I had the opportunity to virtually attend the Oracle Applications Unlimited Live Show yesterday, and I came away with two impressions.  First, with the current climate severely impacting both business travel and training opportunities, I was very excited about the potential of “virtual conferencing” technology to fill this void.  Second, Oracle continues to impress with their product development, acquisition and marketing strategies related to supply chain management.

So lets begin with Oracle first.  My sense was that this event was yet another outreach from Oracle to test market acceptance of virtual conferencing.  While the overall number of the presentations was very limited, along with virtual exhibitors, the experience for me had lots of potential.  The primary keynote delivered by Ed Abbo, Oracle’s SVP of Applications Development was a great opportunity to again sense the overall direction for Oracle in their applications effort, as well as the opportunity for live chat.  Rick even offered viewers a look at smaller application tools that can aide in people and group productivity, in a time of lean people resources. Unlike past years, the presentation was pragmatic, offering customers and prospects ideas on how technologies can aide businesses in crisis.

I viewed another presentation delivered by Rick Jewell, SVP of Supply Chain Applications Development.  Similarly, the messaging was grounded to today’s realities for Oracle’s technology’s potential in helping companies to minimize product and supply chain costs, optimize inventories, and make more informed decisions.  The notions of stand-alone applications that can be installed in non-Oracle environments, quick implementations and ROI have been blended into product development and go-to-market strategies.  If you paid very close attention, you can literally pick-up on the continued emphasis on customer testimonials and proven results, as well at time-to-value, and oh yes, how these applications can be installed in SAP environments.  I continue to be impressed by Oracle’s supply chain marketing strategies, and other supply chain technology- related marketers should, in my view, look at Oracle as the benchmark for getting clear and succinct product messaging communicated. I’ve commented previously on the impressive depth and breadth of Oracle’s supply chain suite.

The platform for delivering this event was On24, a San Francisco based virtual conferencing provider.  The New York Times provided a recent technology write-up featuring this vendor, along with a listing of other vendors providing virtual conferencing technology offerings.  I found the experience to be quite seamless in terms of my connection, as well as intuitive. Just like a live show, I could visit an auditorium to view the presentations, the exhibit hall booths to view specific demonstrations, and a networking café to connect with other attendees.  In my interaction, I did not sense a lot of other attendees participating in live chats.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve experienced virtual conferencing. Virtual conferencing can be sterile and lacks the opportunity for real human connection.  There is no substitute foe eye to eye contact. But heck, in this economy, it’s a technology that has encountered the “perfect storm” of business needs. Today, many large global companies are taking advantage of this technology, and I believe my fellow marketing professionals should also be taking a hard look at this form of technology, especially over the coming months.  Public relations and professional service organizations should also take note.

Virtual conferencing vendors with smarts should be striving to provide more affordable services for smaller companies who also need these alternatives. These vendors need to be especially sensitive to the reality of lean marketing, travel and training budgets, and should have ala-carte choices for various forms of conferences or trade shows.

If Oracle was looking for a vote of confidence in this delivery medium, I vote yes.

 Bob Ferrari