Larry Ellison announced his decision, on September 18, 2014, to step down from the position of CEO Oracle. A lot has been written about the significance of this announcement. But content volume doesn’t mean much when compared to relevance, not to mention accuracy.
The general consensus is Ellison’s change in roles marks the end of an era. Ellison is the last of a list of “first generation” entrepreneurs (including Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs). Regardless of the enormous success all three of these individuals achieved, both Ellison and Gates have been included in what the overall market considers a group of once successful, but, in 2014, out-of-touch business builders. The argument goes like this: Ellison and Gates were great in their time, but times have changed and, now, the massive organizations they built, Oracle and Microsoft, are losing enormous ground to much younger competitors, (Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce.com). This latter group includes Apple, which, despite being a business with the same longevity of serving consumer markets for technology as both Oracle and Microsoft, nevertheless, speaks a different tongue, learned from its radical founder, Steve Jobs.
This argument looks good on paper, but in reality is way off the market. Leaving aside the question of whether or not Microsoft has been eclipsed by Google, Salesforce, Amazon, and even Apple, Oracle does not fit the frame.
As this writer wrote earlier to this blog on a couple of occasions, a lot of the sales effort for Salesforce.com, Microsoft, and Google is now in the management hands of 3 former Oracle sales executives: Keith Block is now the President of Salesforce.com; Judson Althoff is now Corporate Vice President and President of Microsoft, NA; finally, Amit Singh is now the President of Google At Work.
All 3 of these executives held very high level positions at Oracle: when Block left Oracle he held the position of Executive Vice President, North America. Singh appears to have reported into Block as Vice President, North America. Althoff held the position of Vice President, head of channel sales for Oracle.
The importance of this point is to illustrate the actual enormous impact Ellison and Oracle have had on the whole software market for enterprise business customers. Oracle set the bar at a very high level. Their sales team, perhaps better than any other, understood how to implement a complex sales strategy, and had a better history of converting sales efforts into successful deals than any other.
The fact Block is now President of Salesforce.com should act as a reminder on the limitations of “hands-off” selling of cloud subscriptions, and the need for direct engagement (collaboration is a better word) with customers if further sales are to be made.
Ellison had an enormous impact on his peers. It is important to note his new role at Oracle: CTO and head of product marketing. As we have written all along in this blog, product marketing is truly the neighborhood where the real tech winners show their stuff. Perhaps Ellison has something further to show us all. We’ll see as Oracle moves forward.
Ira Michael Blonder
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