CHICAGO - Oracle Corp. president Mark Hurd today tried to paint a picture of a company committed to keeping one leg firmly in the world of entrenched HR systems while striding confidently into cloud human capital management and advanced tools such as big data workforce analytics and social recruiting.
Speaking at the HR Technology Conference in Chicago to an audience of HR managers, IT professionals and vendors -- one that by show of hands contained around 100 of his claimed 18,000 HR customers -- Hurd touted the modular approach possible with Oracle’s emerging Fusion human capital management (HCM) line and the choice of on-premises, private cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) HCM deployment.
"If you have a PeopleSoft suite or an E-Business suite, what I don’t want you taking away from our commitment to Fusion is that we’re going to end-of-life any of these products," Hurd said. "I believe that at Oracle [OpenWorld] 2022 there’s going to be a PeopleSoft track. This will be a modular migration over time."
That statement reassured at least one member of a PeopleSoft contingent that, based on informal impressions later confirmed by Hurd, was the biggest for any platform at the conference.
"I was hoping for direct assurances there," said Scott Hoppe, an IT director in the benefits solutions division of Mutual of Omaha, the Nebraska-based insurance company. "If that is his thought, that’s good."
Hoppe said Mutual of Omaha recently upgraded its nine-year-old PeopleSoft system and has no plans to add SaaS modules.
"I don’t think we have the business need," he said. "But I like the fact that he is talking about being able to support modular-type capabilities within a cloud-based solution."
Asked in an audience Q&A how Oracle plans to organize support for such "odd pieces in combination," Hurd touted Oracle Platinum Services and the systems the company is putting in place to build a "fingerprint" of each customer’s configuration.
But Oracle's PeopleSoft strategy apparently didn't convince Syngenta, a large agricultural company based in Basel, Switzerland. "We moved away from PeopleSoft about three years ago because we wanted to consolidate systems," said Armin Welton, a Syngenta employee who attended Hurd's Q&A. "We switched to SAP HCM not because of problems with PeopleSoft but because of the consolidation issue. He [Mark Hurd] has collected a suite of applications now, but we've already consolidated SAP HCM, so we'll be using it for the next 10 years. Because you can't easily move [the core], I'd rather go for an integrated approach."
Big data analytics key to HR strategy
Reprising a talk he gave last month at Taleo World, a conference for customers of the talent management software vendor that Oracle acquired last year, Hurd -- ex-CEO of Hewlett-Packard -- described what CEOs need from HR to tie strategy to operations and the people capable of executing them.
"The question is, 'Do I have the best people who can deliver the best performance at the optimal performance and skills mix, and with the optimal business alignment?' Those are the questions I want answered. I want data to be able to make that happen."
Unsurprisingly, Hurd claimed Oracle is the only company with the scalable database and application portfolio to do the job, adding that customers at its recent OpenWorld conference showed how they use data mining and analytics to glean useful insights from petabytes of data. But he acknowledged that most of the new data is unstructured, with much of it from social media, and thus "there is a high probability that most of the data is worthless."
Hurd said talent management for senior managers should include a review process to measure performance against absolute measures, an internal comparison of peers and the hiring of an outside firm for cross-industry comparisons.
"It’s not worth it as a one-time exercise. It’s something that has to get into the DNA of management," he said.
Hurd said the fact that 43% of the U.S. workforce is eligible to retire in the next decade is "either good news or bad news." Companies will need a holistic view of their workforces to deal with it.
Taleo integration coming this spring
In a separate roundtable with reporters, Hurd was asked about Oracle’s timeline for integrating Taleo talent management software into Oracle’s HCM line. He deferred to Gretchen Alarcon, the company’s vice president of human capital management strategy. Alarcon said Oracle will integrate Taleo’s recruiting features by April, while the learning management component will come later in 2013. She said integrating employee profiles across the product line will be critical to building new analytics features.
Hurd suggested the migration challenge for Oracle, a company known for its acquisitions, is different from competitors with smaller customer bases.
"You always have a problem as a legacy vendor. Competitors want to make stories up. The reality is the legacy vendor is putting its entire user base up for play."
Hurd said users of PeopleSoft, which is exclusively an on-premises application, can add functions by connecting Oracle SaaS modules to it.
He had even tarter words for Oracle competitors.
As for SAP’s comparable move into talent software with its acquisition of SuccessFactors, Hurd said, “They talk a lot. I always think when people show up with stories, 'OK, I can’t buy a story.' We try to actually show up with stuff you can use."
He also said that Workday, which only is available on a SaaS platform, is not as new or complete as Fusion HCM.
In the public Q&A, Hurd seemed intent on emphasizing HR’s importance to Oracle, but in the later session he took a slightly different tone.
"I think HR is more of a line function. I know HR people don’t like to hear that," he said.
At the same time, he added that it’s a broad subject that requires effective leadership to be handled effectively, saying that he thinks "it’s one of the most under-served departments that has the opportunity to move companies forward."
Additional reporting by Emma Snider, associate site and news editor