Oracle has been urged to change its ways by the Campaign for Clear Licensing (CCL) after its research found customers do not trust the vendor and are confused by its licensing structure.
According to CCL's findings, which were drawn from feedback from 100 global end-user organisations, 92 per cent of customers said Oracle does not clearly communicate licensing changes and less than a quarter said the firm was helpful during an audit or contract-renewal process. Some 88 per cent thought Oracle audit requests were unclear and difficult to manage or respond to.
The customer feedback was obtained by CCL through a survey, a roundtable event and an open meeting with Oracle execs, and formed the basis of its Key Risks in Managing Oracle Licensing report.
CCL said three clear grievances emerged from the feedback: customers do not feel autonomous; messaging from the vendor is inconsistent; and Oracle moves the goalposts to suit its own revenue objectives.
CCL founder Martin Thompson said: "Based on our research and conversations over the last six months, we have found that customers' relationships with Oracle are hostile and filled with deep-rooted mistrust.
"So entrenched is this feeling of mistrust that some organisations were fearful of speaking to us in case of any audit repercussions. On the whole, the customers we surveyed appear to have an arms-length, impoverished relationship with Oracle."
Anecdotal feedback from the anonymous survey respondents suggested Oracle's approach leaves a lot to be desired from end users.
"Commonly, it is a good practice to build a trusting relationship with your supplier, but with Oracle that has proven to be very tricky," one customer said.
Another added: "It is my experience that the Oracle Licence Management Services (LMS) representatives have a direct relationship with sales. So it is very hard to trust them with sensitive information."
The issues raised by the report struck a chord with some channel players who sympathised with customers.
Inoapps's vice president for licensing Andrew Norris said partners can help customers get around the close relationship with LMS auditing staff and their sales colleagues.
"If you get an independent – like a partner, for example – there are often more commercially advantageous things that can be done and you don't have to spend a lot of money," he said. "We've helped customers re-architect solutions – they still have to buy software, but... they have a much smaller bill."
Concorde's chief executive Martin Prendergast said Oracle has earned a reputation for being particularly "complex and non-transparent".
CCL urged Oracle to change the way it works with customers based on points it came up with along with the end users it worked with. It advised the vendor to be clearer with customers; invest more in education; communicate better; re-engineer its licensing programmes to reduce risk; and have sharper strategic focus.
Oracle was unavailable to comment.
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