken note of the growing cloud trend early on, he adds, and has made “good, strategic investments” in the cloud space in anticipation of that, which places it “somewhat ahead of the curve”.

‘Real demand’
Shaabi says at a fundamental level, demand for cloud computing today has crystallised into “real” demand as opposed to mere interest or curiosity. This has translated into a “real” transition for enter prises to move towards the cloud. “So, [the] 1,000 additional sales people in APAC is really a response to market demand,” he says.

What’s more important is the ability to tap these opportunities. Shaabi claims the company is the only one that offers a “complete end-to-end play” in the cloud, and this makes it “special”. Oracle provides a comprehensive suite of cloud services under seven layers of its cloud architecture stack, ranging from basic storage services to application services.

“If you want higher performance capability in a public cloud, private cloud [or] hybrid cloud environment, we can serve you a combination of hardware [and] software, engineered to work together,” he says.

As Oracle is traditionally dominant in databases, its focus on cloud services has also shaped its database solutions as a type of Platform-as-a- Service. It also has the capa bility to integrate multiple application systems in the cloud as opposed to the traditional integration method, which has to be done on its premises. Furthermore, the company has strong capability in providing business applications such as enterprise resource planning, supply chain management and human capital management.

Creating new roles
As the cloud industry continues to grow and revolutionise the business landscape, inevitably, that leads to the creation of new positions and responsibilities in IT companies. Shaabi says the traditional model of serving customers would be “a little bit different” in the future for cloud. For one, Oracle has deployed a new role — client success man ager— to help customers understand the real potential of the cloud, vis-à-vis how to adopt it fully and get the most out of it.

The cloud has also pushed the company into being more than an IT solutions provider: It has begun to hire domain experts from other fields to provide the relevant knowledge, capabilities and specialists in-house.

One example is Oracle’s recruitment of HR experts. The company recently organised an event to engage top HR professionals from Asean, to better understand their department’s requirements and the processes of their respective organisations. Oracle’s in-house experts were able to translate and communicate these HR needs to their IT counterparts, to enable them to design effective cloud solutions.

“Now, if you are engaging those kinds of audiences, you need the specialty and domain skills in-house as well. Guess what? We’re hiring more HR [specialists],” says Shaabi.

Indeed, Oracle also finds itself engaging chief marketing officers (CMOs). Traditionally, Shaabi says, IT companies do not deal with heads of marketing, and vice versa. But that has changed as different disciplines collide as a result of innovation brought by cloud. Now, marketing executives are dealing with technology companies because the next wave that is sweeping the world of marketing is digitalisation.

“So, as much as they are required to acquire skills to assimilate these new trends and technologies, we [from the IT world] have to acquire skills too. We have to think how the CMO of a company thinks today. How do we up the ante in our own understanding of that world? That’s driving a lot of the new kind of functional skill sets in our hiring process,” he adds.

For now, Oracle is not looking to add more sales staff through another massive hiring exercise. Neither is it looking to hire IT technical staff in that manner. But Shaabi says the company will continue to hire organically as and when it requires more manpower. “Although I can’t affirmatively answer yes or no, the trend seems [to be] that we will probably need [more people].”

This article appeared in the Enterprise of Issue 711 (Jan 18) of The Edge Singapore.

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