Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 169

March 16, 2023

#169 Doug Smith: Creating Value Through Partnerships

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In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers is joined by Doug Smith Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Global Partner Ecosystem at Oracle.

In his role as SVP- Strategic Partnerships and Partner Ecosystem for Oracle, Doug leads the organization responsible for transforming, growing and strengthening relationships and pursuing new business opportunities with Oracle's strategic partners across all products, services and solutions

Doug has extensive experience in business development, strategic partnerships, alliances, and acquisitions. He has a strong background in deal structure and execution, business model innovation, global expansion, and executive leadership.

Topics covered include:

  • How partner frameworks apply to vertical solutions - 2:43
  • Partners provide an amazing opportunity for us to extend into solution areas - 4:16
  • Provide a superior sales experience for the customer - 6:22
  • Making sure the benefits of the partnership flows through across the entire company - 10:59
  • How do you deliver more value back to your product development team? - 13:26
  • How Oracle thinks about working with partners to bring greater opportunity to their customers - 15:15
  • How Oracle works with partners that have very specific industry expertise - 20:00
  • What is the driving force behind new vertical solutions? - 22:25
  • Partnering is a whole company process, it’s not just a group of people - 27:37

Let’s get into the conversation!

Chip Rodgers  00:06

Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of ecosystem aces. I'm here and really excited to be talking with Doug Smith. Welcome, Doug.

Doug Smith  00:16

Thanks, Chip. Great to be here.

Chip Rodgers  00:17

Doug is Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and global partner ecosystems at Oracle. Doug, you've had a long career in partnering with Microsoft and really just run business units. You've been a General Manager of the cloud and AI business development area at Microsoft, and for the last few years, have been running the entire ecosystem for Oracle. Doug, maybe just tell us a little bit about what your role is today in Oracle, and what are some of the things that you and your team are up to?

Doug Smith  01:06

I think you summed it up pretty well. So, my responsibilities are everything we do from a partnerships perspective on sell with and sell through bases of partners of all types, all of our products in all of our geos, and it's a really fun opportunity. One of the things that I think is very, super interesting about a work role. And one of the main reasons I came to the company was that this is a role in which customers and business leaders are working to drive outcomes.

Like I'm responsible for driving outcomes, you're responsible for driving outcomes, the folks on this podcast, we all have those responsibilities. How do we do that? We do that through solutions. And so often, Oracle technologies are really core critical elements of delivering on the solution, it's not the only element of the solution, but they're a very critical piece of it.

And so the fact that Oracle has the breadth and depth of the tech stack everything from the infrastructure layer through, Platform as a Service layers and Database as a Service layers, and then SaaS applications boasted a horizontal across like supply chain,HCM, healthcare, human capital management, and other pieces, as well as vertical technologies, like the acquisition we did with Cerner this year, makes it a really fun place to partner, because as we worked with our partners to put those solutions together, really gives us an excellent opportunity to work with customers to deliver solutions that help deliver the outcomes that they're looking for.

Chip Rodgers  02:43

That's really interesting. And Oracle has the entire, like you said breadth and depth of capabilities that Oracle has, starting with ERP, but then sort of concentric circles outside of that. And then I think also, what's interesting is, and we'll dive into this a little bit is how that applies with vertical solutions. And there are a lot of really interesting questions and topics there and how do partners play a role?

One of the things that I was really interested in, Doug, when we prepared for our conversation is the partner framework that you think about, how to partner and I love that framework, everything from building solutions together to what is the business impact, and then making sure that the customer is happy. So, take us through a little bit of that framework and how you think about that applies to Oracle and your partners?

Partners provide an amazing opportunity for us to extend into solution areas & Provide a superior sales experience for the customer

Doug Smith  04:08

I think it really starts with that customer orientation that I just spoke to in terms of what they're looking for, and the need for solutions. And partners really provide an amazing opportunity for us to extend into the solution areas. So customers don't want to buy products, they don't want to just buy cloud, they don't want to buy ERP, they're actually looking to solve the problems. And so, there's three primary ways as you mentioned, that is to see how value gets created through partnerships.

The first of those is solution innovation. While we've got some amazing technologies, first party technologies that are relevant to delivering on these solutions, we also recognize our customers leverage technologies that are non-Oracle technologies. When they want to go implement our technologies, oftentimes they need a professional services provider to help do that. Sometimes they're looking for managed services providers to come tend to kind of drive all of that. And so there's a really cool opportunity in working with partners to help extend our technologies in areas that are relevant to the customer.

So in some cases that might be integrating with other third party technologies. It might be bringing professional services to bear we've gotten, we do a lot of work with our global system integrator partners, for example, who are taking and, and they're working to deliver solution sets for, for example, retail banking, or commercial banking, or payer provider and healthcare, or utilities, or the energy sector, where they're, using Oracle technologies as the foundation.

But then they're pre building personas, they're pre building data connectors, and application connectors with other third party products on their other company's products. And they're bringing their professional services who are experienced in a particular industry or particular area to bear to really help us pull together.

So as we go in with a partner, and Co-sell to those to those customers, the customers get a fantastic experience, and they really get access to innovations in the form of a solution that they wouldn't otherwise have, moving from that product orientation to a solution orientation, so that innovative solutions is absolutely key.

The second piece of it kind of builds on it, like how do we provide a wonderful sales experience for the customer. And that starts with everything from the lead generation process through qualified leads to close sales. And I guess the way I would summarize that is how does the customer come away from that experience saying, Oracle, worked with a partner. And we went through this experience, I learned everything that I needed to know, I got all of my questions or concerns answered, I just feel like, wow, it's almost as if I was dealing with one company, but getting the benefits of dealing with two or more companies, how I would summarize business impact, to do that go to market, go to market motions.

And the third one is customer success, because of course partnerships don't end with just getting a new customer or winning a deal from a customer, how do we make sure that that customer is successful? And so we put a lot of energy into working with our partners to make sure, you know, did they have the right trained and certified folks we have?

Do they have all of the equipment they need? Do we have marketing resources against this? What are the things that we need to work with, so the customers can be very, very successful as they implement and they get the value from the technologies, so that,those solutions, that the business impacts are the go to market and customer success are the three key areas that we focus on in every single one of our partnerships into our partner programs.

Chip Rodgers  07:51

I love that it's a great framework. And it's tough to do, though. But I love that  from a customer experience standpoint you said, look it's our goal is to have the customer feel like we're working with one organization with one with one entity and not a collection of different partners that all have sort of different goals and strategies and ways of  speaking to customers. So, how do you keep all of the boats rowing in the same direction? I'm sure it's a challenge across a global organization like Oracle?

Doug Smith  08:43

Well, I think it starts with the customer focus and so getting alignment on that, and then I think having the structure approach and process to understanding where we're gonna get value from the partnerships and how that value manifests itself with customers. So, we go through every single one of whether we're designing a program for the ecosystem, or whether we're negotiating a customer arrangement with a particular partner, making sure that those three elements pull through. And I have to say, from my experience in partnering, the most important piece is keeping the customer focus.

And I think back of various partnerships that I've been involved with, over the years, the most successful ones have been where the two partners were absolutely committed to, first and foremost delivering on what customers need. There are times that selfish interests of each party can say we want this out of the relationship and that, and it's not to say that those things aren't important.

But, I've certainly seen in partnerships that haven't lived up to their potential, almost always it was because one or more of the parties lost sight of what was important for customers. And so for me, I can often tell relatively early on whether there's a high chance of probability of success with a given partner, given like what I see from both companies in terms of their commitment to the customer and delivering on what the customer's needs are first and foremost, and then working through, okay, yes, we need to work through to make sure that this is an economic and a business arrangement that works for each of the partners. But that's a secondary measure, it's not a primary measure.

Making sure the benefits of the partnership flows through across the entire company

Chip Rodgers  10:38

I'm sure a lot of it is also just sort of carrying the message, even with the folks in your team, like the partner teams, just making sure that they're all staying customer focused and carrying that message out to the partners as well.

Doug Smith  10:58

Yeah, that's right. And I would say, I've got a wonderful group of folks who are really committed to that partner ecosystem and those principles. I'd say, the other key element is how do we make sure that flows through across the entire company upside of the partnership? Especially, you look in the field and sales organizations where you've got incentive compensation schemes and everything else, both with us and our partners that come into play. There is a lot of energy spent to make sure that we can strategically design a great program or relationship with a given partner or a given class of partners.

But we've got to make sure that our product development function, our sales function, our marketing function, like everything stacks up against it. And so I think that's, that's oftentimes the biggest challenge is I've got an amazingly committed group of folks to make sure that we're successful as partners. And where I spend also a lot of energy is making sure that the entire company is stacked up behind that. And I'm pleased to say that I've been really pleased with the response that I've seen across the Oracle in the two years that I've been here.

How do you deliver more value back to your product development team?

Chip Rodgers  12:14

It's such a great point, Doug,one of the things that's sort of interesting about partnering is that as a partner leader, and a partner manager you have to think across the whole lifecycle, you're running your own business. So, you've got to think about everything from start to finish. And so that, by definition, means that you're not just an independent player, you've got to bring all the right pieces, from the whole company, from product to marketing, and sales and service, customer success into the both of the partner relationship and then ultimately to the customer.

Doug Smith  12:59

Yeah, and the way we do that, first and foremost, is to make sure we're delivering value back to everyone. So I spoke about interest, delivering back to the customers through their jobs, of course, we got to make sure that the partnership delivers value back to our partner, otherwise, you know, we're putting a lot of effort into into creating a relationship that is not going to do anything successful on day two and beyond.

But then, how do I think about delivering more value back to our product development teams? How do we provide insights in terms of what's going on in the market? How do we help them think through, Hey, you don't necessarily have to build everything, there's opportunities where third parties can help fill those gaps for us, or can help extend our technologies?

How are we in the marketing function? How do we recognize that oftentimes, when we're marketing with partners, we're able to get a better ROI on our marketing dollar than if we just do it separately? How do we deliver value for our sales teams who say, bringing in a partner might be a complicated deal in some respects, but in other respects, it opens up a whole bunch of new opportunities, it provides a greater, you know, role for them to play in engaging with their customer.

So, fundamentally, my career started in finance and accounting. And so I often come back to its value being created for everybody. And if we're as an organization, creating value for our internal stakeholders, our customers and our partners, it's a good chance that we'll be successful.

How Oracle thinks about working with partners to bring greater opportunity to their customers

Chip Rodgers  14:37

I love that. And you bring some really interesting from the product standpoint, enhancing rights, creating a whole solution for the customer from marketing, being able to leverage additional dollars, you're getting Think twice the bank for half the dollars. And from a selling standpoint, having additional influencers and relationships in an account.

Let's dive a little bit into that side of things. And you mentioned it earlier, and you've just kind of touching on it here co selling and, working with partners to bring greater opportunity to Oracle and greater value to your customers. How do you and how does Oracle think about it? How do you make sure that they get the teams around this sort of cosell motion?

Doug Smith  15:48

It starts with, we want to support customers with procuring the technologies and the way that the customers wanted to work with us. And oftentimes, they want a direct relationship with Oracle. And so they want to do a cross selling relationship, as you just suggested, there are cases where they say what we'd really like to buy and procure through a partner. And so we work to support those channel relationships too, so it's really around. I think some of the most interesting partnerships we do are the ones where we support the customers in the way that they want.

But we all know, like in a cloud services world, the trend has been more and more towards co-selling. And I think that it's a great opportunity, because it's delivers a lot of value to the field organizations in both companies, they have incentives to go sell, but then how do we, how do we work together, like how do we help them help facilitate,make sure that they've got the right training materials, the right marketing materials, the right product documentation, that they can come in and do a  pitch together with a customer they can do some point some proof of concepts with customers together those are all massive opportunities to show the customer how well the partnership really stands up, and how the customer is gonna benefit from it.

It's looking at each of those various activities, and then delivering on it together with the partner. And when we do it, it's fantastic. And then we need to amplify it and make sure that others understand that this relationship we have with our partners is unique, it's different, and the customers will stand to benefit.

Chip Rodgers  17:34

That's tremendous. Because there is just rattle off, 10 different things that all have to happen for this, for Co selling to work and even extending out to distributor reseller kind of motions, because they're also cash with everything in the cloud. Things are changing, so that the dynamic in the partnering world these days has changed dramatically.

How do you see some of the changes and delivering everything in the cloud and working with partners, because resellers are still even though they're not sort of shipping boxes and warehousing CDs, or DVDs anymore? They're delivering a lot of value. They know customers really well.  How do those relationships work with Oracle? How do you see where they have been and where they're progressing to?

Doug Smith  18:49

The easiest opportunities in that space is where we've got, like a reseller or channel relationship in either a product set or a geography or customer segment where we don't have a direct sales force, right? And,there's areas of the world for example, where we might say, hey, you know, for a particular customer area, geography, let's rely predominantly on channel partners.

One of the more interesting and challenging parts is when you're working with distributors and resellers in an area where you also have direct sellers of course, and how do you do that? How do you do it in a way that doesn't destroy your margin on the deal, because you're giving certain economics to the channel partner, you've got to compensate your own sales force and what not. And working through that is always an interesting challenge. But, it comes back to the market opportunity when you can grow the market opportunity for your customers because you're so effective and working with a partner that drives the economics more so than anything else.

How Oracle works with partners that have very specific industry expertise & What is the driving force behind new vertical solutions?

Chip Rodgers  20:00

Why not another topic that I'd love to dive into a little bit is working with partners around industry solutions? That's kind of related a little bit because there are some very specific knowledge and capabilities and expertise and relationships that typically work with partners that have that specific expertise.

Talk a little bit about how Oracle works with partners that have that very specific industry expertise, and how do you bring them in? And when did they play?

Doug Smith  20:41

They play a really important role. It is the core, most of Oracle is a horizontal company, meaning that we've got a second set of technologies that work across a variety of industries. Of course, we also have about 11 industry vertical areas, including healthcare where we acquired CERN this past year, where we've gone deep from a vertical perspective.

So often customers, if you're really going to deliver on solutions, you've got a great insight in terms of the specific challenges that particular customers have, or pretty in particular use cases. And that's where professional services partners in particular, and some managed services providers are just fantastic.

Like, in many of them, they've developed deep expertise in a particular industry, deep expertise in a particular workload, they recognize when a customer, for example, what's digitally transformed, it's not just about shipping a new technology, they're doing business process, re innovation. That's models and that stuff that that extends, it's related to Oracle technologies. But that's not what Oracle is going to deliver on. That's not our core business. So having those partners who have deep industry knowledge and expertise is critical.

I'll give you an example. One of the things that we've done in the last year and a half is worked with some of our services partners to develop specific industry solutions, and we've got more than 20 of them in the market today, we've got a substantial number more than that are in the process of being created.

What we do is we take an Oracle team whose subject matter experts in our technologies, both vertical and horizontal technologies. And we bring that together with our partner, and when they see an opportunity, or we see an opportunity together, and then they go create something, and you can think of it almost as in many cases, a digital transformation in a box.

So how do we go do that and they understand all the personas in that particular industry or for that particular workload, they understand the third party technologies beyond Oracle, that are relevant and need to be integrated. And they've got the professional services, people who deeply understand a particular industry area or, or workload.

And so that's where we come together, we basically build a package around it to say, hey, here's the Oracle technologies that serve as the foundation for that solution. Here's the partners technologies, it could be an ISV partner, by the way, as well as a services partner, the professional services that come in, and what we do is we co sell it, right? We don't try to bundle all that up and have us be the front for parts of businesses that we're not experts in we're not gonna go help a company design their new business model.

But we've got lots of partners who are fantastic at helping companies design new business models, so it's us coming together with them. As I described before, how do we show up with a customer with one or more partners? And be able to answer those customers' questions, show them what the capabilities are, that meet their needs, and deliver on it together. And in a very focused way, we've had a lot of success with those 20 industry solutions that we've put in the market today. And I'm really excited. I think it's a huge growth opportunity for Oracle and Oracle is uniquely positioned to do a lot in that space.

Chip Rodgers  24:25

Well, it sounds like you're in development, and you just mentioned you're in development on some other new, vertical solutions with partners. So that's exciting. Well, watch to see what comes out there. How does that process usually start? Do you see what's the impetus for those kinds of solutions? Is it maybe the answer is all the above but is it something that comes from a particular customer challenge?

Is it something you'd be like, Oh,hey this could maybe apply to others? Or are they sort of sort of industry trends that you're seeing? And you want to get ahead of something? What's the kind of mode for or the driving force for those kinds of innovations?

Doug Smith  25:17

I would say the answer is yes. If I were to single out specifically our software integration partners. So often what they do is they will take on a project with a given client, and they'll do some custom build work around that. And they'll learn from it. And they'll figure out some things and say, Hey, we learned some things here, we built some things. Maybe there's a way to make this more repeatable.

So I would say, to your first point, yeah, I think a lot of times, it comes from an initial customer engagement in one area. And we might together with our partner learn some things that are relevant, not for that particular industry, but a completely different industry. But together, capture those learnings, and figure out a way to package them up and then make them repeatable.I think that's a substantial share of the opportunities. That being said, I think there's plenty of opportunities to kind of innovate in new areas as well.

There's a lot of energy innovation energy in the partner ecosystem, and it comes tapping into it. So much of that comes down to building great relationships with the partners, building trust, and building deep relationships between them. So that we've got  it's not just my team, for example, managing the partner relationship, it's my team, coupled with our sales leaders, our product development leaders, or market leaders and giving them a role to play and provide some expectations that they engage with partners, they see value from it. And they're able to do that

So increasingly the ideas will come in from another functional leader in the company saying, Hey, I was talking to this services partner, or this ISP, and we have some ideas here. And, and it's not coming from my group, which is, right, that's, to me, that is a massive measure of success, when you really get  all parts of the company involved in identifying and thinking about how partners can add more value to our customers and to our business.

Partnering is a whole company process, it’s not just a group of people

Chip Rodgers  27:37

That's amazing and again comes back to the point we were talking about earlier, which is that partnering really is a whole company process. It's not  just a group of people that are off doing their own thing. You're an orchestrator you need to bring in all of the parts of the company build trust, as you said, and have some repeatable motions where the next time that idea comes up, they're thinking they reach out to someone in the partner team and say, maybe there's an opportunity for us to do something here together with us with a partner and bring it to market.

Well, this has been fantastic. You've shared so many great thoughts and insights into partnering at Oracle. I like to end on, is there some piece of advice or something either that you got, or your career or that served you well, or something you picked up along the way that to share with our audience of other partner managers, partner leaders?

Doug Smith  28:53

It risks being repetitive. I think the biggest opportunity and the biggest differentiator is to not forget, as partnership leaders, why we're here and we're here in so many ways to extend the opportunity to deliver more to customers. When we do that, and we focus on all of our partners, the vast majority of our partner energies around that customer centricity great things happen.

For folks out there who are interested in partnering with Oracle, and you're very customer focused, reach out, regardless of what industry you're in, regardless of, of what you do, that customer centricity at its core, for me, I often come back to like, are we really being customer focused enough? And so often I find that that is the answer to where things go really, really well. And when things aren't going so well is so often the fact that maybe we lost sight of the customer.

Chip Rodgers  30:06

Love that. We are full circle then that's where we started, which is appropriate. So think because it is all about delivering value to customers and, and partnering up to do it.

Doug, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time with us today. And,many learnings and I'd really appreciate it.

Doug Smith  30:37

Thanks Chip. It's great to be here. It's been great to spend the time with you and thanks for all the thoughtful questions.

Chip Rodgers  30:43

Fantastic. With that we'll end here and thank you all for joining. I'm Chip Rodgers, CMO at WorkSpan. And for myself and Doug Smith. Thanks for joining and we will see you on the next episode of ecosystem aces. Thanks everybody for joining!

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