Oracle's Slightly More OpenWorld

Went down last evening to the Oracle installation blanketing downtown San Francisco. Every Oracle OpenWorld, the company takes over Howard Street between 3rd and 4th and bivouacs in a block-ling series of tents. The gardens surrounding Moscone Center are deployed for lunch and dinner parties, and the bars at the top of the park offer press meet and greets.

This year marks the detente between what Oracle PR calls press and what they call bloggers. Each of us media types was given a large badge with either press or blogger written in enormous red letters. I think the theory was to allow Oracle and third-party vendors to tell at 100 fet what type you were and suggest management procedures based on that triage.

The basic problem is that there is actually no difference between the two designations. Indeed, when I was invited to register a month or so ago, I was provided two links. I asked which I should register with, pointing out that in addition to being editor of TechCrunch IT, I most likely am still a contributing editor for a series of publications including ZDNet and Ziff Davis Enterprise. The PR person thought about it for a minute and then suggested I register as a blogger, all things being equal.

I took that to mean that Oracle PR and perhaps Oracle itself are beginning to focus on the influence side of the media game rather than the news side of the trade press. Backing up this theory is a decided shift in recent weeks toward the incorporation of social media constructs into enterprise platforms and services. The second stop on the party circuit last night featured something called Social CRM. From the overview:

Oracle Social CRM Applications harness the latest Web 2.0 technologies, empowering sales users to be more effective and productive by leveraging the knowledge and experience of the broader community. These highly intuitive and focused applications work the way sales people do, helping them identify qualified leads, develop sales campaigns, and collaborate with colleagues to close more deals. With Oracle Social CRM Applications, sales users reap instant benefits with no data entry required.

Blend that with Oracle Beehive, a direct attack on Microsoft Sharepoint and the Lotus offerings – and you have a mashup of enterprise Twitter/Facebook/Flickr packaged and sold to the new social media channel of Enterprise 2.0. This is pretty tame compared to the full frontal attack on the bloggosphere by SAP over the past year, but it’s Oracle this time. As one old hand said in passing, Oracle is three months behind the wave, but when they jump the fat lady has sung.

What’s rapidly becoming evident is the rapid compression of time between social media disruption at the “consumer” level and its broad adoption at the platform level. The enterprise startup action in Tw*tterville not only has broken out earlier than expected, but the major vendor shrinkwrapping of the constructs within CRM, ERP, and other enterprise application spaces has already shown adoption characteristics far more dramatic than the vendors’ ability to sell it to their customers.

Key to the rush to incorporate Web technologies into the sales process is the realization that IT-dominated top-down buying is being replaced by collaborative relationship building from the Net up. Establishing community (social) relationships and mining them for the deeper signals that come from willing gesturers is trumping the needle in the haystack filtering and lead gen models that have informed the current generation of business communications tools. The enterprise guys understand Track is the key to uncovering these rich relationships.

That’s why the Oracle PR folks are trying hard to blend the old and new medias. But the parties being thrown this week at OpenWorld will look quaint very soon now, like bell bottoms and porno sideburns, when people mining fully intersects with corporate communications. Right now the notion of an enterprise social connection is held tightly behind the firewall, but the social media practitioners know better, that the valuable signals are out in the public wild ready to be understood and acted upon. The first cloud vendor to make friends with the community will be the first big winner.