Today’s customer experience is about data, content, design and curiosity


Last week in Vegas, my co-host and friend from CRM Playaz, Paul Greenberg, and I were at Oracle’s annual Modern Customer Experience (MCX) conference. It’s a storefront that the company uses to announce new applications and services on its customer experience platform, Oracle CX. But it also presents a great opportunity to gain insight into the strategy and direction in which customer experience design and thinking is heading. And some great nuggets came out of the conference that really apply to all sizes of business.

Paul and I were able to capture some of these nuggets in a conversation we had with Rob Tarkoff, executive vice president and general manager of Oracle CX. Topics Rob covered included the pivotal role data plays in shaping customer experiences, the role curiosity plays in delivering customer experiences, and who Rob says is the most curious person (out of 140 000 employees worldwide) at Oracle today. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To view the full convo, watch the video or click on the built-in SoundCloud player.

Small Business Trends: What Are You, About Six Months After You Be With Oracle?

Rob Tarkoff: Law.

Small Business Trends: I remember, I think it was OpenWorld, it was like your first week there or something and you were already talking?

Rob Tarkoff: Yeah, I think it was the third or fourth week, yeah that was kinda crazy, that they actually… It wasn’t crazy that I did it. It was crazy that they let me do it. When I got into the business immediately, the first thing I looked at was… And both of you said it a lot, there are so many amazing products in Oracle CX, but one of the things that I did Thought there was an opportunity to improve was a real story to knit it together, and a tale of what Oracle stood for. And so I spent about the first three weeks just going through review after review after review with the engineering teams, on what you’re really trying to build and what issues are you fixing? Thanks to the help of Des Cahill [VP & CMO, Oracle CX] and other members of his team, we just proposed these themes, we chopped them for two days and proposed this theme Discover, engage, consume, serve. It’s really stuck, I mean it’s been awesome.

Small Business Trends: What was the biggest surprise about your time at Oracle?

Rob Tarkoff: I feel like I worked in every company except Oracle before that, and Oracle has always been those 140,000 employees; we are in all business, and i have the chance to interview tomorrow [Oracle co-CEO] Mark Hurd on stage, speaking about Oracle Sales Models. You think we’re in hardware, software, digital midsize businesses, big digital businesses, we have vertical businesses, basically, full site migration to the cloud, infrastructure, everything.

What I have found is that Oracle is one of the most curious companies in terms of people who are really curious about what’s going on. Engineers are not at all frozen. I’m amazed that Oracle’s product and business people are right behind it, so if there’s ever an Oracle story stuck in its tracks, I haven’t experienced that.

Now, there is something to be successful as a lot of people will come and ask why you need to change it, and say there aren’t that many $ 40 billion software companies out there, so obviously Oracle has been doing something good for a long time. But I would say the most curious person in the business is actually Larry [Ellison, Oracle founder]. And I’m fortunate enough to work a decent amount with him and I got out of the last income call Larry, his people are in awe of Larry’s involvement. I only saw him involved, so if he wasn’t involved, it wasn’t a time I was here. But he’s very involved in the products, he’s very involved in the strategy and he’s deeply curious about all the new things that are happening with CX and that makes him a great place.

Small Business Trends: I have to ask you… I always tell myself that if I were one of the five richest people in the world, I would probably have gone to my own island, chilling out-

Paul Greenberg: He’s got that too, Hawaii.

Small Business Trends: He Has It … But During Oracle OpenWorld [the company’s annual user conference] it is there in front and in the center. I mean, he’s in it. And it’s so surprising to me that after all these years he’s still like that. He’s still in it.

Rob Tarkoff: I would say he cares so much more than people realize and the fact that he cares is such a powerful weapon for Oracle because he has such a broad perspective on all these different tech trends. that happened. He’s deeply technical and he’s also ready to engage and debate any topic that comes up for hours and I’ve been involved in those discussions. And he’s deeply motivated by… If you think of, and I don’t know him well, but if you think of the kind of expertise he has – he’s a champion marine, fighter pilot, obviously one of the most successful businessmen and technologists. around the world – but also deeply curious about so many different things.

So I just think he would never seem to me like the kind of person who would be on a, I mean he has an island, but being on an island of sort of doing nothing. He’s just… I mean when I’m in the process of meeting him, he always reads the game the night before, he comes with a set of questions prepared, and we jump right in. There is no preamble and it usually gets straight to the point in three seconds. So that’s pretty amazing, yeah.

Paul Greenberg: Wow. I probably wouldn’t get along with him if there wasn’t a preamble. My preamble is about 30 minutes.

Rob Tarkoff: Less preamble than you.

Small Business Trends: You like a good preamble.

Paul Greenberg: I do.

Small Business Trends: One of the other things, a lot of businesses like to talk about experience, customer experience, they really focus a lot on the content that is really important, but you don’t just focus on the content but on what you ‘do with data and marry it to creative experiences using data and content. Looks like that’s really what you’re doing here.

Rob Tarkoff: Yes, so besides the fact that the people at Oracle are interested in learning a lot of new things, that they wouldn’t have been able to experience if they hadn’t been outside of Oracle, the other thing that I have found is just this rich heritage in the data is really a huge asset. And so when you’re … Paul and I were talking about this a bit before, when you’re an Oracle-wide company, you can look and there’s so many different capabilities, if you can just find a thing or two that you can really align the people around you and progress very quickly. So CX Unity, which wasn’t an idea I had had, predated me, but I immediately grabbed onto it because it’s just this ability to handle data in a way that’s been difficult for many other companies to do. To really create something that isn’t just a big data lake that nobody does anything with, but to really make it a persistent store that can be connected to apps.

Oracle has all the capabilities to do it, it was just a matter of finding the focus to make it happen. And so I couldn’t do that, we couldn’t do that, in any other company. You have to… and it’s funny because when I was at Adobe, when I first got there and really started the Enterprise business for them, it was all about design and I was remember one of the conversations we had about the boy, if we If we could just bring the concept of the Creative Design Suite into Enterprise, we’d be eliminating ugly apps.

I gave a speech at a big conference in German, a group of German CIOs, and I told them about the consumerization of IT and I remember them looking at me like this guy from Adobe talks about big apps public in IT. Who is this, what are they talking about. So we’re a long way from that in CX, but now I think it’s a dataset.

This is part of the series of individual interviews with opinion leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If this is an audio or video interview, click on the built-in player above, or subscribe through iTunes or through Stitcher.

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Jenny T. Curlee

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