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Oracle chief warns ME: social is a brand risk

Dissatisfaction can rapidly multiply in a connected world, says Mark Hurd

Oracle chief warns ME: social is a brand risk
Hurd: The world is changing; now every time you make a mistake everybody knows about it.

Oracle Corp's president Mark Hurd today warned Middle East business leaders of the dangers of ignoring the explosion in social media, citing industry figures that say 65% of companies consider the technology a significant or critical risk to their brand reputation.

Speaking at the Oracle Cloud Conference in Madinat Arena, Dubai, Hurd told a packed ballroom that the future of business was in the hands of social networking and those that did not buy into the notion would be punished by the market.

"Sixty-five per cent think this is a big deal," said Hurd. "If you can find the other 35%, when you're thinking of buying stock, don't buy theirs."

Hurd and his colleagues are in Dubai to promote Oracle's vision for the cloud, one of the four technologies that make up the so-called Third Platform of social, mobile, analytics and cloud. As competition heats up over migrating customers, Oracle today laid claim to being the only service provider with a full suite of cloud-ready products that allow a choice between private, hybrid or Oracle Cloud solutions. Oracle believes it is ready for the battle.

"We have 72 products that we measure and we are number-one in over sixty of them," Hurd declared.

"We are vertically integrating the leading database, the leading middleware, the leading OS, the leading applications. We can deliver service levels never seen before in the industry. With our Platinum service we can give five-minute response times."

Oracle is, Hurd believes, operating in a world where even the smallest number of dissatisfied customers can represent a business risk.

"Let's say you have a million customers and your satisfaction rate is 99.9%," said Hurd. "What's 99.9% of a million? How many unsatisfied customers do you have? A thousand. What happens when those thousand customers communicate socially?"

Hurd argues that the multiplication of dissatisfaction through social media exchanges is a business threat. Technology has robbed companies of the luxury of hiding from the few mistakes they make.

"The world is changing," Hurd observed. "Now every time you make a mistake everybody knows about it. Technology has enabled this. So now we are going to have to be on our toes better than we have ever been before and we are going to have to be able, in real time, to understand these issues and actions we can take [to address them]."

But the technology of social media sites is not the only spur to performance for businesses; equally relevant is the generation shift occurring within the consumer base itself. Younger, tech-savvy customers have expectations that did not exist until the recent past.

"I grew up getting crumby service from the companies I did business with," Hurd recalls. "I didn't get real-time-data. I never thought about real-time data. When I had to pick someone up from the airport, I drove to the airport. I didn't know what gate they were coming in at. But my kids: not so much. They expect to know everything in a millisecond; if they don't they are upset."

And the proportion of the consumer base that will be made up of demanding, social-media users is set to increase rapidly. Hurd sees the inheritance taking place in as little as a decade.

"Forty-three per cent of Americans will retire in the next 10 years," he said. "They will be replaced by a new generation of workers. Those workers don't expect crummy service; they expect immediate gratification. So we now have incredibly demanding consumers with incredibly high expectations who want to communicate everything they know to everybody they know in near real time."

Hurd's key message: technology is changing along with consumers and there are opportunities for those that recognise how the two trends fit together and react accordingly.

"The data about what is happening in the IT industry is fascinating," he said. "We are living through a renaissance."

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