There's a lot of buzz around blockchain. Everybody's talking about it, right? The word is out, but not a lot of people really understand what blockchain is. How much do you know about it? Is it kind of new for you?
If so, I can guarantee that by the end of this article, you're gonna know more about blockchain for supply chains than most people that exist today.
In this article, I’m going to be focusing on:
- What blockchain technology is
- The role of blockchain at Oracle
- My first blockchain product launch
- Our next mission: sales enablement
- Creativity in product marketing
What is blockchain, anyway?
Why use blockchain in the first place? Isn't it just a database? Well, it kind of is – it works with data – but it's a distributed method of working with data. Some define blockchain as “a peer-to-peer, distributed ledger.” I think of it as a network with many different partners contributing to it, all working toward the same aim.
Imagine if, instead of having a database administrator who sets the rules and manages everything, you have a multitude of different partners that are all part of the same network.
You have nodes within that network that are all communicating with each other, and due to the technology in the background, the different partners can share information.
If I'm the founder of the network and I'm facilitating it, I can invite partners and have visibility into everything they do.
Because those partners have all been invited, trust is enabled across the network. This is going to change the world we live in in a big way. It's kind of like the early days of the internet.
Blockchain at Oracle
Oracle is one of the first – if not the first – companies to build blockchain applications for enterprises. We’ve already launched several applications for supply chains using IoT and blockchain, and we have a wealth of experience with our thousands of supply chain customers.
For the last couple of years, Oracle has been working with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. We also have our own blockchain platform, which uses Hyperledger Fabric and a distributed ledger.
I'm not going to go deep into the technology, but we have a platform and a toolkit for developers to build blockers. The cool thing is if you use our platform, you're using the latest technology, and you're inheriting all of the performance, scalability, and security that Oracle builds in.
I'm on the product marketing side for emerging tech, what my team does is create purpose-built apps that are pre-connected with other supply chain products. It's really exciting because it takes the universe of Blockchain and distills it down to something real and tangible for large enterprises.
As a side note, it's a bit of a misnomer to call our product a blockchain application. It's an application for supply chains using blockchain and IoT – blockchain is just the technology in the background.
Oracle's first blockchain product launch
I've been at Oracle for about seven years – I used to be on the product management side for our Sales Cloud and Service Cloud businesses. I joined a new team in March and was tasked with launching our first blockchain-supported supply chain app by June 13.
This task had its challenges: a massive sea of established products and massive numbers of product marketers working on them. There are 140,000 people in the company, so you can imagine how many individual agendas there are too.
Plus, blockchain is perplexing: people don't quite know what it is or how to apply it to their business. I also had to figure out how to get some momentum going, because three months is not a lot of time to launch a brand new product.
I figured out pretty quickly that I’d better put the right team together. I'm an independent contributor, so I don't have anybody that reports to me. I have to build friendships if I want to get anything done. My mantra has been, “Find the go-getters.” I was looking for the people who would get excited about a new and emerging tech and who could make a difference in launching the product.
Another challenge I had was that there were no assets that talk about blockchain. I knew that if I created a video, salespeople could use it to introduce blockchain to audiences.
I could also get it out on YouTube and the Oracle website and share it with our supply chain audience at Oracle OpenWorld, so everyone could get a little taste of what blockchain can do for supply chains.
At Oracle, we have a whole set of bills of materials that are required before you can even put videos up on the portal for the sales team, but I knew that unless I had a cool video, a great demo that was easy to consume, and a highly compelling webpage, nothing else would matter.
People’s time is precious, and salespeople have a real challenge learning about our products, so you have to lay it out there on a silver platter for them.
Fortunately, I had a budget to work with, so I hired an agency in San Francisco called Friday's Films and we started to create some assets. Here's the first video. Take a look. 👇
So, that's blockchain for a manufacturing supply chain. Kind of a cool video, right? I worked with the product management team to make sure it's authentic – all the UI in the video is the real deal.
I then thought, "Okay, where am I going to launch this?" I went through the list of all the events that Oracle does around the world, and I found out that we were going to be at London Tech Week in June. How wonderful that London Tech Week falls at the same time as my launch deadline! So I use that as my launchpad.
I used the London launch as a target to get everybody focused. We had to update the website. I had to get the product team to finish the product, so we could record it and put it into HTML format for some easy click-through demos. Then we created a whole list of bills of materials for our sellers.
Then, I hired an independent analyst in the UK. He's a writer, he's a blogger, and he kind of covers this space. I hired him to interview people from our team, and push the launch out on social media.
During this process, I came up with a new term: “blockchain envy”. It happens when you have a video, a set of materials, and a product marketing person pushing all this out behind the scenes. Suddenly, everybody gets excited about the application side of the business because it’s on-trend.
I took the folks working on the platform and the application to London. We were at the Blockchain for Business Summit, and the air was thick with buzz about blockchain. We heard things like “Blockchain is gonna save the world.”
We had a guy from Dubai, saying “Everything in Dubai is going to be executed using Blockchain.” Someone from the country of Georgia was saying, “Our country is going to run on blockchain.”
London tech week was a huge success. We were the only company that had built a supply chain app using blockchain and IoT. Everybody else was talking about how blockchain was gonna save the world, so it was refreshing for people to hear that there's actually a product out there that they could go and buy and then sell to their customers.
The trend is going toward purpose-built applications. People want something ready-made. They don't want to have to hire a whole team of developers. They don't want to have to figure out how to integrate with all of their legacy systems. We have three pre-integrations with our supply chain products already out of the box, and people got very excited about that.
Our next mission: sales enablement
So what's next? We did a lot of work on the assets, we launched the product, and we got the word out there, but we never really had a chance to focus on sales enablement.
We have 40,000 salespeople and they need to be trained, so that's our next phase. We're going to start going to different regions and markets and taking our team through a two-day curriculum.
What I’ve been working on in the meantime is the data science behind our sales strategy. We had to size the market and figure out where the low-hanging fruit is.
We have the huge advantage of Oracle’s expertise and a ready-made group of customers to build for using blockchain and IoT. If you’re one of our customers and you have one or more of our three existing pre-integrated products, you’re the low-hanging fruit that we want to go after.
We looked to the US and Great Britain for the first phase of our sales roll-out because that's where our largest numbers of customers are. I decided that we would target the largest companies, and I came up with 34 potential buyers between Great Britain and the US. That's our hit list: 34 supply chain customers worth $2 billion or more.
Once I had a model in place, I could go to our financial analysis team and have them create that same kind of list for other countries and regions. We whittled those lists down until we had a dozen or so companies for the sales teams to go after once they’d finished their training. That's the data science part.
Then we acquired this company called Datafox, which does a lot of really cool research on companies. If a new CEO is hired, if a company goes public, or if they open new offices, that’s called a signal. Datafox accumulates all these signals and uses them to guide sales strategies.
So I'm working with Datafox because I know if we're successful and we do a really good job with it, that'll be their talking point. That will be their use case when they're out presenting and talking about what Datafox can do. It’s also a great opportunity for me to use one of our newly acquired products and add extra value to the information we're providing to the sales team.
Creativity in product marketing
The last thing I'll leave you with is one of our latest videos. This one’s about blockchain for consumer goods supply chains. I'm an extra in this movie; if you look closely, you might spot me. It’s not quite my 15 minutes of fame – more like my minute and a half of fame.
We want to use cinematography to make our videos more humanistic, so we're working with an agency that does a great job with that. The video is about beer because when I say beer, suddenly everybody's paying attention. This is what I get to do as a creative and product marketing person at Oracle. Honestly, it's pretty cool.
So, without further ado, here's the video: