Having previously worked with companies such as Adobe and SAP, Garrett Ilg brings a varied international experience and an ‘outside-in’ perspective to Oracle, where he joined as their JAPAC President in April 2020.
He sits with iTNews Asia to share his views and insights about how the market is changing, the uniqueness of Oracle’s customer approach and how the company intends to compete in the cloud space.
iTNews Asia: You were previously in the UK, as well as the Middle East, Africa and Japan before moving back to the APAC region to join Oracle last year. Do you see any differences in how companies are transforming digitally in different parts of the world?
There's differences, but 80% remains the same. The guiding principles of technology are the same, no matter if you’re in London, Brisbane, Tokyo or New York.
People want speed, they want reliability and ROI, and that comes from a standards-based architecture. A lot of companies take a horizontal solution, and then customise it to be vertical. That is a bad idea because the solution needs to be serviced, supported and upgraded. When you try to innovate, it’s hard to go back and unwire these environments.
Our approach to the customer is not what we sell, but to understand what their business need is. It’s about how organisations use technology. A good example is ‘Real time’. The interpretation of ‘Real time’ is different for a telco, a bank or hotel, they can talk horizontally about the solution but their needs are vertical. CIOs and the lines of business people are understanding that that's a better approach to addressing their challenges.
iTNews Asia: There’s so much talk about the post-pandemic and how businesses need to transform. Would you say that the pandemic has made change an imperative?
Digital transformation isn’t new, it started well over two decades ago. What the pandemic has done is to accelerate the transformation, particularly for businesses in retail that couldn't get people into stores. It has accelerated their build out of e-commerce platforms because that was the only way they could address customers.
iTNews Asia: Among companies transforming, one segment is cloud natives who are typically smaller and nimbler, but may not have the skills or talent. The other is businesses who need to modernise and re-architect, but aren’t as agile. How different do you see them?
The landscape has changed and along with that customers also change. People do not need to go a travel agency to book an airline ticket or a store to get groceries or a meal. Customers realise that it's not just a threat – it's an opportunity. It’s all becoming programmable.
Natives are full of innovation and can move much faster. They have zero legacy and can make up for their challenges in manpower, scale, funding and resources because they can move fast and quickly.
On the other hand, you have big established enterprises that have got certain workflows and investments that they must turn or twist to get into this new environment. Where the pandemic has helped is to move the digital conversation up into the C-suite. It's no longer just IT. It used to be an experiment, a departmental initiative or a project. Now it's survival.
We all look at the pandemic as a reason for digital transformation, but there’s a greater wind behind the sails. The pandemic is not the single reason why this has happened. It's all happening at the same time.
If you're a bank you have to think about the gigabits of content moving through your infrastructure. Not only must you absorb and react to those gigabits, you also have to mine them.
iTNews Asia: All the forecasts for 2021 show that spending on the cloud infrastructure, platforms and data warehouses are all growing. Would you agree the cloud is underpinning a lot of change, creating opportunities and bringing on a new wave of industrialisation?
Every vertical – cloud, data warehousing, E commerce – in every landscape is going to have different dials to look at, but what's common is they are all growing fast and double digits.
Industrialisation is creating entire new behaviours, not just a set of products. Companies are not going to build that architecture and infrastructure by themselves to handle something that's a thousand times the size of what they used to manage.
You're going to have to push this off to someone who could do it more efficiently, more effectively and to some extent faster. You then also have to wrap all the other conversations of security and privacy and network around that.
iTNews Asia: Which industries do you see as transforming the fastest?
The fastest in adoption and quickest in implementation is the financial industry. The digital bank was coming, regardless of the pandemic. There’s a whole competitive landscape being geared up. Jamie Dimon from JP Morgan was just talking about all the new entrants that are circling the financial industry.
While the financial industry is transforming faster there's going to be surges that will go way beyond and you will see this impacting other industries, be they manufacturing or travel and hospitality.
We don't know when the pandemic is going to end but we can all predict a massive bump in the economy coming. We’ve a lot of infrastructure sitting in the verticals. We're seeing what a year ago, was down 50% to 70%, is now halfway back, and we’re not even out of this yet.
Restaurants in Singapore which were closed during the circuit breaker must be prepared for visitors to return. Same for airlines, they not flying now, but they know the planes are going to be full again.
These companies have to be proactive digitally and reach out into their markets.
How do they prepare for that? They do it digitally.
iTNews Asia: Do you see this transformation creating a divide among the digital ‘have’ and ‘have nots’. In India or Vietnam, for instance, some companies can’t even think of going digital as they don't have connectivity. How do we prevent this gap? What is Oracle doing with customers to help address these challenges?
In India, we are working an agricultural cooperative Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative that uses Oracle to help farmers get supplies or move their products to market.
We’re also working with a bank in Thailand, Forth Smart Corp that goes all the way out into the rural and remote areas. People can go to the local kiosk or store to do monetary transfers.
What Oracle is doing is give farmers the ability to talk to an infrastructure so they can call down supplies to keep their businesses going. With the Thai bank, people are able to make micro transactions, they can send funds between themselves and their families or their communities.
Connectivity is something that must continue to be pushed as far and deep as possible. I don't think any one vendor, or any one government is going to do that but I think together, that connectivity can continue to get better.
Oracle is giving farmers in remote regions across India the connectivity and ability to move their supplies in ways they were never able to do so before
iTNews Asia: Looking at the digital ‘have’ and ‘have nots’, you mention another group – representing a large majority of companies – that sees the value of technology but aren't necessarily taking the right step.
There's a third category that I call the haves that don't do anything with it. They’re saying all the right things and going through the motions but they’re not really working it out. When the digital economy picks up, they're not going to be able to scale. They will say they’ve bought a cloud contract but they only bought a transport layer. They didn't put any applications onto it. They have great applications, but never integrated it. Having a cloud contract of huge value doesn't make you digital.
This is a big call to action for CEOs. The C-suite needs to make sure that the decisions that have been made with the right intent.
This is where Oracle is different. Our approach to the cloud is consumption. If you're not consuming you're not getting value. Why would we want to go out and ask for this six to seven-digit contract, if you don't even know what you're going to do with.
iTNews Asia: As new JAPAC head, are you making any changes to the way things are done in this region?
The pandemic has forced leaders to be better lighthouses and give better guidance. One of the first things I did when I came in and took over this region was I put up a pillar of communication called xSight, which is a quarterly series of live Zoom calls with our 7,000 employees.
With xSight, we’ve created an environment where myself, my leaders, and all of our team members across JAPAC can come together to talk about the business, our customers and partners. Every quarter, I lead off, and then we cascade them to the 18 departments who report to me, and they then each do their own.
xSight was created because of the pandemic as I felt that was a need to consistently bring people together, and to get them to be excited. I want them to feel that it’s going to be entertaining, educational and informative.
Our approach to the cloud is consumption. If you're not consuming you're not getting value. Why would we want to go out and ask for this six to seven-digit contract, if you don't even know what you're going to do with.
- Garrett Ilg, JAPAC President at Oracle
iTNews Asia: How do you see the emerging trends over the next three years, and can you predict what’s going to drive the market?
I see three shifts happening.
Firstly, in the next three years there's going to be a surge, which is going to be led by the recovery. Will that surge maintain? I don't think so. I think it'll be a large lift, and then we'll come back to some sense of whatever the new normal is. As a business, you want to be ready for that you want to be scalable you want to be nimble, you want to be able to be prepared for it. There’s an opportunity for a lift in the near term.
Secondly, the business customer engagement is changing. We have to become navigators. We have to help them navigate around our value proposition and through the competitive layer where everybody says they can do everything. The customer doesn't need to be sold, they need help with navigation.
Thirdly, the value proposition of offering a lot has been something technology companies have always done. While that will not stop, and while they still want the relationship and engagement, they are demanding more expertise. We spend a lot more on our specialisation and domain expertise, because that's what customers want.
We want to give them something that will give them the ROI and they'll come back for more. The customer should pay for what they need. The value will come with the consumption.
iTNews Asia: Would this change in engagement mean that projects might take longer to implement?
A lot of things will happen with the same urgency and the same speed and actually be even more faster based on the opportunities we see.
The key is risk mitigation. There'll be with less risk. Would I want to sign $100 million contract, if it is something I don't know if I can use?
iTNews Asia: Would it be fair to say that Oracle is now a challenger because you're no longer a leader in the cloud space. There are bigger players with large resources who has been there earlier than Oracle.
Any company that doesn't have part of their business in the ‘Challenger’ category is not in a good place. Yes, we have our leadership in our environments and we will continue to lead there. You don't go from one and forget about it and move to the other, but we've also got new categories, and our cloud business is definitely a challenger.
The uniqueness of our technology is one factor that we think we can accelerate and move into a leadership position in the cloud.
The other factor that will help us accelerate is that we're the only company with the data, application and cloud infrastructure that can go all the way from ERP through human capital management, all the way up to customer experience, then back into the database because one of the things the cloud is doing is that a company's data doesn't just come off the website. You need to be able to integrate everything that's happening in the ecosystem into your infrastructure.
This is Oracle’s competitive advantage – you take that and add in our challenger status the innovations that we've have with our Gen 2 OCI. That's where our challenger motions will be very accelerated because we've got the technical play and the foundation that will move us in the right direction.
But these are heavy lifts, you don't go from fourth to third to second to first place in technology, in a jump. It's a crowded landscape and there's a lot of great companies out there, but I don't think anyone's got the value proposition or the ability to offer a return on investment that Oracle has.