Making it unequivocally clear that Oracle has become not only cloud-first but also industry-cloud-first, chairman Larry Ellison described recently how Oracle’s “healthcare mission” is transforming the iconic 45-year-old company’s culture, its brand, and its entire business.
Ellison used the word “mission” very intentionally in describing Oracle’s massive commitment to automate from end-to-end the sprawling, fragmented, and frequently dysfunctional healthcare system of today. Ellison made these latest remarks about Oracle’s newly refined direction at the company’s CloudWorld event late last month during a financial analysts meeting.
While it’s not the first time Ellison has used the word “mission” to describe the massive focus he and Oracle are placing on healthcare — I first noted his use of the word nine months ago during a quarterly earnings call when he described the healthcare mega-initiative as “a personal mission”—it was indeed the first time he’s described in detail the ramifications of that categorization.
In short, Ellison wants Oracle to modernize the entire healthcare industry: from inventory management in clinics and hospitals, to healthcare claims management (HCM) systems for hospitals where huge percentages of doctors and nurses are no longer full-time employees, to a national database of health records, to clinical trials and related research, and all the way out to early-detection systems for potential pandemics. (I realize that was not really a “short” description but it’s as tight a descriptor of that colossal undertaking as I can manage.)
And to rise to that challenge, Ellison said, the company has had to overhaul its culture and the way it presents itself to the world-class talent required to complete that mission. At the same time, the very act of taking on such a huge adventure has transformed how the company thinks and acts and engages, he said.
So when a financial analyst at the meeting during CloudWorld asked Ellison about the ability of the Oracle culture to step up to such a challenge, Ellison offered a rare glimpse into how he views the inner workings of the company he’s ruled over and guided since its founding in 1977.
Given the nature of the subject and Ellison’s stature, I’m going to let him tell the story in his own words — which, with him, is almost always the best way to go.
“So we’re trying to tackle the whole [healthcare industry]. And that’s become not just a job, because,in fact, it’s a healthcare mission.
“So your question was about culture. As we go after the largest vertical segment and the largest industry on Earth — the multitrillion-dollar healthcare industry — it’s not just about making money. It’s about doing the right thing, being more efficient, saving lives.
“It’s about saving lives,” Ellison repeated quietly.
“And that’s fundamentally the quest, the new mission Oracle’s adopted. And it has fundamentally transformed the culture at Oracle.
“I think people at Oracle are proud of taking on this huge challenge. Because who hasn’t lost a family member to some kind of health tragedy?
“We need better systems, we need better tools for our caregivers so they can do better jobs, and we need to do a better job of keeping people out of the hospital and extending lives and improving the quality of life,” he said.
That mission becomes a recruiting magnet
“And so now we’re out recruiting world-class engineers who are maybe in the middle of their career where they already made a lot of money at Google or Apple or wherever — one of these many great companies — and now and they’re interested in finding purpose in their lives.
“Not just making more money.
“Sure, they’d like to make more money —nothing wrong with that — but what are they doing to make the world a better place than the world they found when they first went into the workforce?
“So we’re able to recruit against anyone right now,” Ellison said. “We’re able to hire most of the people we want, these engineers who are really committed to this mission.
“And they’re working harder, recruiting more of their friends, and taking more pride in what they do because what we’re doing is really important,” he said.
Yes, words matter. Vision matters. Commitment matters and courage matters and the willingness to do what no one else is trying to do matters. Those are all among the reasons why I believe Ellison will be remembered as not just a transformative figure in the tech industry but in the history of global business: because he eagerly and sometimes audaciously shifts our perspective on what is possible and what is impossible.
“I think that’s fundamentally changed the culture at Oracle, and will also have a huge impact to our brand if you will. We’ve never been a consumer company–we sell technology to businesses,” he said.
“So while Oracle has been a bit of hidden brand throughout the first 45 years of the company, Oracle is now going to be at the center of the next generation of healthcare in what we call patient engagement where patients interact with and share information with caregivers and doctors.
“So people are going to be carrying around Oracle in their pockets. And it’s not iTunes, with 1,000 songs in your pocket, but the interface with caregivers will be through the Oracle smartphone application.
“Longitudinal health records will be available to you. And you the patient will be controlling access to health records, and sharing those with doctors electronically on a smart phone,” Ellison said.
“So it changes the culture, which changes our ability to recruit the very best computer scientists to work on this project.
“It changes the overall awareness of the company.
“So again, this new mission in healthcare is transformative to Oracle’s culture, transformative to Oracle’s brand, and I think transformative to Oracle’s business.”
Whatever you might think — or used to think — about Larry Ellison and Oracle, I believe the world needs more people who are willing to shatter our preconceived notions of what is possible and what is impossible.
We need more people willing to embrace big, crazy, can’t-be-done missions.
Well done, Larry Ellison and Oracle!
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