Clouds Over Asia - we meet Joen Van Driel, Vice President of Oracle Digital Cloud Applications for Asia Pacific

By Leila Hawkins

Joen van Driel has been selling clouds for a number of years. With roles spanning Europe, north and Southeast Asia, van Driel is currently the Vice President of Oracle Digital Cloud Applications in Singapore, where he is in charge of a team of representatives currently selling Oracle’s cloud products across Asia Pacific. Here, van Driel explains how he was drawn to the role because of the exciting challenges it presented.

Van Driel worked in various different roles at Oracle until 2007, before returning earlier this year as Vice President. He came back to the organisation because it posed an interesting opportunity for him. “Oracle was late in the game for the cloud, let’s be honest,” he says. “But they put a lot of investment into it and hired people and so I got the opportunity to run and build a fairly large, new team, focusing on selling products. I love building teams,” he says. “There’s a lot of investment going on within Oracle, in this new organisation, not only in the cloud, but also in the new market. It’s a big focus area.”

The cloud around the globe

Before re-joining the organisation van Driel held roles at Google, Adobe and Salesforce, positions that gave him experience of the various markets, in locations as diverse as Dublin, Sydney and Hong Kong. “When you do business in Southeast Asia today, compared to a more mature market, there is a big difference,” he explains. These variations, he says, include how fast people adopt new technology, the age of the markets, and how much the cloud and broadband internet are a part of people’s everyday lives.

Van Driel cites Japan and the US as being some of the most advanced countries. “Then you have second tier [regions] like Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, bits of China, Taiwan and India. If you compare them to Europe, I don’t think there is that much difference between advanced countries like Japan versus the US and Europe. If you look at second tiers it's more like Eastern Europe, which is more like the level of maturity of these markets in their adoption of more advanced technologies.

“If you pitch a solution to Indonesia and you do the same in Hong Kong, you’ll get different responses,” he continues. “Also, people like to wait until more advanced countries have deployed or successfully adopted it. The problem is that most of it is cloud-based. You need to have a very reliable fast broadband internet connection. If you don't have that then it will be a lot more difficult.

“In terms of security, the less developed countries tend to have less data in the cloud and they prefer to have it on the premises,” he adds. "More advanced countries like Japan understand that it’s a better alternative to have data in the cloud instead.”

Over the course of van Driel’s career, the industry has changed massively. At Salesforce 10 years ago, the concept of the cloud was unknown. “I was one of the pioneers at Salesforce,” he says, “so I had to explain what the cloud was. Now, most companies know what it is and what the benefits are. There’s a big shift going on compared to 2007. Ten years later it’s a completely different world.

“Now, most of the time the clients have more knowledge about the products than you have yourself, because the consumption of information and the access to information has dramatically shifted, and is so much more accessible.”

Oracle compared to the biggest players

Oracle’s clients vary wildly, between $50 and $500mn in terms of revenue. Van Driel explains that while the organisation traditionally targeted the large enterprises, now with the deployment of the cloud, it’s easier to sell to the mid-market because the time it takes to deploy and provision it is much faster.

The change to using the cloud as opposed to hardware has been considerable. Most of Oracle’s products are not native cloud apps, whereas the solutions from Google and Salesforce are pure multi-tenancy cloud solutions. “If you use an app on your phone then it automatically updates to the latest version,” van Driel says, “because everybody is using apps and that makes it so scalable and interesting, because you don’t need to have a lot of work dedicated to every individual consumer. And that is effective.”

Another big difference is that Google operates from the consumer side, while Salesforce is a pure B2B player. “There are a lot of differences in terms of how they approach the markets and how their products work,” van Driel explains. “All have a common goal that the cloud will prevail because it is such a massive benefit compared to doing stuff on the premises.”

Looking ahead

While companies are now targeting the cloud, having moved on from focusing on mobile networks, van Driel says the future lies in artificial intelligence, deep learning and machine learning. “That's the success and also the biggest challenge, because we have to be careful with that. It [AI] all sounds very nice and everybody is riding the wave, but it needs to be useful as well. It’s all kind of fancy stuff, but in the end, it needs to increase productivity, and that’s the challenge we all face. How can we implement that technology into useful business cases and solve business problems?”

Personally, van Driel sees himself continuing to work in the field of disruptive technology for a fair time yet. I see myself in a start-up or in a technology environment that I really find interesting. That’s what really excites me.”

Business Review Asia - October Issue

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