Forrester on Oracle: Life without Larry will be business as usual

24th Sep 2014

It’s a topic that’s already been widely debated, and now Forrester have served up an official report on the matter: What will Oracle be like without Larry Ellison as their chief executive?

The likelihood? Exactly the same, the analyst house suggests; which could prove to be both a plus and a minus for the software giant as it vows to take a foothold in the hotly-contested marketing cloud arena.

In a document titled ‘Quick Take: Is Ellison Really Stepping Down?’ designed to reassure CIOs in the wake of the upheaval (but also as relevant for CMOs too), Forrester analysts John R. Rymer, Andrew Bartels, and Duncan Jones outline the reasons why Oracle is unlikely to break from the norm despite the recent news of Ellison’s stepping down:

Ellison still wields decisive power

“Regardless of his title, we expect Ellison will still make the important decisions at Oracle,” the report states. “Ellison remains executive chairman of the board and a large Oracle stockholder. And as chief technology officer, he’s still at the core of Oracle’s executive leadership. Having recently turned 70, Ellison shows no sign that he’s ready to abandon the company he founded for a life at sea.”

Ellison retains control over product strategy

“Despite their titles of co-CEO, Mark Hurd and Safra Catz will retain primarily operational responsibilities, freeing Ellison to focus on technology strategy.  Catz runs finance, legal, and manufacturing, while Hurd runs sales, services, and vertical industry operations. This arrangement will continue now, with Ellison having a more overt role in product strategy than before.”

So is this a good thing? While Oracle’s situation may well be a case of out with the old, in with the old, the analysts also aired caution over its current strategy under Ellison’s guidance, and the implications it could have for the company’s long-term plans:  

“The root causes of Oracle’s challenges remain in place,” the report adds. “Oracle still needs to speed its transition from big-ticket on-premises enterprise software to supporting cloud services and the business technology agenda. It must eliminate three barriers to that transition. First, Oracle’s sales culture focuses account managers on hitting short-term targets often at the expense of delivering long-term customer value.

“Second, its sprawling, fragmented software portfolio is inflexible and expensive. Third, Oracle’s efforts to reinvigorate the hardware portfolio acquired from Sun Microsystems saps too much attention and resources compared to the benefit it provides to Oracle and its customers.”

The report also added that Oracle needed “radical change” at executive level  in order for the company to compete more successfully in the all-consuming cloud sector, and that “that won’t happen until Ellison severs ties with the company leaving his successor a free path to move the company in new directions.”


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