Fast 50 Interview: Oracle NetSuite
David Turner zu Cloud, SaaS, AI, Start-ups und Innovation
Oracle NetSuite unterstützt als eines der führenden Cloud-Computing-Unternehmen für Business-Software den Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Award. Wir haben mit David Turner, Senior Director, EMEA, Oracle NetSuite, über die aktuellen Trends und Entwicklungen in den Bereichen Cloud, Software-as-a-Service, Künstliche Intelligenz, Start-ups und Innovation gesprochen. Lesen Sie hier das englischsprachige Interview.
What were your reasons for supporting the Technology Fast 50 Award and working with Deloitte in this context?
We have always thought that the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 is an important initiative to recognize and highlight great start-ups and scale-ups, in Germany and elsewhere. As a company that works with start-ups and scale-ups all over the world, our belief is that this is the most comprehensive and well-researched program, based on audited numbers you can trust – and it has the weight of Deloitte behind it.
We have been working with the Fast 50 in the US and the UK for many years now as a sponsor. We started in Germany last year for the first time and that was to coincide with Oracle NetSuite opening an operation in Germany. So it is a great opportunity for us to expose our brand and our messages to start-ups and scale-ups and get involved in the program.
Oracle NetSuite is a pioneer in cloud computing and ERP software as a service. What do you think are the most exciting recent developments in these areas from a global perspective?
I think the move to cloud, and particularly public cloud, is still actually the most exciting and dominant driver in ERP software globally today. Organizations are looking for the benefits of cloud, which offers superior flexibility and instant software upgrades instead of the old way of having to implement upgrades yourself as a user. It is a huge driver of change, and it has caught out many of the traditional software companies who hoped or believed that the market would not move to cloud so quickly.
For NetSuite, which was born in the cloud, it is obviously a great opportunity and a positive development, which is why we are expanding to Germany and all over the world. When I think outside of cloud, it is things like advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and blockchain, which are very interesting developments that people talk about a lot. We already are doing work in that area, but there is not yet high demand from our customers, because it is too early.
What role will AI play in these areas in the coming years?
I think all organizations and in particular young, fast growing companies, like the ones in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50, often struggle with adopting and maintaining standard processes across the organization, making sense out of the unstructured data and information they have, and making rapid, reliable decisions. In particular as they grow, because of their fast expansion they are onboarding a lot of new people, collecting more and more data, and their processes are evolving.
I think AI has the promise to help increasing automation in many administrative back office areas like invoice processing and other sort of tedious but important processes. There is already the ability to automate many of those things, but with AI, it allows them to automate to a greater degree, to handle processes that today still require manual intervention. Also in areas like data analysis and decision making, AI promises to offer massive advances, and I think that will help companies to grow faster. That is how we are looking at AI: Helping them and freeing them up to better focus on all the other challenges of fast growing, fast changing organizations, in order to respond to change quicker - using AI to help crunch the ever increasing amount of data that is processed, and then make decisions that help them succeed.
And you see AI as a future part of the overall package that you are offering them?
It will be, absolutely. We are focusing on three areas for AI:
- Intelligent automation – where the system can automate processes based on learned business patterns and behaviours;
- Intelligent analysis - AI can analyse large volumes of real-time data to provide live insights, identify opportunities while they are emerging, and recommend decisions, helping businesses become far more reactive and agile.
- Intelligent interaction – AI can make sense of huge volumes of data and present them to each user in a way they helps them in their particular role, based on learnings from how others work.
We have only started down this path, but we’re already helping companies to be more responsive and agile. The opportunities for AI in business systems are massive and very exciting.
On the subject of start-ups: You already mentioned that they are facing a lot of challenges growing and adopting. Do you see any further challenges? And maybe how they can best tackle them?
The challenges we hear from start-ups and fast-growing companies all over the world are around two big areas. One is attracting and retaining talent: finding good people with the right skills, and then keeping them and growing them with the company, is a constant topic of discussion. That is the same in almost every country today. Sometimes the smaller start-ups can be very attractive. In the US for example, everybody wants to work for a start-up because they want to work for the next Google or Apple. But in Europe, especially in Germany, smaller companies sometimes struggle to attract people because they are competing with the “big guys” like Deloitte and others who offer a different experience and sometimes different salaries and opportunities to graduates.
And number two is managing international expansion. I think a lot of these companies, especially the tech-start-ups, recognize that they need to expand quite rapidly on an international basis in order to exploit their technology or their particular ideas quickly before competitors can get there. That is a big challenge for a small, young company that does not always have all of the experience and the skills for international expansion. Just like Deloitte, we run a lot of thought leadership events, discussing and networking with these companies, and those two topics came up massively.
I guess for them, it is also a question of flexibility: How do we stay agile as we grow and how do we get control and understanding about business? Especially when we talk to finance people, CEOs or founders, they often have this fear that they are losing control. When they start the company, they know everything about it, it is their baby and they want to be involved in every decision. As the company grows, they feel like they are losing control and cannot get the visibility across the organization to see what is actually going on. I guess they have two choices: One is that they are involved in every decision that is made, but that restricts how quickly the company can grow. Or they have to get systems, processes and people in place who they can trust to make the decisions and to get the control and visibility across the organization.
In your opinion, how well are the German start-ups positioned for the digital future? Where do they still have to catch up with their international competitors?
I think very well, actually. For a number of reasons: There is a good flow of talent coming out of German universities, who are very tech-savvy and smart and understand digitalization. Also there is quite a large technology industry and technical manufacturing based industry in Germany; the “Mittelstand” can be a bit traditional, but actually a lot of them are grasping the opportunities of digitalization, IoT and Industry 4.0. Furthermore, Germany’s location in Europe helps attract talent from around Eastern Europe.
A challenge for German start-ups is funding. Although there is a growing venture capital and private equity market, it is not quite as easy to get funding in Germany as it is in places like the UK or in the US. I guess another thing is, that the German market is actually quite a large local market for startups, so often they can focus on this market and not worry about international expansion – sometimes they do not focus on international opportunities fast enough, whereas some of their competitors from smaller countries around Europe and elsewhere become international much faster. That can be a positive and a negative. The good thing is that you have a good domestic market to start building a company, but you should not forget international expansion if you really want to compete and take your ideas and your products global before someone else gets there.
What role does innovation play for your company? And how do you promote innovation within your organization?
Absolutely, innovation is a huge issue and opportunity for us. We are a leading cloud software company and so we have always innovated from the start, being one of the first cloud software companies twenty years ago. We pioneered the SaaS model and had to innovate in terms of how we actually charge, how we recognize revenue and how we release software so that all of our customers get it at the same time. Today this is standard, but obviously we had to innovate, discover and develop ourselves how to achieve these goals. So yes, we invest massively in Research & Development and now that NetSuite is part of Oracle, which just happened less than two years ago, Oracle is investing even more in NetSuite R&D. That is allowing us to innovate and address areas like AI, blockchain and other new technologies.
We encourage innovation internally. I would say being at NetSuite today is a bit like working for a billion dollar start-up, because we are literally growing at the speed of a start-up. We are already a large organization growing at around 100% annually in EMEA, so we have to encourage all of our colleagues to innovate, to take responsibility for what they are doing and try to improve constantly. We have quite a flat structure and people are empowered to make decisions and to innovate as much as they can, whatever their role in the company is, and to contribute to others across the organization. The door is always open for ideas.
Another aspect of innovation is the way we collaborate. We have a development partner program called “SuiteCloud Developer Network (SDN)” where we encourage our partners, business partners and even our customers to develop add-ons and complementary software on our own cloud platform, the NetSuite cloud platform. We work with them and accredit the software and then it becomes part of the standard software and gets upgraded at the same time as everything else – and we guarantee that it will work seamlessly every time the platform is upgraded.
That allows us to multiply our innovation and our development by having a partner network of really smart, dynamic companies. So while we are developing furiously and rapidly in the middle on the core products, these very clever companies and people are developing additional functionality around the core. For example, they created a version of NetSuite for microbrewers. They added on the extra functionality to manage the brewing process, the tax and reporting process – that is really specific for brewing beer – and there is a version now available for microbrewing; or there is one for bookshops. It is stuff like that which gives us real innovation and allows us to create specific functionality to get into particular verticals and support specific small groups of customers by working with these partners.