By Joe Skorupa
I just registered for Oracle OpenWorld in October. It's a long way off, but you need to register months in advance or the only hotel rooms left will be in Tiburon. This is no exaggeration. With 40,000 attendees OpenWorld is one of the largest tech events on the planet. Even so, I prefer Oracle Retail CrossTalk, an event I attended last week. Here's why.
Admittedly, this is an unequal comparison. OpenWorld and CrossTalk are completely different animals in too many ways to count. But this is a blog, and riffing on partially substantiated opinions is the name of the game. So, here goes.
First of all, I have a vested interest in retail, and CrossTalk is focused on retail. This means I get to talk retailing 24/7 with leading retail executives at meals, sessions, receptions and evening events. Sometimes we actually talk about other topics, say the Yankees-Boston rivalry, but I never find myself in a room full of petroleum executives or utility executives or healthcare executives or anything but retailers.
More than 100 retailers attended this year's CrossTalk, which was held June 15-16 in Orlando. It is an invitation-only event and the level of retail executive in attendance was extremely high. Again, OpenWorld is more broad-based and egalitarian. And it's supposed to be. I just simply prefer a more focused, high-level event.
In addition to retailers, a number of leading retail analysts attended the event, and several had major podium roles in breakout sessions. Getting up to speed with retail analysts, many of whom are my friends, is always time well spent, and I made good use of it.
Finally, and this one is important to me, at CrossTalk I actually get to talk to the highest levels of Oracle executives in attendance. This year's event fell on dates that didn't allow Oracle to discuss business performance as openly as in years past due to being in a quiet period prior to a quarterly financial report and a pending acquisition of Sun.
Still, I was able to get access to all top Oracle retail executives at the event. Of course, if I tell you what we discussed heads will probably roll, including mine. So, watch this space for more info about Oracle's retail business and technology roadmap in an upcoming blog.
Now, compare this with OpenWorld where Oracle executives are told NOT TO TALK TO THE MEDIA! Four years ago I had a one-on-one conversation with Charles Phillips, and I was part of a small, select group of editors at a Larry Ellison press conference. Life was good. I guess I got spoiled. But as a content provider you have to question the point of attending an event where there is a virtual media blackout.
On the upside, OpenWorld is in San Francisco. So, even though I prefer CrossTalk I will probably go to OpenWorld to get up to speed on IT innovation and visiting my favorite city in the country.
So, what was so good about CrossTalk? Here is a list of takeaways:
Duncan Angove, GM and SVP, Oracle Retail
>Since the beginning of 2009 there have been 100 Oracle Retail go-lives around the world.
>At a certain level of retail expansion you manage by averages and you end up with margin leak. You solve this problem and grow to the next level through insight-driven retailing.
>Up to now the big focus in retailing was on operational excellence. Today, customer centricity and innovation are big parts of the new reality.
>Retailers are embracing innovation. The recession is inspiring retailers to go on the offensive.
Kristin Blum, SVP and CIO, Abercrombie & Fitch
>Retail winners that will come through the recession will be those who are leaders on the offense and not the defense. This is not a time for retrenching.
>When you make money hand over fist you can make a lot of mistakes and no one notices. Growth cures all ills and covers all sins.
>IT department has moved away from being a development shop doing a lot of custom development work. This did not provide agility. For example, it took 18 months to set up the systems to open the London flagship store. You can do the math. If your plan includes global expansion, you can't take 18 months to open in each country.
>Embarking on a complete IT makeover that includes rebuilding infrastructure, merchandising, international capable POS, BI, store systems, supply chain, HR, finance, sourcing, retiring legacy systems, creating one version of the truth database, and a five-year plan that goes over the horizon with Oracle Retail applications.
>Assortment is the same in all stores, except for flagships. This is for fashion and core products. Pricing is the same chainwide, too, except for premium pricing in UK flagship
Dave Boyce, VP Product Strategy, Oracle Retail
>Moving higher up the maturity model means having IT that scales growth through insight-driven retailing. It means more automation. It means having infrastructure that supports growth through more uptime. It means having systems that enable localization, deploys optimization sciences, and enables process innovation.
John Dohm, CIO, True Religion
>I prefer fully integrated solution suites and platforms than being locked into mystery integrations.
>If I have to piece together disparate, best-of-breed applications, then I own all the integration and I become a burden to the organization.
>My philosophy is fewer vendors, best practices.
>True Religion uses Oracle On demand.
Melissa Boxer, VP CRM Products, Marketing and Loyalty Solutions
>6% of Harrod's customers drive 50% of sales.
>The top 5% of Neiman-Marcus customers have a basket size of $12,000. The rest have a basket size of $600.
>Too many retailers have spray-and-pray marketing technologies where you shoot it out there and hope something sticks.
>10% of customer base drives 60% of revenue at France-based Fnac, and loyalty card members shop three times more often and spend 10 times more than non-members.
>Carrefour does product-centric couponing to targeted customers with real-time offers at POS.