"We want to make sure the market knows Oracle is serious about HCM, serious about HR and serious about leading this space," Hurd said in a keynote speech.
And judging from the executive representation, it wasn’t just talk. Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, is scheduled to deliver the conference's closing keynote.
"How many times have Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd presented at the same event other than Oracle OpenWorld? Zero. And we're doing that here," Hurd said.
Oracle's focus on HR mirrors what's happening in organizations, according to research data presented during the event's opening night. When asked to rank 10 challenges in order of importance on Conference Board's 2014 CEO Challenges Study, human capital emerged as the top priority for survey respondents. PricewaterhouseCoopers' 17th Annual CEO Survey revealed that 92% of U.S. CEOs are either considering changing their talent strategies, or are already in the process of doing so. The theme of a presentation by Ed Boswell, a PwC practice leader, was "Our Time Has Come." With more eyes on HR than ever before, Boswell said HR leaders have a once-in-a-career opportunity to exert more influence in their organizations.
Hurd's remarks made it clear that Oracle plans to take advantage of the rising tide. But as Bill Kutik, technology columnist for Human Resource Executive magazine put it in an October 2013 article, today's HCM software market is a "horse race," with Oracle, SAP and Workday battling it out for supremacy. Kutik wrote that each has advantages and disadvantages, and "all three companies are a long way from the finish line."
So how does Hurd envisage Oracle pulling into the lead? His answer was simple.
"We are going to out-engineer our competitors," he said.
Hurd champions Oracle above Workday and SAP in HCM software market
During a press roundtable, Hurd delved more deeply into Oracle's positioning against SAP and Workday.
"SAP, to my knowledge, [has] rewritten none of their applications for the cloud," he said. "We've done the work."
Hurd also cast an unfavorable eye towards SAP's acquisition of SuccessFactors. "We bought Taleo, which was the world leading recruiting company. We've integrated Taleo with Fusion, and we've done a buy-build strategy," he said. SAP has "done a buy strategy of a performance management company that was attempting to get into recruiting.
"I just think we will out-engineer them. We've made better acquisitions than they have, and the collection of our capabilities will lead the market," he continued.
As for Workday, Hurd focused his critiques on the vendor's functionality. For instance, one area where Workday trails, in Hurd's opinion, is social media.
"Social is a big deal to us. We think it's a key differentiator against Workday which we don't believe has social capabilities," he said. "We believe that's a huge miss."
While Hurd admitted that Workday was "out a little bit in advance of [Oracle] from a product perspective," he said he feels Oracle has not only caught up to the native Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor, but surpassed it. He brought up the fact that Workday just rolled out a new user interface based on HTML5 instead of Adobe Flash last month, and said the company has had "well-documented" problems with its mobile capabilities.
Hurd also hung his hat on Taleo again in regard to Workday. While Workday's newly developed recruiting module is set to be released later this year, Zachary Thomas, Oracle vice president of HCM cloud strategy, estimated that deep recruiting functionality takes upwards of six years to cultivate.
"I think it's an internal mobility app, I don't think it's a recruiting app," Thomas said of Workday Recruiting. "I think it has absolutely no social capabilities -- there's no social referrals, no social marketing." In Thomas' view, pursuing an acquisition integration strategy in the recruiting area with Taleo was a wise path for Oracle -- to its customers' benefit.
However, Hurd acknowledged Workday's overall positive brand perception. "I think they have had the cool factor," he said. "Listen, we just need to show up and do a better job."
As for Oracle's momentum, Hurd said the company will provide further integration between Taleo and Fusion in coming months, deepening the link between talent and core HR applications. He also pledged his support to PeopleSoft users, saying that although Oracle is "driving very hard on innovation in the cloud," it will not abandon its on-premises customer base.
The latest version of Oracle HCM Cloud was announced during the event. Release 8 features "more than 200 new innovations, including an integrated time and attendance solution, workforce modeling [and] additional global support for payroll and new languages," according to a press release. The version also includes new social sourcing capabilities and enhancements to the user interface.