Oracle in Africa
By eliminating complexity and simplifying IT, Oracle enables its customers - 400,000 of them in more than 145 countries around the world – to accelerate innovation and create added value for their customers. The result is best-in-class products throughout an integrated stack of hardware and software, with every layer designed and engineered to work together according to open industry standards. Oracle's complete, open and integrated solutions offer extreme performance at the lowest cost - all from a single vendor. Integrated, industry-specific solutions are engineered to address complex business processes across a wide range of industries.
In this special feature, Africa Outlook interviews senior members of Oracle Africa including various country and project Directors and partners involved in the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN). Plus, we take an in-depth look inside the Oracle brand, and how Big Data and Cloud Computing are able to support the technology demands of the modern customer.
Writers Matt Bone & Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Donovan Smith
Oracle in Africa
The Diverse African Market
The African continent cannot be described as a single entity. The countries comprising the African continent are vastly diverse in their political, economic, social and cultural character. "In the past few years we have seen intensification in the sense of urgency in both the public and the private sector." There is an increasing awareness that information technology, as it has taken on a new form in the past two or three years, is now the tool to change the development game for all countries in Africa." The mobile phone is now a vital device to do business with consumers and serve citizens better. Social media drives buying through sentiment and satisfaction. The massive amounts of data that are being generated in every business and government activity need to be used to innovate new products, deliver better service and develop infrastructure where it is most needed. Mobile, social media and big data are among the trends driving change in every facet of life and business in Africa.
As economic recovery starts to gather momentum around the word as well as Africa, there is an unspoken world among companies that business will never be the same; Oracle will play a key role in this transformation.
Compelling Growth Strategy
The potential for growth in Africa is massive; inevitably, however, the success of the continent cannot be achieved in isolation. The world's slowing economic growth has had an effect on Africa. "While the challenges in Africa are not uniform - but with the lack of IT skills being ubiquitous – they in turn can hinder the adoption of new technology." Oracle recognised this years ago, and today puts tens of thousands of students through its academy programme to develop database and Java programming skills.
A second challenge is the varying robustness of the communications infrastructure. Implementing a cost-effective communications network in countries that possess areas that are sparsely populated and have varying levels of prosperity is a massive challenge. "Universal, reliable and affordable internet access is difficult in many countries. However, there is definitely a will to address the issue. Kenya, for example, have taken the steps to implement a fibre network to provide high-speed internet access to many parts of the country."
Oracle has two strings to their bow when it comes to their growth strategy. The first is to bring Oracle's products to all countries in Africa. "We do this by putting 'feet on the street'. We have been engaged in doing business in Africa for decades, and we know the importance of personal engagement with customers. We do this through our local partners – we empower them to provide customers with high value products and services, thus owning the relationship on a day-today, interactive level." The second consists of creating skills capacity in a country. Skills and on-going workforce development are essential to create a stable, affordable, and most importantly local workforce. Innovation and change are key to the new way of doing business, local knowledge and experience combined with technology, giving rise to innovative products.
"Two major challenges facing IT companies in Africa today are availability of skills and internet access. Although some governments have started to address the lack of bandwidth and slow internet access, we are yet to see a major effort in addressing the need for skills development. This not only poses a threat to the IT market growth in Africa, but to the economies as a whole on the continent. Oracle continues to invest in skills development from school to post graduate level and if we can get all industries to follow this investment, our continent will be a very different place in the near future."
Pieter Bensch - Vice President and Managing Director, South Africa
"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.' –Mother Teresa. This quote is truly synonymous to our activity in Africa. The continent is changing. The political situation is changing. Countries are fast becoming more responsive to market and social needs. Oracle's success lies in creating these smaller ripples through technology transformation on this continent."
Cherian Varghese – Africa Transition Cluster
"It is an exciting time for Oracle and the ICT sector in Nigeria. Through Oracle's best-of-breed products and solutions, we're transforming the way our customers do business, enabling innovation and new opportunities across various industries in the public and private sector. We've built a tremendous, solid customer base and are encouraged by the adoption of new technologies by Nigerian companies. As the largest economy in Africa today, Nigeria will continue to embrace technology to support its growth, and Oracle in Nigeria is well positioned to drive this."
Adebayo Sanni – Country Managing Director, Nigeria
"Kenya is bursting with opportunity. Our customers are at the forefront of new technology adoption, looking to ICT to support their business growth with increased speed and efficiency. Oracle is working with some of the largest organisations in Kenya today, across many industries, simplifying their IT so that they can focus on innovation. We're also committed to empowering the next generation of ICT specialists, working with developers, innovation hubs, partners, customers and the public sector alike to drive skills development."
Dr Gilbert Saggia – Country Managing Director, Kenya
OPN has been set up to give Oracle's partners the resources to strengthen their expertise
Making Partnering Simple, Strong and Effective
Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) is a critical component to their continued success. Oracle partners account for over 40 percent of global revenue and 80 percent of global transactions. They are an important asset, serving customers across Africa and are viewed as an extension to Oracle's sales force with their commitment and dedication to the process. Through this mutually beneficial approach, Oracle established the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN).
This programme helps members keep up to date with Oracle's growing product portfolio, offering resources to train and support focused knowledge and providing partners with tools to better develop, sell and implement Oracle solutions.
While companies have become more receptive than ever to the latest technological trends, they have also begun to demand more in-depth guidance and product knowledge from resellers to help them navigate the fast-changing IT landscape. Oracle PartnerNetwork has been set up so that partners are given the enablement resources and tools to strengthen their expertise and offer such advice in a professional capacity.
OPN Specialised features a streamlined organisation where Oracle partners can participate at the level that best matches their business model. For some partners, this means reselling selected Oracle products to midsize organisations through a Value-Added Distributor (VAD).
"The wealth of solutions we now offer cuts across every main industry. The extensive enablement programmes we have in place ensures our partners are capable of understanding our solutions and delivering maximum value to our customers. The choice a partner has today to learn and grow their business with Oracle is tremendous - we cater for the innovators, entrepreneurs and the specialist developers to expand and grow their business not only locally, but across several countries on the continent. I can truly say to partners and companies looking for a new direction, that there is no better time to be an Oracle Partner."
Donald Thomas - Alliances & Channels Director for Africa Operations and Transition Africa.
Innovation and Drive
Although equipping their partners to find success in shifting market conditions has always been one of Oracle's core goals, OPN will now have to evolve even faster to keep up with the current pace of IT innovation. One of the biggest differentiators for Oracle is their high performance IT solutions where hardware and software are engineered to work together. Not only do integrated technologies perform higher for customers, they also provide partners with the opportunity to sell combined solutions sets, rather than stand-alone products.
Oracle has opened Partner Hubs in Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi during 2013, providing a comprehensive portfolio of services to drive the growth of partner organisations and their business. The concept of an Oracle Partner Hub combines Oracle's technical knowledge, professional services and marketing support to help ensure the best possible support for partners.
"Oracle's commitment to its partner base has been the cornerstone –of successfully transforming our business into a 51 percent Indirect Partner-Led business. Instead of reinforcing historical customer behavior - in using Subjective Data as the basis of choosing an Oracle Partner - Specialisation allows our customers to recognise and choose a preferred partner based on Objective and Verifiable Data such as references and skills. You can't go wrong in selecting a Specialised Partner."
Stefan Diedericks - Alliance & Channel Director and Cloud, BPS & SaaS Partner Programmes, Oracle South Africa
"Risctec are a Platinum level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork that is committed to OPN and have focused on specialisations across the Oracle Red Stack, which enable us to provide a complete solution to the customer. Through OPN, we have a better understanding of the available technology and have come up with a more complete solution. The OPN programme also allows us to find other competent partners that specialise in a particular aspect of the Red Stack that we do not and consequently provide the customer with a fully integrated specialised solution."
Jeremy Hollick - Managing Director, Risctec
"Copy Cat has been a long standing Platinum level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork. Being part of OPN has enabled Copy Cat to explore new business opportunities and drive key growth strategies. By achieving Specialisation on Oracle's Products & Solutions, Copy Cat is able to accelerate its growth and also expand Oracle's footprint in the East African region. Our association with Oracle has enabled us to be identified as one of the largest System Integrators in the region, providing quality services to our ever-expanding customer base."
Mr. Nazir Noordin – Managing Director, The Copy Cat Limited
"We're proud to be part of Oracle PartnerNetwork, and we're having a great time doing business with Oracle. Being part of OPN, talking with colleagues, making new connections; it's a wonderful reminder of the benefits of doing business with the best, highest quality organisation."
Mr Mike Njuki - Director, Neurotech Ltd Zambia
Dimension Data success story
Extreme effiency, extreme savings
Writer Donovan Lawrence
Extreme performance: doing something faster, better, or more efficiently than it has ever been done before. It's the hallmark of Oracle's engineered systems and the ultimate embodiment of Oracle's drive to simplify IT.
Oracle SuperCluster engineered systems are Oracle's fastest and most scalable engineered systems and are ideal for DBaaS implementations, consolidating databases and applications, as well as private cloud deployments.
Dimension Data recently purchased two Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 systems from Oracle and has seen a meteoric rise in the number of bluechip companies looking to utilise this advanced technology. Donovan Lawrence, Application Services Executive at Dimension Data, has been astounded by the level of interest from companies in using the company's services: "Demand has raised massively from companies in Southern Africa looking to use our data centres for their companies IT infrastructure and cloud computing needs. When we acquired the SuperClusters, we were confident that Oracle's proven track record in delivering price performance benefits and unparalleled service, would entice large multi-national clients to work with us. However, we did not think this many companies would show this level of interest so quickly."
Oracle SuperCluster helps businesses meet the demands of today's diverse data centres by providing the ideal platform for consolidating third-party, custom and Oracle applications. Designed for extreme efficiency and cost savings, Oracle SuperCluster delivers one solution to handle all types of enterprise workloads.
Cloud computing refers to a computing hardware machine or group of computing hardware machines, referred to as a server, connected through a communication network such as the Internet. Any individual user who has permission to access the server can use the server's processing power to run an application, store data, or perform any other computing task. The client can now run the application from anywhere in the world.
Dimension Data's cloud computing services has gained a massive market footprint in Southern Africa, thanks in part to the SuperClusters. Lawrence is excited about the possibilities that are opening up for clients with the new services on offer: "Dimension Data's Oracle Cloud Services are delivered on our Oracle Infrastructure as a Service platform. Hosted within a Dimension Data data centre, the Oracle IaaS comprises industry-leading hardware and software, utilising our magnificent Oracle SuperClusters, we can offer our clients high quality services that can be accessed anywhere in the world. We have packages to suit every business model and even short-term Pay As You Go contracts for SME's."
Whether your goal is improving system utilisation, reducing energy consumption, conserving data centre floor space, or creating a cloud computing infrastructure, Oracle SuperCluster offers a fast, tested and certified platform.
Writer Tom Pegrume - Vice President Systems for Middle East and Africa
Defining the Private Cloud
The core elements of private cloud computing are best described in terms of the benefit enterprises expect to gain through adoption and deployment. "Oracle's position as a provider of integrated solutions that span infrastructure, technology and business applications enables us to provide these benefits to our enterprise customers in a simplified manner through the delivery of increased agility through complete, fully documented, pretested, enterprise ready cloud infrastructure offerings. We are able to provide enterprise customers with a defined and tested route to simplify their IT environments, whilst providing private cloud benefits through self-service, automation and chargeback capability." Oracle's private cloud products offer compelling advantages by providing clouds at a variety of levels, namely application, platform and infrastructure levels. Pegrume says this can be a daunting task when key requirements of automation, self service, billing and overall security requirements are added.
Oracle's Private Cloud Offering Includes:
Applications - Oracle's cloud applications are a comprehensive and modular set of enterprise applications, engineered from the ground up to be cloud-ready and to coexist seamlessly in mixed environments. The 100 percent open-standards-based business applications are there to change the way you innovate, work and adopt new technologies.
Cloud deployment platform - Oracle's cloud platform solution provides a shared and elastically scalable platform that delivers cost savings through standardisation and higher utilisation of the shared platform across multiple applications. It simplifies both deployment and management through Engineered Systems; combining service deployment, execution platforms, storage and networking in a standardised, performant and secure package.
Cloud database deployment - Database consolidation is a key step in the journey to the cloud. Oracle Database 12c makes the process far faster and simpler, enabling a high density of schema-based consolidation without requiring changes to existing applications. Besides speeding the journey to cloud, consolidation also simplifies management, a huge advantage for organisations now managing hundreds, even thousands, of databases.
Cloud operating systems and virtualisation - Compared to other cloud infrastructure solutions, the virtualisation capabilities built into Oracle Solaris could potentially translate into savings of millions of dollars for installations with a large number of virtual environments. Add to this advancements in security, software-defined networking, manageability and enterprise level OpenStack functionality and it becomes evident why Solaris is termed 'engineered for the cloud.'
Cloud management - Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c is the management solution for Oracle environments including Oracle applications, databases, middleware, virtualisation environments, and hardware including engineered systems. It provides management functions for cloud life-cycle management, as well as for application, platform, and infrastructure cloud environments.
Hybridisation of the Cloud Platform
Oracle has identified that there is a need for a hybrid cloud model, where enterprises can selectively deploy technology components and applications within their corporate firewall infrastructure while consuming select services from Oracle's public cloud. "We enable hybrid cloud deployments today with a unified and comprehensive solution to integrate disparate cloud and on-premise applications. We can provide a flexibility to customers that suits their organisation's strategy."
Pegrume says that Oracle has identified a strong demand from enterprises looking at gaining the benefit of Cloud Computing behind their corporate firewalls through private cloud deployments. To address this requirement, Oracle's cloud infrastructure provides a complete selection of servers, storage, networking fabric, virtualisation software, operating systems, and management software to support diverse private cloud applications. The company engineers its hardware with application-aware virtualisation and management capabilities to enable the rapid deployment and efficient management of private cloud infrastructure.
Writer Arun Khehar - Vice President of Business Applications for Middle East and Africa
Core Elements of Cloud Computing
Nearly nine years ago, Oracle embarked on an effort to completely rewrite and modernise their applications. Very few tech companies embrace and implement the new generation of technology because it is a huge undertaking that requires significant vision and commitment; being able to look at the future advantages and market opportunities. Oracle combined significant allocation of resources with key strategic acquisitions in the cloud applications and social space - to launch a comprehensive, flexible and modern suite of cloud offerings, consisting of SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).
Khehar discussed with us how other clouds are often one or two dimensional, but in contrast, "Oracle Cloud delivers on all 3 dimensions of transformational technologies. We've embedded social, mobile and rich Business Intelligence capabilities for a more powerful and innovative experience, addressing a complete set of needs to execute a business process across functional application areas." The idea of ensuring your customers and your employees are not only better informed, but collaborate better, allows Oracle staff to be more innovative in how they do their jobs and deliver value to their customers.
Meeting the Growing Demand and Beyond
The demand for Oracle Cloud is on the increase, as the confidence of the market in the cloud continues to grow, with companies who adopt these technologies witnessing the benefits. "In today's fierce competition, organisations need to innovate and run their business in a modern way. Cloud is one of the approaches that allow them to achieve this."
Over 29 million people around the world already use Oracle Cloud applications for access to the latest innovations with increased flexibility and lower costs. In order to increase this number, the company has just announced the 'Oracle Customer 2 Cloud Program', which enables organisations to use the cloud to support business transformation initiatives.
There has been a good uptake of SaaS in the African and Middle East regions, where Oracle is leading the way in some of these domains. "We see the demand across several industries from telecoms, professional services, airlines, in the public sector, and indeed across all sizes of organisation, from midsize to the largest of enterprises." The multifaceted nature of Cloud means that organisations can focus on running their business rather than maintaining their previous enterprise applications.
The continuous market uptake and embracement of social, big data, mobile and real time analytics are dictating the future of visionary organisations like Oracle and their Cloud software. "This uptake is already happening, so the future looks even brighter!"
Writer Shane Fernandes - Business Intelligence Leader for Eastern Europe, CIS, Middle East and Africa
Big Data is Everywhere
Big data is the collective noun given to all the information being generated by organisations and people using technology such as mobile phones, social media and the Internet to run their lives and their businesses. By analysing this data, many companies can now predict fairly accurately your next buying decision. For example, if you book a flight online to a holiday destination, you may find advertisements related to that destination popping up more frequently in the days following your booking. "Your buying patterns are being tracked so that companies can offer you a selection of products and services that best match your preferences. This information is only useful if it can be properly analysed, the relevant information retained, and the correct actions then undertaken."
From a technology perspective, there are several innovations that make big data management and analysis possible. "Companies need massively powerful computers and very sophisticated software to store and analyse this information. Using traditional hardware and software this exercise can be expensive, complicated and unreliable." IT companies like Oracle have now developed faster, smaller, more powerful offerings to manage big data and turn it into useful information at speeds unheard of in the past.
Adopting Big Data in Africa
In Africa, big data is the next step in the business analytics path that has many companies talking. Oracle has seen a very significant increase in the adoption of business analytics by the public and private sectors who want to use the information they have to deliver better, more competitive and more cost effective goods and services. "Companies and governments in Africa today are unlocking massive value simply by applying world-class analysis models to their existing data."
What's next for Big Data and Analytics?
The biggest value derived from big data is the ability to "listen" and "respond" very quickly to customer or citizen needs. "The old business principle that if a company keeps 95% of its customers happy it's doing well no longer applies. That 5% of the population that experiences bad service can seriously compromise a company's business or trigger criticism of a local or country authority. They can do this by going onto social media and complaining the moment they have a bad experience."
Consumers are becoming more and more demanding, and expect faster, better service every day. The company that has the competitive advantage today is one that can not only deal with complaints and customer requests promptly, but also anticipate and personalise their customers' experience. Fernandes says that consequently, "managing big data is crucial to attracting and retaining customers and crucial in order to achieve profitability."
How to become a Quality Brand
Writer Graham Mansfield - Senior Director for Customer Experience at Oracle Middle East and Africa
Apple, Google and Coca- Cola are three very different brands but united by one important factor: they were placed first, second and third in the Interbrand Best Global Brands listings for 2013. These are organisations which have good brand equity. Companies with good brand equity instantly strike a chord with their customer base, establishing an emotional connection.
It goes without saying that to build such levels of brand equity is the dream of many businesses, but in order to fulfil that ambition, organisations must first determine what are their brand 'promises'. "Where a brand promises to meet customer expectation is where we have the 'moment of truth', and it's here where the emotional connection with a brand is won or lost. Explicit promises meet customer perceptions and it's an understanding of what customers think and feel about a brand that underpins the advertising, marketing and pricing structure," explains Graham Mansfield, Senior Director for Customer Experience at Oracle Middle East and Africa.
When it comes to customer experience, businesses really do understand just how much things have changed over the years. The old methods of reaching the customer no longer fit the bill; the customer demands more than ever before, to achieve a brand experience delivered on their terms. "Oracle know that we need to build these real relationships with customers, connecting with them on an emotional level in order to win the loyalty of consumers."
Despite this awareness, it is the start-up community that have found it easiest to adapt to the needs of the modern consumer. Many businesses are failing to make the wholesale transformation required to prosper in today's consumer-driven market and Mansfield says that there is one simple reason for this: "Legacy. The more established the company is, the more legacy challenges it has to deal with. Whereas a start-up has a blank page on which to write a whole new approach to managing the customer journey, older businesses are stuck with legacy leadership, legacy technologies, legacy practices and legacy ways of thinking."
Mansfield thinks that these legacy companies need to take a fresh look at what the customer journey looks like today: "Indeed, based on what they find they then need to rebuild their entire organisation around the new customer-centric reality."
The Customer Journey
For brands wishing to reach these heights, they must ensure that every part of their company is geared towards one goal: Delivering on their brand promise, this equates to meeting the customer's functional and emotional needs in whatever way best suits that customer. To do that they need to fully understand the customer journey: from start to finish.
Mapping the customer journey across the entire buyer cycle starts to uncover issue areas. As your customer is going through the buying cycle, what actions are they taking and what response are they anticipating? Does your brand fulfil this expectation? Does it exceed or fall short? Where are the weak links? Being able to answer these questions helps identify the powerful emotional triggers that impact the emotion equation.
Modifying these triggers allows organisations to enact change and directly impact how a customer thinks or feels about the interaction. Changing the way a customer feels about an interaction will likely have the follow on effect of changing their behaviour, and ultimately positively influencing their attitude.
Enter the Intrapreneur
The intrapreneur is someone who works within an established business but with an entrepreneurial flair as Mansfield defines: "Intrapreneurs are disruptors and mavericks; first adopters and trailblazers. They take on the critical task of forcing through the internal innovation that is so desperately needed by legacy-burdened companies. Intrapreneurs must fly in the face of scepticism and dogma from within the businesses they are trying to help and all too often have to fight for vital changes." In this respect their job is harder than that of the entrepreneur, but arguably the rewards are greater and indeed, who would not be proud of overhauling a major international organisation and dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century? It seems that established businesses must follow the path set by intrapreneurs, fully embrace disruption, and focus on executing the wholesale changes required to cater for the modern customer.
Customers expect both a high level of control when interacting with brands and a level of immediacy and ease. Consequently, consumers are increasingly being won over by the brands that are the easiest to do business with and those with seamless communication with their brand 24/7 using whatever modern means that suits them at the time. "Over the next few years consumers are only going to wrestle away even more control from brands as web, social media and mobile services mature," affirms Mansfield.
Securing Intrapreneurial Talents
For customer experience professionals the onus is on them to take the challenge by the horns and see what they can do to change how their businesses understand and engage with the customer. They must transform themselves into intrapreneurs before they can transform the company. "The key for organisations now is to ensure they have the right intrapreneurial talent in place to help instigate and drive this disruptive transformation before legacy-free competitors win the race for market share," Mansfield concludes.
Writer Orfhlaith Ni Chorcora - Senior Director of Business Development
Why is there a big drive to invest in IT skills development?
With more and more businesses relying on technology, the demand for a deep and rich pool of IT talent is increasing. However, high rates of unemployment particularly affecting the youth are still prevalent in Africa. It begs the question as to whether our youth are being equipped with the right skills, aligned to where the job opportunities are. Such jobs are not only in the private sector, but extend to opportunities for tech entrepreneurship and the creation of small businesses, which are already great contributors to the African economy.
Furthermore, an increasing number of countries are looking to digitise the services they offer to citizens. E-government systems have the potential to offer something of a silver bullet. An e-government is defined as The utilisation of information technology (IT), Information and communication technologies (ICTs), and other web-based telecommunication technologies to improve and/or enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery in the public sector. It promises to promote social inclusion, combat corruption, expand the digital economy and enable broader links between citizens and governments, while at the same time dramatically reducing costs and improving efficiency. It goes without saying, however, that for e-government to be a success, nation states need to have access to people capable of setting up and maintaining these systems.
Why, in Oracle's view, is capacity building critical to sustainable economic growth?
If the IT skills gap represents a problem, it also represents a huge opportunity. For SMEs and African entrepreneurs, technology can open up new opportunities for efficiencies and increased business potential. For the current generation of students and graduates, the opportunity lies in gaining job skills that will allow them to work in any industry and across borders. For governments, solving the problem will allow them to future-proof their economies by encouraging business growth and facilitating much needed job creation.
To realise this opportunity, we know - from talking to our customers and government bodies - that turning the skills issue into an opportunity requires a joint effort between governments, the private sector and the technology industry to address talent development and capacity building at various levels; from ensuring existing employees have the skills they need to keep pace with the changing technologies, to building new capacity through workforce development programs. Furthermore, working with national education systems - both secondary and tertiary - to place computer science as a core component of the national curricula, is also a key focus where Oracle lends its support. Recently, the Lagos State Government, in collaboration with Oracle Corporation, launched three IT human capacity building programmes to support the state's objective to deliver services to the citizens more effectively. These programmes focus on employee readiness, workforce readiness and youth readiness.
Together we need to build a vibrant and innovative skills pool in Africa that will form the basis for sustainable economic growth and a pipeline of "Made-in-Africa" innovative solutions to address the many unique challenges on the continent.