CIO experts respond to Larry Ellison’s resignation as Oracle CEO

CEO Larry Ellison has stepped aside to become executive chairman and CTO of the vendor, with co-presidents Safra Catz and Mark Hurd named co-CEOs.

CIO asked its panel of thought leadership experts, all of whom are former CEOs or CIOs what their thoughts are on Larry Ellison’s career change?

Jerry Fishendenis a technologist and the ex-CTO of Microsoft UK, Parliament, NHS and has an extensive track record of tech leadership, delivery and implementation.

"At least Steve Ballmer had the nous to stand down and step away entirely from Microsoft - belatedly realising that continuing to run a business he loved by navigating through a rosy-tinted rear-view mirror was no longer sustainable.

“Ellison, by contrast, seems to be engaging in a piece of PR puff about his ‘departure’. In reality, he seems set to remain as the Wizard of Oz, lurking behind the curtain to retain control of the tightly-coupled, vertically-integrated bloat that made his fortune - at the very time it’s being increasingly displaced by today's platform-based, open standards and cloud-based components. Sometimes the true measure of greatness is knowing when the game’s up - and when to go."

Mike Altendorfis a London-based angel investor, CIO mentor, advisor and non executive director for fast growing small and mid-sized technology companies. Previously he co-founded Conchango, one of the UK's first and most successful digital consultancies.

“Larry Ellison has always been pretty good at predicting where the market is going and I suspect he may sense the game is up. Oracle is a dinosaur, the perfect example of the old world order. It can’t evolve to keep up because it simply requires too big a shift. Larry is smart to get out now.

“These days tech is as much a service business as it is product and service was never something Oracle did very well.  This is especially the case today as 25% of revenue comes from software support and maintenance contracts, which is a very old school tech commercial business model and not sustainable in today's world.  Oracle was never tech that anyone felt particular good about buying and I think more and more people will be walking away from Oracle.

“It’s an interesting time for the Silicon Valley giants all round really – especially in Europe. Google is certainly feeling the backlash. The end has been coming for Oracle for a while now, but I suspect Larry won’t be the only Silicon Valley bigwig who decides to take the money and run.”

Ade McCormack, writes for both CIO UK and the FT as a technology observer with a particular focus on the future of work and society as it transitions to the digital economy, particularly in respect of workers, leaders and tech firms.

“Hats off to Larry. He built an empire from nothing which was both commercially successful and an extension of his character.

“That character is no longer fit for purpose and hasn’t been for some time. Treating customers badly and seemingly roaming around the playground looking to pick a fight with anyone mildly threatening no longer works as a business model. Acquiring companies for fun or spite made for great headlines, but had in many cases the same strategic value as his acquisition of high value luxury items (boats, properties and islands). That said Oracle recognised early on that owning the stack was the goal.

“He is bowing out at the right time as the Oracle model has run out of steam. The market shift to utilisation, service over licences and units requires Oracle to have a complete DNA overhaul. The customer-contempt branding is unlikely to make Oracle representatives regular visitors to the C-suite in the short term and so they are going to struggle with maintaining business relevance.

“Imagine trying to turn an abused Rottweiler into a family-friendly Golden Retriever. It’s not something you can do one leg at a time. But that’s the challenge the new leadership face.

“To his credit Larry played the pre-digital era game very well, though not quite as well as Bill Gates.”

Matt Ballantineis a former evangelist for Microsoft and the CIO of marketing and advertising group Imagination. Ballantine writes for CIO UK and is the co-producer of The Social Challenge: Connecting customers in a multichannel world event tomorrow.

“Larry Ellison’s resignation seems to be eerily reminiscent of Bill Gates' departure as CEO of Microsoft. A process that happened over many years and coincided with a time of great financial returns, but market changes that left Microsoft in a much weaker position ultimately.

“Oracle feel like a bastion of old IT in a world of the three Cs: commodisation, consumerisation and cloud. For Oracle to reinvent itself to survive past Ellison, having the big man sitting in the wings might not be the best route to continued success.”


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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