On Acquiring Innovation

light_bulb.jpgI’ve been mulling a post on acquired innovation since OpenWorld. Marian asked about it during our interview. Dennis and some of the other Enterprise Irregulars have been critical of the term as Charles uses it, and I’m not planning to defend the term or the concept per se.

I can speak from my own experience at Oracle, which will soon cross ten total years of service, in various geographical locations and in various positions within the company, and I base my observations on that alone.

I’m scared by IBM’s “Stop Talking, Start Doing”commercials. This isn’t a tangent. The campaign against “ideating” and “innovation workshops” suggests that thinking about change is pointless. Very dangerous, since it also suggests that doing and thinking/talking are mutually exclusive.

The tieback to acquired innovation is the thinking/talking piece. I look back at EBS development prior to the PeopleSoft merger, and I remember a very different culture with very different ideas than what we have today. The beauty part of acquiring companies has been twofold for me:

  1. I get to use great products that weren’t in the Oracle portfolio previously. This is a personal benefit, as well as one that makes our products better. Sure, there’s overlap, since we have a huge laundry list of products. However, I now have access to a lot more sweet products and technologies.
  2. Many of the people who came over via acquisitions have decided to stay, and that has changed the culture for the better. Paul and Rich are examples. Oracle could not have injected as much new talent into its ranks without a massive overhaul. Sure, it’s a bit disruptive to combine with a big company like PeopleSoft, and politics and agendas made it dicey. That’s sorted out now, and I think the influx of new people has brought us a slew of new ideas.

Inevitably, this benefits our customers, since we have new products and new ideas combined into the development miasma. Oracle is acquiring thinkers as much as it is acquiring products and customers (and maintenance streams, hat tip to Vinnie Maintenance). So, thinking, as expressed by talking, is a good thing because it helps us debate and challenge the status quo. Sure, you can’t hope to only talk the talk; eventually, you have to walk the walk or hit the bricks (I love a good string of metaphors).

I don’t worry about execution, since Oracle and its acquired companies all have good track records for doing. Without acquired innovation, is there an AppsLab or something similar? Maybe, maybe not. My argument for acquired innovation is that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, typically attributed to Aristotle.

What do you think? Sound off in comments.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

10 comments

  1. Software acquisitions can be a tricky business and benefits may not always be obvious. The WSJ ran a nice piece on the subject a while ago:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119551706770298528.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    Some kind of consolidation was inevitable but only time will show how much customers and users benefit. Oracle is still mainly a technology company, not an application one. The acquisitions brought more focus on applications and users, which is now pretty apparent in R12 (which looks more like Peoplesoft) and overall customer service.

  2. Software acquisitions can be a tricky business and benefits may not always be obvious. The WSJ ran a nice piece on the subject a while ago:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119551706770298528.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    Some kind of consolidation was inevitable but only time will show how much customers and users benefit. Oracle is still mainly a technology company, not an application one. The acquisitions brought more focus on applications and users, which is now pretty apparent in R12 (which looks more like Peoplesoft) and overall customer service.

  3. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out in a bit. R12 and E9 were basically finished when we acquired PSFT, so both those releases were almost entirely completed.

    We got a shot in the arm with the acquisitions, and I think if you’re impressed with R12/E9, you’ll be blown away by future releases.

    That’s the goal anyway.

  4. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out in a bit. R12 and E9 were basically finished when we acquired PSFT, so both those releases were almost entirely completed.

    We got a shot in the arm with the acquisitions, and I think if you’re impressed with R12/E9, you’ll be blown away by future releases.

    That’s the goal anyway.

  5. @Marian: The article you mentioned is interesting and touches on some critical points. One thing that’s not the focus of the article, but should be pointed out is that pieces of s/w bought from different vendors have a lower change of working well together than acquired pieces now under the same umbrella.

    For example, buying R12 and Hyperion would work out better now than it would have when the 2 companies were independent. Part of acquiring innovation is getting access to the code and the hidden features, like EBS has always had access to DB features and technologies that weren’t available to PSFT or SAP.

  6. @Marian: The article you mentioned is interesting and touches on some critical points. One thing that’s not the focus of the article, but should be pointed out is that pieces of s/w bought from different vendors have a lower change of working well together than acquired pieces now under the same umbrella.

    For example, buying R12 and Hyperion would work out better now than it would have when the 2 companies were independent. Part of acquiring innovation is getting access to the code and the hidden features, like EBS has always had access to DB features and technologies that weren’t available to PSFT or SAP.

  7. @Steve: Nice post, acquisition renewal may fit equally well to describe what I have observed. As for declining markets, I’m not in a position to evaluate that, sitting in my corner of development.

  8. @Steve: Nice post, acquisition renewal may fit equally well to describe what I have observed. As for declining markets, I’m not in a position to evaluate that, sitting in my corner of development.

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