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Oracle and Macromedia, Sitting in a Tree
Friday, July 16, 2004

Yesterday afternoon and early evening, I attended the announcement of a partnership between Oracle and Macromedia at Oracle's futuristic headquarters in Redwood Shores. I'll be a little more reserved than usual in my reflections on the event because I like both these companies and because I was officially invited as a stringer for CLO magazine. Also, I know the people on both sides of this deal, both companies have been generous to Emergent Learning Forum, and I'll undoubtedly be hitting both up for business in the future.

In a nutshell, the news is this: Compliance with AICC, IMS, and SCORM is no assurance of interoperability. The standards are subject to interpretation, and legal extensions can lead to one-off code. Macromedia is king of the mountain in web development tools; just about all of Oracle's 300 LMS customers use Macromedia products. By having their engineers bang their heads together, the two firms will make it easier for shared customers to build, publish, and consume training. They'll support best practices for learning content development and publishing with a Content Resource Center that's free to all.

More than a hundred of us convened in Oracle's conference center. I'd been here once before, when Oracle VP Chris Pirie hosted a meeting of Emergent Learning Forum last year. At the time, one of our members remarked, "Wow. This is really nice." His companion responded, "Yeah, well, this is a profitable company." Oracle is a class act. The opening speaker explained that this was once the site of Marine World, which is now esconced in Vallejo. The builders left the lake so the boss would have a place to walk. (Book title = The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison *God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison.)

"We're going to have a raffle after the presentations. Someone is going to win some free software -- PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA... Of course, you may have to wait a while to receive your prizes."

Chris Pirie and Kevin Lynch gave a mercifully short presentation before yielding the floor to Josh Bersin, who led a panel of users in discussion. (Ever see Warren Beatty's wonderful movie, Reds? Fantastic film. Anyway, the panel were the "witnesses".)

Cisco's Peg Maddocks advised that for next generation eLearning, "Stop doing what you're doing." After eight years of "free range learning" where everyone did their own thing, her team has chopped the 31,000 offerings on their LMS back to 4,000, and she figures half of those can go, too. In the early days, Cisco would pay $300,000 to $800,000 for a custom program on products that were changing monthly -- and couldn't be updated. Quick-and-dirty development is a better way to go.

Brocade's Linda Moss is focused on customer learning. A mere handful of the audience are there yet. Linda has limited resources, so instructors have been recuited as developers and are now becoming web developers.

Mary Kay Russell, director of Enterprise eLearning for Kaiser Permanente, is using the 80/20 rule as she centralizes what started out as in-house, ad hoc page turners. Kaiser is implementing an automated medical record system. In the early nineties, I hawked clinical record software for a while. The various regions of Kaiser Permanente considered themselves separate companies. Mary Kay has her work cut out for her.

America West's Tony Willis was the eLearning virgin on the panel. While the airline has 12,000 employees, just about all training has been instructor-led. They're implementing eLearning first with the reservations group, then other airport personnel, and eventually hope to add in the "absentee workforce," i.e. pilots and flight attendants who may live just about anywhere. America West has been an Oracle customer, and that figured heavily in their choice of Oracle's LMS. Tony's caveat: Don't oversell eLearning. His boss now thinks it's a silver bullet and wants everything to go "e."

Genentech's Harry Wittenberg has previous eLearning experience with IBM, Cisco, Apple, Chas Schwab, and...was it Andersen? Harry told lots of "blended" learning stories.

As with so many events, you really had to be there. How else could one savor the sushi, satay, stuffed mushrooms, and wine? As I said, Oracle is a class act. The reception had the feel of a college reunion. So many people I hadn't seen for a year or two.

Is this technology partnership a big deal? It's good for Oracle customers. I'm disappointed we don't see more industry cooperation. Wouldn't it be great if Macromedia had this sort of pact with IBM and Sun and Microsoft?


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