Oracle's Andrew Sutherland on the cloud: disrupt, transform & compete


"We are seeing IT being used to create true business disruption," Dr Andrew Sutherland, Senior VP Technology and Systems, Oracle Europe, told attendees at the recent Oracle Cloud Day, held at The Forum in Bryanston. "Information increases exponentially in value the more there is of it," he added. But, he asked the assembled audience, how do you compete, and how do you differentiate? The answer, he said, lies in transformation.

Sutherland, who has over 30 years' experience designing solutions incorporating mobile technology, cautioned the rapt audience against acting without adequate forethought. Make the wrong movements and a company will not survive because we travel at such great speeds these days, he said. "We think it won't happen to us or our business. We will come through the transformation but that's not an automatic outcome." He told the stories of three different businesses: one a tyre manufacturer, one a light bulb manufacturer, and the other a family-run newspaper, each of which had come to realise that they needed to transform in order to survive in today's rapidly changing business world. They realised that they needed to give themselves a competitive edge and differentiate from their competitors, Sutherland explained. Thinking outside of the box certainly aided these companies in their transformation efforts, as did the embracing of Cloud services and the benefits thereof.

However, Sutherland said, not everybody is going to move from traditional bricks and mortar into the cloud, as many will likely run a co-existence. "We believe most organisations will have a combination of the two," he said, adding that there's a continuum between brick and mortar and cloud. The question then, Sutherland asked, is how to make this a cost-effective position. But even before that, where do you start?

You start by avoiding silos and stove piping, Sutherland advised. The expert further emphasised the need for different functions to work together. "It is actually quite logical to build different functions. It's normal," he said. "Problems occur when functional groups don't work together. You eat an elephant one bite at a time."

Sutherland advised companies to consider layering within the architecture, as this brings with it plenty of advantages, such as changing a lower-down layer without disrupting those above. "Try to ensure that each layer is as complete as possible, so that it has every aspect you could need. Also, ensure it is integrated and open," he said.

Oftentimes, companies want to extend and configure the aforementioned layers - something which Oracle realised and acted swiftly on, making the infrastructure available as a service. Sutherland says this was done a year ago already, and the company has learnt a lot about how customers are making use of it - and other products and software - to their best advantage. "It's our job to keep ourselves up to date so we can make the right decisions," he said. "Oracle is enabling business analysts with the answers they need." Sutherland again punted the power of transformation and the need to be innovative. "It is critical to be competitive," he said.

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