Monday, February 15, 2010

Oracle shuts down free support blog

Dennis Howlett called my attention to a recent action by Oracle to shut down a free support blog run by one of its senior support people. Chris Warticki’s Oracle Support Blog (See Feb. 24 Update at bottom of this post), was hosted by Oracle but completely under the editorial control of its author.

Leaving no doubt that it was Oracle that took action to shut down his blog, Warticki subsequently wrote on Twitter, "Sorry...I'm not allowed to represent Oracle Support through social media."

An Oracle customer in the UK, RNM, provides the background on the usefulness Warticki's support blog was providing:
Chris took an awful lot of flack last year when the new flash-based My Oracle Support was launched. He did his best to soothe tempers, and from what I saw – as a grunt on the ground just using the product – was the only real person from Oracle actually communicating with the Community. Everything else that Oracle put out was empty-worded platitudes and patronisations that did nothing to address people’s real anger and frustration at what was clearly a Challenged implementation.

I remember at the time being impressed that someone from within the organisation was prepared to put their head above the parapet and actually try to work with people experiencing problems. The rest of the communications that I saw from Oracle appeared equivalent to a five-year old putting their fingers in their ears and shouting "na na na na i can’t hear you there’s no problem na na na na"
The final straw however, apparently occurred last week, when Oracle's new support site, "My Oracle Support" went down. As RNM comments,
How can an Oracle blogger post something that acknowledges that My Oracle Support is fallible? That a system that people pay a lot of money to use is not only dog-slow because of an awful flash-interface, but that it's actually UNAVAILABLE?

In addition, his blog's comments section gave a platform to a lot of people raising grievances about Oracle's support platform, and maybe that disturbed the corporate PR monster too. No adverse comments equals no problem, right?

My take
Oracle needs to realize this is not 1999, or even 2005. Customers have ways of communicating about problems, whether Oracle likes it or not. Better to participate in the conversation and have an opportunity to shape it than try to stymie it. In fact, attempts to stifle the dialog only gives such problems more visibility.

For example, I wouldn't have even known about problems with My Oracle Support had Oracle not shut down Warticki's blog. But now, here I am writing about it, and this post will soon go out to my 1,300+ email list, many of which are Oracle customers and partners.

The larger issue, however, is what this says about Oracle's ability to support all the customers that are coming on board due to its acquisition program. Thousands are about to be added from its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Only last week, Oracle was boasting that, in a few weeks, Sun customers were about to experience the highest level of customer service in the industry, when Oracle migrates them to its own support systems. The problems with My Oracle Support couldn't have come at a worse time.

Oracle isn't the only major enterprise software vendor that's had problems with support. For example, in 2008 I wrote about the huge problems SAP had in transitioning support for Business Objects. Read the many comments triggered by that post: it appears those problems continued for many months. The issue is not that there are problems, it's how the vendor deals with them.

In Oracle's case, it's not helpful to shut down the one voice that is attempting to provide some positive response. It's also not helpful to be charging customers 22% of software license fees for support and also filing lawsuits against those that provide third-party support.

Read Dennis's take on the situation. Chris Kanaracus also reports on problems with Oracle's support site.

Update, Feb. 16: Josh Greenbaum weighs in on the matter, in his post, Oracle Plays with Fire that Burned SAP.

Update, Feb. 19: A source tells me that the Oracle support site, My Oracle Support is/was down again and that Oracle users are none-too-happy. My source says that he's heard quite a few comments regarding "that frickin' Flash interface."

Update, Feb. 24: A comment on this post from RNM alerted me to Oracle's reinstating Warticki's support blog, with its historical posts. In addition, Warticki is now back online with Twitter. However, it appears as if any new postings from Warticki will just point to his writing behind the password-wall on Oracle Communities. Read RNM's post and understand that Oracle has still not figured out how to engage online with customers.

In this respect, with its SAP Developer Network (SDN), SAP appears miles ahead of Oracle.

Update, Mar. 25: Well, just checked and Chris has not updated his support blog for over a month, so he must be spending all his time behind the firewall on My Oracle Support Community. The historical posts are still up on Chris's original blog, however.

Related posts
Oracle slams Rimini Street with lawsuit over third-party maintenance
SAP botching up support transition for Business Objects


Able Weis said...

I agree with the points you've made. But don't you think its' Oracle's prerogative in such matters. In acquisitions, most of the time, the cost centres are immediately looked into and cut-down. It could be a financial decision.

Frank Scavo said...

Able, absolutely, it was Oracle's prerogative whether to continue Warticki's blog. I also think Oracle's approach to host employees' blogs directly on Oracle's own website is the right approach, as it avoids confusion over who "owns" the content.

But I doubt the decision to shut down Warticki's support blog had anything to do with the cost. The cost is really minimal, especially weighed against the amount of genuinely useful help and goodwill that he was, by all accounts, generating with Oracle customers.

My guess is that Warticki was just too honest for Oracle's taste--which is exactly what made his blog valued by customers.

A ham-handed move by Oracle, IMO.

Anonymous said...

It's back online now:

Frank Scavo said...

RNM, thanks for the tip. Updated the main body of this post to link to your writeup. Thanks again.