The five-minute CIO: Dermot O’Kelly, Oracle (video)

15 Jan 2016

Dermot O'Kelly, senior vice president for Oracle UK, Ireland and Israel

“The digital transformation is real,” says Dermot O’Kelly, senior vice-president for Oracle UK, Ireland and Israel, who was in Dublin for the news that 450 new jobs are to be created at Oracle’s Irish operations.

It emerged yesterday (14 January) that tech giant Oracle is to create 450 jobs in the city as part of a worldwide recruitment drive for 1,400 new staff.

The move to recruit 1,400 new cloud sales professionals into its EMEA inside sales operation follows a multi-billion dollar investment from Oracle in developing a complete portfolio of cloud services.

“We are recruiting 450 new cloud sales professionals in Dublin and investing in the facilities a world-class workforce should expect,” O’Kelly said yesterday.

“This is an opportunity for ambitious people who want to be a part of the incredible cloud story happening at Oracle in Ireland and right across EMEA.

“This is a great opportunity for people with a passion for selling the cloud or a burning ambition to do so who want to further their career with the company that is doing the most to shape cloud and the way it serves innovative businesses around the world.”

Oracle has been in Ireland for the past 30 years, beginning initially as a software manufacturing operation before evolving to embrace software development, operations and sales activities among its 1,400 staff.

O’Kelly joined Oracle in 1997 and has held a number of senior roles in the company’s EMEA, hardware, software, HR applications and sales divisions.

As senior vice president for Oracle UK, Ireland and Israel, he is responsible for driving operations, growth and profitability in these geographies. He also leads the close alignment of key accounts and is the country leader for the UK.

We talked to O’Kelly about the strategic cloud shift that is driving the new jobs.

Oracle’s ambition is to be No 1 for cloud among businesses. Explain this ambition?

I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about every dimension. Cloud computing is a broad church from applications all the way through to the computer that you run the applications on. We think we are uniquely positioned to offer that full stack to any CIO.

So if any company wants to simplify the way that they run their whole application portfolio we think we’ve got a great answer for them. We can provide applications like HR, marketing and CRM, we can provide the platform that those applications run on so if you want to have them all on an integrated environment or you want to expand some of those applications we can give you the platform to do that on, write your own applications, and we can give you the platform in terms of the computing and the networking to do that.

We can simplify the whole stack of IT, which I think offers companies much more simplicity, much more control of costs, and it allows them to be much more agile and for them to invest their IT budget in the things that they want to do, which is probably to grow their business.

How does Oracle stack up against competitors like Microsoft and others in facilitating the cloud for CIOs in a variety of industries from banking to energy and manufacturing and more?

I’m not sure you’ve picked the right competitor, but we have industry-specific applications, we have applications specifically for banks, we have applications specifically for retailers, because those are entirely different businesses that do entirely different things.

If you want to be a player or somebody important to not only a CIO but a CEO and a CFO of the business you have to provide them applications that are suited to the way they run their businesses. We do that in a variety of industries and that’s why we cover most of them, be it financial services, banking or retail.

It’s a big investment and you have to be a pretty major company to do that and, luckily, we are.

Digital transformation is the phrase of the day and we hear a lot about CIOs being replaced or renamed as chief digital officers. Is this a fad or will CIOs be the guys who will always hold the purse strings?

We won’t comment on whether CIOs will be replaced by CDOs or whether that’s just a change of acronym.

The digital transformation is real. I believe in order for businesses to serve their customers better they need to use digital technology in order to do that and we are all customers of somebody. It is much easier if I can transact online. It is much easier if the company understands me enough and doesn’t try to sell me stuff I don’t want. So I think that paradigm shift is a given.

Whether you need a CIO to do that or a CDO, I think you need both. There is a lot of infrastructure you need in order to make the transformation and then you need these frontline applications, which actually service your customers in a much better way.

And then you need to be able to analyse the data that you are gathering through these applications. I always say companies never have a problem accumulating data, it just grows and grows. What they do with the data is more problematic, and whether they can find a useful piece of information that they need that will change their company strategy so they can attract more customers, keep more customers and sell more stuff to customers.

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality – we are hearing more and more about these trends, how real or near-future are they?

You say near future, but people are doing stuff with these technologies today. It may be not pervasive in all industries but, for example, internet of things (IoT) – we have a habit of calling things three letter acronyms in IT that we really should avoid – and we should put it in ways people should understand.

Internet of things is just a way of having a non-person interaction to collect data, I still sound like an IT guy, but the example I use is a train track, and if you want to find out if a piece of it is going to fail you can have a sensor on the track and the sensor can feed data.

You can be much more up to date with the information, you can have real-time information and you can have a real purpose to that. Everybody is going to wonder if a track is going to fail or not. Rather than send somebody out to check every piece of it you can have the data all the time, every time. I think it is just common sense that people are going to do it.

The fact that the technology allows you to do it means more and more people think up applications for machine-learning, internet of things etc.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years