Angela Mazza Teufer is Oracle’s beacon for enterprise applications and cloud across Europe. After a long career at rival, SAP, she rejoined Oracle just nine months ago with a mandate to grow the cloud business across Europe. Paul Esherwood spoke exclusively to the new SVP at OpenWorld and posed a series of questions which are reported below.
Angela’s journey has come full circle having started her career at Oracle in 2002 before joining SAP where she spent the next 13 years, latterly holding the position of regional president. Born in Italy, raised in Switzerland and having lived in the Middle East and France, Angela’s European pedigree and cross-domain experience provides the perfect backdrop to the challenges ahead.
It’s easy to see why Angela has risen up the ranks of the ERP elite and now sits at the top table in the world’s premier-branded ERP organisation. Her style is refreshingly open and engaging and we are both at ease as we discuss artificial intelligence, cloud adoption rates and the changing role of the CFO. While walking the floor at OpenWorld, her enthusiasm for technology and customer success is infectious and it’s clear that Oracle’s agenda to revolutionise enterprise applications is in safe and capable hands.
A cloud evangelist, Angela cites Oracle’s position in the cloud apps space as the key driver for moving from SAP. As we stroll past the plethora of Oracle partner stands in the main exhibition hall, I asked when she knew it was time to move and she said: “I could see that cloud was going to be a gamechanger and I wanted to be part of an organisation where cloud was part of its DNA. Oracle’s position in the ERP cloud space is unrivalled and I felt that’s where I needed to be.”
You were at SAP for nearly 15 years. What made you decide to switch from blue to red and what attracted you to Oracle after your time at SAP?
AMT Oracle has a unique position in the ERP market. It’s been doing SaaS in the cloud for over ten years now, so is really in the best position to help organisations realise the benefits of moving their business applications to the cloud. As the cloud market has matured and more and more customers look to move some, or all, of their businesses to the cloud, there’s a huge opportunity to help them make the most of cloud-based ERP offerings and transform the finance function of their operations. It was this opportunity that really excited me and made me want to move to Oracle.
What’s the biggest difference between the two companies?
AMT Oracle takes a different approach to delivering emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, industrial internet, and blockchain into its products. Oracle integrates functions into its applications so customers can get business value for certain use cases right away.
Where does Oracle have the edge on SAP?
AMT Oracle’s edge comes in two forms. Firstly, it’s the legacy we have in ERP cloud. We’ve been doing it for over a decade. We’ve learnt lessons along the way that allow us to not just be a technology vendor, but a true partner to our customers. We can take our vast experience and use that to provide the best solution for their business. Secondly, as I mentioned before, Oracle has integrated innovative technologies, such as AI, into all our apps. We’re not just talking about AI, we’re doing it and every customer, large or small, has access to new and exciting technology.
Do you think customers fully understand
these differences? Does selection often come down to the people involved rather than the technology?
AMT I absolutely think customers fully understand. We’re working with companies of every size, across every sector. If you take some examples such as RCD Espanyol, Lambeth Borough Council, MMK, NetCologne and Amplifon, they’re all live on our ERP cloud, demonstrating how the market today really does see Oracle as the leader when it comes to implementing business applications in the cloud.
Would you define Oracle as: a database business, a cloud company or an ERP vendor?
AMT I think I’d define us as all three. Everything we do is in the cloud, but we are still a leading ERP vendor and give our customers access to database services, such as Autonomous Database Warehouse. It’s all integrated and available to our customers. The beauty of everything being in the cloud is that they can choose which solutions they want.
Is Oracle’s commitment to installed ERP genuine, or do you think cloud adoption will make the 2030 pledge a moot point?
AMT Absolutely. We’re committed to providing our customers with the solutions and services they need. Not every business can move entirely to the cloud, and it’s vital that we support them in not only taking advantage of the cloud where they can, but ensuring that the rest of their business is fit for purpose as well.
What, in your opinion, is holding most customers back when it comes to moving to the cloud? How is Oracle tackling these blockers and reassuring businesses of the benefits?
AMT I don’t think I’d necessarily say anything is holding customers back, it’s more moving at a pace that suits the individual business. Every conversation I have with customers is about when they will move to cloud, not if they will.
Historically, concerns around security, for example, were very real, but with solutions such as Autonomous Data Warehouse now available the barriers to adoption are dropping. Some companies may move more quickly than others, but our customers are all excited about the benefits that cloud can bring.
Is it the right move for every business?
AMT As I mentioned, not every business is going to move everything to the cloud. Some need to keep a portion of their business on-premise for regulation and compliance reasons, but where possible we’re seeing our customers excited about the prospect of moving to cloud.
Which are the hardest stakeholders to convince of the benefits?
AMT I don’t think it’s necessarily about convincing members of the C-suite in isolation. It’s about helping the entirety of the board understand how they can drive a connected vision, focussing on the wider goals of the business and how to connect their remits and roles, rather than simply driving their own divisions forward in terms of cost, manpower, infrastructure, and capability.
In your role of head of ERP for Europe, what are your greatest challenges? What are the milestones you have set for the Oracle ERP business in the short and medium term?
AMT What I’m focused on is helping our customers build a strategy for a connected enterprise. Being connected means working effectively across functional silos – with the traditional space and time restrictions becoming irrelevant simply because everyone and everything is joined up. This makes it easier to gain value from every point and from much wider ecosystems – it’s only going to help our customers grow.
Are end-users ready and able to take full advantage of the new wave of AI-infused, cloud-based technologies? Do you feel that the benefits are fully understood by the market?
AMT Absolutely. CFOs are really taking a front foot when it comes to driving the strategy for their entire organisation, and taking advantage of AI is one tactic they are using to do this. AI automates many of the day to day tasks so that the CFO, and their team, can focus on the tasks which help influence business strategy. This can only be good for the business too – our recent research revealed that 46 percent of tech-savvy finance leaders actually report positive revenue growth, compared with only 29 percent of tech-challenged leaders. On top of this it gives them access to more data than ever, allowing them to understand their business like never before. Armed with this, CFOs can make smart decisions that help the organisation operate in a more efficient and profitable way.
What is Oracle doing to drive adoption of AI technologies?
AMT We’ve integrated AI into all of our business applications (ERPM, HCM and CX) so that when any customer uses them they are able to take advantage of our AI capabilities. Regardless of role, this functionality helps businesses work smarter, operate smarter, and engage smarter with their partners, suppliers, customers, and employees.
How do you see the skills set of employees changing over the next five years and does Oracle have a strategy for addressing any skills gaps in emerging technologies?
AMT I think everyone is going to become data-driven. Data, and understanding data, is fundamental to business success today. It’s allowing us to make, smarter, more informed decisions that only help our business and customers. As I mentioned, we’ve pre-built AI into our apps so that everyone can take advantage of data regardless of the role.
How do you see the role of the CFO changing over the next five years?
AMT I think we’ll continue to see the CFO become a key driver of strategy for their business. At the minute the situation is ‘disrupt or be disrupted’, and CFOs are in a unique position to drive the disruption of their business. With more data at their fingertips than ever before, they can help shape the future of their organisation. In short, the CFO will be the driver for change.
How much of an impact will AI have on ERP platforms? And do you think AI will ever replace the traditional CFO?
AMT It’s going to have a huge impact, but it won’t replace the CFO. AI is there to support the CFO, allowing them to automate and operate in a smarter way. It’s given them the tools they need to drive strategy and vision, rather than replacing their role.
What steps has Oracle taken to ensure that AI is developed and implemented responsibly?
AMT Oracle has an R&D budget of over $5 billion, some of which has gone to making our AI technology the best it possibly can be. It’s now very much available and integrated into our offering, and we’re working with our customers to make sure they know how to use it to drive real value for their business.
Can you envisage a future with a fully autonomous enterprise? Running Oracle ERP Cloud, an RPA manufacturing plant, a supply chain connected through AI and IoT and demand planning systems driven by machine learning. An end-to-end enterprise run by software, algorithms and robots?
AMT Maybe one day, but right now we’re focused on making sure that our customers are able to make use of the solutions that we have in the market today. We’re partnering with them to ensure that they understand where implanting an AI solution can drive change for their organisation, and then helping them take that theory and making it a reality.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to end users who are considering migrating their IT estate and applications to the cloud?
AMT Come talk to us. Moving to the cloud has so many benefits, not just in terms of cost saving and driving efficiencies, but also in allowing businesses to scale and grow. We’re here to help our customers understand what that looks like for them. We’ve been working in the cloud for over a decade and have a lot of experience in helping businesses successfully make the move to the cloud, which puts us in a really unique position to continue to support organisations as they move their workloads and applications.