Article: Shawn Price on innovation through 'on-premise' cloud and HR leadership


Shawn Price on innovation through 'on-premise' cloud and HR leadership

In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Shawn Price talks about how the cloud is driving innovation and how HR can leverage technology in a disruptive age
Shawn Price on innovation through 'on-premise' cloud and HR leadership

Shawn Price is Senior Vice President at Oracle, reporting directly to CEO Mark Hurd. As the leader of the Oracle Cloud Go-to-Market and Product Business Groups (including Technology, Applications, and Hardware), Shawn is responsible for driving the growth of Oracle Cloud’s portfolio of integrated services across data, applications, platform, and infrastructure. In this interview, he talks about innovation in the Cloud, the business readiness of HR departments and the importance of leadership.

There has been a lot of emphasis on Cloud as a technology of late – while there are technological and demographic transformations, how can companies handle this change?

What I look at is – why do you have to move to the cloud? What’s happening environmentally that drives you to the cloud? Companies today are more likely to retain their talent today. But millennials are asking questions such as am I valued? Am I learning? Am I engaged? Do I have an opportunity to advance? Let’s say you worked as a part-time person in the holiday season, and now you have a job opportunity there. And I make you go back to the HR and go through the entire process again. The question is:  why can’t the store manager just connect via SMS and go through my LinkedIn? Wouldn’t it be interesting if we had a conversation and allow the manager in the store to hire on the spot? So we collapse a two-week hiring process into hours? 

So, if you look at the catalyst – it is cost reduction, retention, loss of experience, the implications of onboarding new employees and integration of culture. All these become a catalyst for why the infrastructure of the past doesn’t fit, in addition to the sort of cliché of social, mobile etc.,

Only if leaders are willing to re-look at the business model and the approach to solving the problem very differently and create a culture that actually aligns to that – will it be successful. So leadership is the key?

Yes. Let’s say I’m a retailer, I’m in a market that’s in decline, and my largest contributed gross margin is headcount and losing people costs me more to hire – I’m forced to move. It’s not only in duress – it is also used opportunistically. All of a sudden, I’m a respected brand, I’m the place that millennials go to, I get a social flywheel. I hire a couple of people that make an impact, that tell their friends, all of a sudden I’m capturing the tribal knowledge and so I’m going to change end-to-end recruit to retire.

The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Fadnavis spoke at Oracle CloudWorld in Mumbai about how he does not want anyone in his constituency to ever go to another government office again when everything can be made available digitally. What the Chief Minister was describing was leadership to make that cultural transformation. And it can either be forced though disruptors or it can be opportunistic. One way or another it’s going to be handed to you, you don’t get to choose. 

The best CHROs today are driving the transformation, not just on the technological layer and but on a cultural, process and on a change management layer. And I think the role of the CHROs has never been more important at any time in history. Before it was run the business, now the emphasis is on differentiating the business – with systems of engagement in the line of business as a partner and the voice is strengthened exponentially. 

If one looks at Start-ups, they are young, agile and it’s easy to adapt. But you also argue that traditional companies also need to change because otherwise they will lose relevance.

Yes. In fact, it’s very similar to the transformation story of Oracle. When I was hired for Cloud – the question in front of me was how do you get an organization that’s incredibly successful, has 147,000 employees around the world, and still really successful evolve? The answer isn’t to come in and say, ‘I know a new way’ - you will fail. So, how do you get buy-in? How do you get people into that journey for their own purpose?

In Oracle’s case, what I did when I joined the company is to say - we’re doing well here in the Cloud, but imagine if we could get all the companies to move in the same direction.  So I went out and benchmarked and built an operating model about what a cloud company looks like at scale. And I looked at companies independent of Oracle to understand what cloud company looks like across the following dimensions. And so we looked at five or six leavers together with what the net impact will be for our organization and we did that. So I think the notion of cultural change and the willingness to disrupt yourself is either proactively driven as it was when the leadership hired my team. Or it is a catalyst by a disruptor.

There is a lot of concern from the business about the readiness of HR - What is your view on this?

HR isn’t responsible for our careers anymore; we’re responsible for our careers, our development, and even in assessing our own strengths and weaknesses. We’re responsible for understanding what’s required in the progress to the next level if you aspire to management. And I think the shift has gone from a centralized service bureau, where we expect that CHRO to be an expert and more of a facilitator, more of a partner to business, service, strategic engagement and enablement. 

You said that HCM is the foundation for a lot of other integrated technology-enabled processes. But we often see that HR is always the last in the chase of technology investments. Why is that not actually happening on the ground? 

First thing is that HR makes a repeated mistake – not all but many - in that they don’t necessarily talk about the economics of the transformation. To give you an example, one of our customers is a telecom provider in Brazil.  They had a huge turnover rate, the cost of hiring was high and the Brazilian economy was in decline at six percent negative budget for the first time. So the question was how do you get a project through in this environment? And so the goal was to reduce the pro-hire cost by 37 percent. There were three things that needed to be done: the first was workforce planning and analytics. The second area we looked at was recruiting, marketing and onboarding. The third area was to build predictability to the talent pipeline, due to which costs run up. So when they went live – they immediately reduce their cost by 35 percent per hire. The second part is because of the scarcity – they built their pipeline to 250 percent and got predictability of supply. And the turnover rate diminished because they were hiring better people. And they prove it economically. So it’s important to justify the processes in HR and create the linkage in the language of the CFO.

How will you define the on-premise cloud, one of the big innovations from Oracle? What does it mean from an HCM standpoint, how is it relevant to HR?

HCM is one of the most critical mission processes you can run. Using the Oracle public cloud machine connected to the public cloud one can manage workforce planning, recruiting, onboarding and the internal core HR – say SAP – which is connected to contingent labor, benefits or payroll and has a huge cost structure. So by going to the Oracle public cloud machine, one gets out of the notion of how to build these connections repeatedly and operating costs that slow down work. The oracle public cloud machine allows one to do middleware-as-a-service, identity-as-a-service, and security-as-service. One can move such costs from OPEX to CAPEX. It allows for the elimination all the friction points between the hyper-connected applications and so where that fits is in regulated industries. Say for example in HR – If I’m not allowed to put your data into the cloud. But I still want the innovation cycle and I still want the cost out. So we’re saying if the comfort is to keep the core on-premise, keep it. If you want to take cost out to rethink the interconnection, use the oracle public cloud machine and add the public cloud opportunistically. So I think the role of the mission critical SAAS and what I’m describing – we’ve taken the complexity out of it, simplified it, streamlined it and 70 million subscribers are using us every day and they tell us what they like and don’t like. We listen and improve it very fluidly and quickly across all of it. 

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Topics: Technology, HR Technology, Leadership

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