Using Third Party Support for Oracle with Rimini Street

In this interview with Jill Harrison Managing Director for Rimini Street in Europe, we learn about alternative  Oracle support models for Oracle and SAP customers.

Listen to the podcast or read the notes below to find out more about:
Rimini Street’s third party Oracle support offering;
How Rimini Street Compares to Oracle Support and other competition;
Why an Oracle customer should consider switching to Rimini Street;
The process involved in switching from Oracle and SAP to Rimini Street’s support.
The reasons why so many customers are switching from Oracle to Rimini Street.

Using Independent Support for Oracle with Rimini Street

The headline really is the fact that we offer our support at 50% on the cost of the Oracle maintanance to their customers. There is an immediate, huge cost saving benefit for clients.

Hello, I am Kay Williams from Madora Consulting. Today I am joined by Jill Harrison. Jill is the managing director for Europe and Africa at Rimini Street. Hello, Jill.
Jill: Hi, Kay. Nice to meet you today.

Kay: Thank you. Jill, can you just introduce yourself and explain what your role is within Rimini Street?
Jill: Of course. I’m the managing director for Rimini Street in Europe, and have been with the company for almost three and a half years. I am responsible for all of our business across Europe. We have been present in Europe for about five years, and I was brought in to help accelerate the growth of the European business. Last year, for example, we more than doubled our revenues in Europe. My personal background is both SAP and Oracle, and as we provide both SAP support and Oracle support, that is very relevant to our business.

Kay: Jill, can you just give me some idea of how big Rimini Street is as a company?
Jill: We just released our Q2 2016 results and we grew 41% year over year, which was a record growth quarter for us. The annual revenue run rate was nearly $160 million. In fact, Q2 2016 was our 42nd consecutive growth quarter since Rimini Street was formed. Additionally, we have signed over 1,450 clients globally to date, including 23 Global 100 organisations, and 115 of the Fortune 500. We now have nearly 800 employees worldwide. These numbers are growing exponentially.

Kay: Okay Jill, can you just give me a little bit of background about Rimini Street. Who started the company and how did it all start?
Jill: Well, that is an interesting question, Kay. Our CEO, Seth Ravin, started the company almost 11 years ago to address the accelerating cost of maintaining IT systems. When he was in the maintenance business working for PeopleSoft (many years ago), his customers were constantly complaining that they were fed up with being forced into vendor upgrades just to remain supported on their system.
I think you come from an Oracle background yourself, so you know that when Oracle brings out a new release of a product, it’s on premium support for the first five years. After that, if you want to stay on that version and still get support, you have to pay extra. Sometime after that, usually two or three years after, the system goes into sustaining support, and that means you won’t get the support you need to reliably run your business. You’re not getting new bug fixes, or patches, and you’re not getting tax, legal and regulatory updates. So you’re forced into an upgrade that you may not want, just to retain full support from the vendor. For many Oracle customers there’s no business benefit in that upgrade, and they could be spending millions of pounds to implement it, so it is making less and less sense to stay on that treadmill.
So he could see that the cost of keeping the lights on was becoming a burning issue for many CIOs.
A recent Gartner survey said that 87% of IT budgets are spent just keeping the lights on, which means that only 13% is left to spend on things that really add business value such as big data and digital initiatives.
Seth saw a big opportunity for offering control back to CIOs by giving them a different, higher value, higher quality support model which would enable then to reduce the cost of maintenance, and put them back in the drivers’ seat with regard to their upgrade strategy, rather than having to do it because the vendor wanted them to.
Add to that the fact that the vendors are constantly pushing customers to move to the cloud and have stopped investing in those great ERP and CRM products that their customers run means that many Oracle customers are getting exceedingly little value for their maintenance.
That’s what triggered the birth of Rimini Street. His vision was to provide a better model. To provide much more value and at the same time help customers to slash their cost of ownership.

Kay: Jill, can you just tell me a bit more about your third party Oracle support offering?
Jill: We provide support for Oracle products such as E-Business Suite, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Siebel, Oracle Database, in fact the entire Oracle technology stack, Hyperion, Agile PLM, and Oracle Retail. We have several hundred of clients who we support on those products.

The headline really is the fact that we offer our support at 50% on the cost of the  Oracle maintanance to their customers. There is an immediate, huge cost saving benefit for clients. But beyond cost, there are several other features of our support that make us very different from the support offered by Oracle.

The first one is that Rimini Street provides an extremely personalized service. We provide a primary support engineer to every client. These support engineers have an average of 15 years’ experience in the products that we’re supporting, and they are backed up by a team of equally experienced engineers. We don’t have any junior people on our support desk, so it’s not a faceless help desk. It’s an experienced and personalized support desk, where the engineers get to know our client’s landscapes, their customizations, and their interfaces.

We’re also a lot more responsive. As soon as you report a problem to us, we get to work on that problem. We work on that problem until we deliver a resolution. There’s no more telling you that “it’s fixed in the next release” or “you’ve got to wait for the next roll-up pack.” All of that goes away. It means that not only are we much more responsive than the vendors – we offer 15 minute response time SLs to priority 1s and 30 minute response times for priority 2s and average response times for both P1s and P2s are running at well under 5 minutes. And of course because we are working on he problem straight away we get to a resolution much, much quicker, because of our one problem/one fix model.

Additionally, we support the version that a client is running today, regardless of how old that version is, for a minimum of 15 years. More importantly, we create an archive for our clients of all of the software they’re entitled to before their maintenance with Oracle expires. Let’s say the following year a client decides they do want to do an upgrade, they will typically have the next release from the one they are on in their archive, and they’re able to do that upgrade at a time that suits them best.

We also support the entire environment and not just the core software. Over 70% of the tickets we get relate not to core software bugs but to something the client has done to it. They tend to be customisations or interface issues, configuration issues or even data corruptions or performance issues. We fix them all. Nothing is out of scope if it’s affecting the successful running of the system.

As a result, we normally find ticket volumes can be treble or more than the number they were opening with the vendor as we are much more useful.

Kay: You’ve given me some comparisons between Rimini Street and Oracle support. How do Rimini Street services compare to other competition that’s out there?

Jill: There are three key areas I think that really make us different from the few competitors out there.

First of all our scale is important. We have several hundred clients for each of the technologies we support and a large pool of engineers. This means that we have built up a huge internal knowledge base and, whatever goes wrong, we will almost certainly have the skills to handle it and most likely will have come across something very similar before. There is absolutely no substitute for that breadth and depth of experience in terms of efficiency and removing risk for our clients.

Secondly, I think the fact we are focus exclusively on enterprise software support. We see this as a big benefit as we believe that we are the ONLY company focusing 100% on third party maintenance. This means that our clients need never fear that their best engineers that they are dealing with will suddenly disappear onto more lucrative projects.

Thirdly, we have been creating archives for our clients for 11 years. We have built up a huge amount of experience. We have well over 125 clients who have completed successful upgrades using the archive. Any client who thinks they may wish to upgrade in the future needs to have someone do this for them who really knows what they are doing. For some product lines there are hundreds of thousands of patches to download. We put a large team of specialists on the job working round the clock to get it done. No one should ever think about doing this themselves or underestimate the size of the task.

We also offer a number of value added services which are unique to Rimini Street and which are included within our annual fee. We provide functional support to advise our clients on the options they have to achieve specific things they want to do; we provide technology support to ensure that our clients can continue to upgrade their infrastructure whilst running their applications and we support security guidance to assist our clients in developing and maintaining a robust security strategy. All of those teams are manned by experts in their field.

Kay: Jill, who uses your services? Do you have a typical client size, geography, and sector?

Jill: We do service all sectors, from retail, distribution, manufacturing to banking, insurance, and public sector so really the full span of sectors. Telcos have been a very big market for us over the last couple years, as has mining and oil & gas. We tend to find that the sectors under the most cost pressure are the ones who are most attracted to us.

We also serve clients of all different sizes. One of the beauties of our model is that we deliver the same superb service to every client, regardless of the size. The only difference between a small client and a big client is the number of tickets they log. Really we service them all in the same way – our model is very scalable.

Kay: You said Rimini Street has grown as a company, so it goes without saying there must be a growth in customers using third party support. What kind of growth are you seeing? How has it grown?

Jill: As I mentioned before, in Europe, we grew over 100% last year. As a company, globally we grew 41% last quarter, and as I mentioned, our last quarter (Q2 2016) marked the 42nd consecutive quarter of growth, so yes, the number of Oracle customers turning to our third party maintenance model is definately is growing. After 10 years, it is still a relatively new concept but with the exponential growth we are experiencing it won’t be long before it is seen as a de facto standard in much the same way that Amdahl became a de facto supplier of third party maintenance years ago in the IBM mainframe market.

Kay: If I was a customer considering using Rimini Street, what do I have to consider before changing over?

Jill: First of all you really need to first assess if you are seeing any value from your high maintenance fees. The reality is that the vendor is limited in scope, it’s faceless and it’s a very junior help desk and based on a self-service model. And all of the money you are paying them is going into developing their next generation products that they come back and SELL you. It’s not going into the software you already have and you’re paying the maintenance for.

You of course need to assess if you are willing to continue on the path of “mandatory evolution” that the vendor’s trying to  dictate to you.                   you follow even if it doesn’t make good sense for your business, particularly if your core system is stable and robust.

Once you have decided to get off the treadmill, the decision process is quite easy. Many CIOs choose to come to us, as it means they can free up people and money to focus on more strategic IT projects, as I mentioned before. Also the people who have been tied up supporting custom code, doing un-needed upgrades, doing regression testing of generic patches or fighting with the vendor to try and get them to look at a problem and ultimately end up fixing it themselves – this all that unnecessary resource goes away.

Kay:  What’s the biggest customer Rimini currently has?

Jill:  We have many large clients globally, spending more than one million dollars a year with us. Our client list includes well known UK organisations like Royal Sun Alliance, United Biscuits, House of Fraser, Surrey County Council and WS Atkins – just to name just a few of the UK ones!

Kay: Jill, what is your presence within the UK?

Jill: We support nearly 120  clients with operations in the UK, that includes some well-known UK owned organisations like the ones I have just mentioned. We’ve got over 50 engineers and growing because we’re constantly recruiting as our client base grows.

Kay: What are Rimini Street’s growth strategy plans?

Jill:  Over the last few years, we’ve expanded our global footprint. Most of our clients are global companies with operations in many countries. In EMEA specifically, we have offices in the UK, Germany, Stockholm, and will be opening an office in France fairly soon. We also have offices in Israel, Brazil, China, Japan, Australia, and India. We offer 24/7/365 follow-up and support, and that global spread of our engineering base enables us to do that extremely well.

We’re also expanding our product line. We recently announced that we support SAP HANA Database, and about six months ago, we added Oracle Agile PLM to our product portfolio. Today we support 12 different software products, and will continue to expand our product portfolio support as it makes sense and where we see market demand.

Kay:  Is a customer locked into a contract with you?

Jill: We sign a fifteen-year agreement, which is our commitment to the client, and in return we ask the client to commit to us for three years. There are some exceptions to that, where we have clients who come to us for a shorter period of time because they’re transitioning from their current system to a new one.

Generally speaking though, our SAP clients and our Oracle E-Business Suite clients don’t have any intention to move off those products. They love them and they want to keep running them for many years. They commit to us for three years, and then after that, they can either renew on an annual basis or they can renew for another several years. As I say, we commit to them for fifteen, so they have the security of a support contract going forward should they need it.

Kay: With regards to Oracle support, how do you overcome the fact that you don’t have access to code base, can’t provide future patches or updates?

Jill: In general, we have access to what our clients have access to, via remote access to a client’s development and/or test environment(s) on the client’s system, so for the majority of  enterprise software products we can create tailored fixes for each client on the client’s system (utilizing either what’s available in the client’s archive or that we independently develop) that solve each client’s specific problem rather than tell them to apply a bundle of generic fixes which will cause more testing, rework and, more often than not, more problems.

For a few products, like Oracle Database for example, we provide support using a variety of techniques to solve problems including changes to properties and configuration files, system tools, data clean-up scripts and frequently it is a simply a question of educating around best practices. The bottom line is we have never had an issue we couldn’t address.

Our largest database client has 1,000s of database instances and is actually opening over 100 tickets a month with us, on Database. We are providing solutions for all including the 78 open tickets they had with Oracle. Some of those had been open for many weeks. Some of them were even priority 2s that had been open for months. Actually, they even had priority 2s that had been open for almost a year! We fixed them all within a month of the client switching to Rimini Street. In our experience, we actually fix more for our clients than the vendors do, not less.

Kay: Jill, what is the process for customers switching from Oracle support to Rimini Street?

Jill: We have an ISO 9001 certified and ISO 27001 certified on-boarding process. We ask clients to sign a contract with us that’s preferably at least three months before they go off support with the vendor. During that time, there are a number of things we do. We don’t charge for the on-boarding, so it’s actually advantageous for the client to come to us as early as possible, because it gives them more time to get used to working with us and for us to get to know them and their systems.

One key part of that process is creating the archive. We download the software that the client is entitled to under their maintenance agreement with the vendor, from the vendor’s support site. That means any uninstalled modules, any unimplemented releases and all the relevant patches. We put it on to an Amazon web services account which belongs to the client. Once that archive is complete, we’ll validate its completion, and then the client can move that archive onto their own servers of leave it on Amazon if they wish.

The other part of the on-boarding process is introducing them to our service. We will have meetings to introduce them to our service, to make sure they know how to log tickets, and to ensure they understand how they can get the maximum benefit out of Rimini Street.

We want clients to log tickets and use us as much as possible. Sometimes it takes them a while as they’re not used to having a real support partner who is willing to look at ALL their issues without asking them to jump through hoops to prove it’s our responsibility. Typical vendors will support their core product (unless it is an out of support version of course), but they don’t support the client’s customisations or anything they’ve done to the product. So the IT team tends to be used to fixing most things for themselves. We fix all their problems and we don’t expect them to do anything themselves. It takes a while for people to change their mind set and really get the most out of us.

During the on-boarding process, we also ask clients to give us all their open tickets, even though they may have already logged those tickets with the vendor. The absolute best way of learning an organizations’ system is to start working on it. That way we are learning on the job about their configuration and customisations and we’re learning how to work with them and their teams.

Kay: You mentioned that Oracle customers would switch to Rimini Street because of price reduction and because of your level of service. Are there any other reasons, or common reasons, why a customer would switch to Rimini Street?

Jill: Yeah, possibly because they might be on a version of a product which is out of support. For example, we had a number of clients come to us because they were using EBS 11.5.10 which is no longer supported by Oracle. These clients did not want to do an upgrade. It might have cost them a million or two to do an upgrade, depending on their size. In this instance, the clients didn’t have the money to spend, and they didn’t see a need to do the upgrade – there was no business justification. So instead of being forced into that upgrade in order to remain supported, they come to Rimini Street because we continue to support them on their current platform for a minimum of 15 years.

I would say the majority of our clients come to us not because of that though, but because they want better support, and they want to save money. Their IT budgets are being squeezed. They want to spend money on the things that really make a difference to their business, like digital initiatives, and they need cost savings from somewhere in order to spend on those new initiatives.

Kay: What have you seen as Oracle’s response to losing a customer to Rimini Street?

Jill: Customers of Oracle and SAP who move to Rimini Street seem to gain much more leverage with the vendors when they cancel their maintenance. The vendors need their maintenance money and try to bring them back with enticing offers. It’s important to note that most of our clients are still buying licenses and new software from the vendors too. The vendor license sales reps still need to sell software and they don’t care two hoots whether a customer is paying maintenance or not.

Kay: Jill, thank you for your time today. If any listeners would like some further information, who should they contact?

Jill: I’d be very happy for you to share my contact details with anybody who would like to talk to us. I can put them in touch with the appropriate member of my sales team