Did Oracle just shoot itself in the face at Ford?

Did Oracle just shoot itself in the face at Ford?

Summary: It appears that someone at Oracle's Troy, MI office has sent Ford Motor Company a smear campaign against Salesforce.com. If true then it is a very bad idea with serious repercussions.

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TOPICS: Oracle
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oracle trash

Just when some of us were starting to think that Oracle was mending its ways when it comes to trashing competition, Scott Monty, Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager at Ford Motor Company very publicly accuses Oracle of dirty tricks aimed at Salesforce.com. He does it on Facebook which is guaranteed to get a response:

 Hey Oracle, you think sending me an anonymous letter trashing your competition is the way to earn my business? Think again. Oh, and this is the 2nd time you've done it, which is why I'm sharing it. — with Michael Lazerow at Ford Motor Company World Headquarters.

Needless to say, commenters are roundly condemning the apparent smear campiagn which, by the address shown and postmark appears to have emanated from Oracle's Troy, MI office. Robert Scoble points out that such tactics are a sackable offence at his employer Rackspace. 

Jeremiah Owyang is quick to question the authenticity of what Monty is saying, suggesting that anyone could replicate an Oracle envelope. But given the particular content, it doesn't make sense for a competitor to pull this stunt. Who gains? On the other hand, it is an incredibly crude effort. 

However, Denise Broyer, a senior PR at Oracle appears to give credence to its authenticity and origin:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. On behalf of Oracle's PR team, we do not condone these tactics and can assure you that we are investigating the source of this letter.

The documents that were allegedly sent are all based upon things that are in the public domain. To that extent, Oracle (if it is indeed Oracle) is providing information. It may be unpalatable and regarded as unethical in some circles but in one sense it is not as bad as Oracle poking at its competition, often with half baked, wrong or out of date facts. 

Even so, let's assume it has come from Oracle's Troy office. Can the person responsible truly be blamed? Is it not the case that when you consider the influence of 'tone at the top' it should be surprising that we've not previously seen something similar come into the public domain? 

But ultimately that's not the point. If it turns out to be something sent from Oracle's offices then at the very least, the company (because they are the ones truly responsible) appear to have done considerable damage to their relationship with Ford. Mud slinging directly between competitors is bad enough but to involve customers is venal in the extreme. 

Regardless of the outcome, Michael Lazerow of Buddy Media makes the best comment:

Thanks for calling this out, Scott. I'd like to say that I have never seen anything like this. But I'm starting to see some nasty tactics in the social software space. Everything from complete lies about what we're doing to help companies connect to customers in new ways to blatant ripping off of our marketing and product messaging. I prefer to ignore most of it but really appreciate you calling these actions out. In many ways, this comes with the leadership position we're in across sales, service and marketing. I learned from Marc Benioff early on that it's better to ignore and take the high road than be dragged into the mud (specially when your core values are trust and transparency). My friend Jeremiah Owyang makes an interesting point. If someone at the company didn't send this, I expect them to come out and say as much. Companies are much better off inspiring, entertaining, connecting with, educating and helping potential clients. The days of negative advertising and hostile stunts seem to be over for smart marketers as these tactics say more about the company using them than the intended target. Thanks for the evening laugh ... now back to work!

[My emphasis added.]

It is a similar opinion to one I have shared on numerous occasions with SAP but to little avail. They seem just as obsessed with the competition as anyone else in the firepit of enterprise application sales. 

In the meantime, I can't wait to see what Larry Ellison, CEO Oracle says in an upcoming address telegraphed by Bob Evans on Forbes:

Later this week, we’ll share some of Ellison’s specific insights about the cloud strategies and products offered by SAP and by Salesforce.com. For more details about Oracle’s approach, please check out the full story about “Oracle Cloud: Social. Mobile. Complete.”

[My emphasis added.]

More trash talk, more obfuscation of facts or more jam tomrrow as long as it's Oracle flavored? I await with baited (sic) breath. 

UPDATE: A senior person at Oracle has been in contact with me to say they are taking this extremely seriously and are investigating to determine the facts. This post will be updated as and when Oracle is able to make a definitive statement. 

Topic: Oracle

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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22 comments
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  • She gives credence? And thoughts about responsibility.

    "However, Denise Broyer, a senior PR at Oracle appears to give credence to its authenticity and origin:"

    Umm, what?

    "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. On behalf of Oracle's PR team, we do not condone these tactics and can assure you that we are investigating the source of this letter."

    All she's saying is they're investigating. Which indicates they DON'T know the authenticity nor the origin of the letters. Although they do appear to have Oracle's official letterhead on the envelopes, which does indicate it's from an employee.

    "Can the person responsible truly be blamed?"

    Why not? People are responsible for what they do. I do not believe in some sort of hokey system where individual responsibility is thrown out the window just because you can assign some level of corporate responsibility. Sure, there's a level of corporate responsibility, but never, ever use that as an excuse to throw individual responsibility out the window. The individual that sent the letters is still responsible for his/her actions, even if you have some level of corporate responsibility as well.
    CobraA1
    • you do know...

      ....Oracle sales tactics and the tactics it uses with customers and its user groups? Ex: Toyota wanted additional discounts. Answer: sure, spend an extra $5 mill first.

      FWIW - think about what Monty ACTUALLY said: "Hey Oracle, you think sending me an anonymous letter trashing your competition is the way to earn my business?" - he's aiming responsibility for the consequences on the company and not the individual.

      The problem is that ORCL does little to earn enough trust such it would be ignored.

      So while we can't know...and yes there is individual responsibility here...ORCL must shoulder the problem.

      Oh - and regardless of the outcome of any internal probe, they have absolute plausible deniability.
      dahowlett
      • Misreading me as well

        Thought about it - and all I read is that you're not quite understanding what I said. I don't think responsibility is mutually exclusive.

        Plausible deniability will be tough, as the envelope has their letterhead on it. So I disagree with that assertion.
        CobraA1
        • It is possible

          Plausible deniability is easy because they may argue the envelope is very old (so...), or has been forged or...they may just say nothing and in an ADD world that would not surprise.
          dahowlett
          • They can try

            Oracle can TRY to deny it, but I don't think Ford, or pretty much anyone that has dealt with Oracle in the past, will believe it.
            Harlon Katz
          • Well, the question is really whether people will believe it . . .

            "Plausible deniability is easy because they may argue the envelope is very old (so...), or has been forged or...they may just say nothing and in an ADD world that would not surprise."

            Well, the question is really whether people will buy the explanation.

            And while the "ADD world" may forget about it - I seriously doubt the Communications Manager at Ford will. Oracle will certainly have to take responsibility for their actions if they want to have future relations with Ford.
            CobraA1
          • cobraA1 .. Why shouldn't the public be expected to believe?

            It happens as often as Republican campaign gaffs ... or Apple Press releases ... or the U.S military denying the existence of extra-terrestrials and having made contact and use of other-worldly technologies.

            In fact, plausible deniability seems to have been international currency about as long as civilization has existed.

            Unfortunately, what the long & the short of it is, is this - and again: it's the accepted currency and way governments (esp. national leaders such as presidents and P.M's), corporations and the like have operated since year dot.

            "...Well, the question is really whether people will buy the explanation."

            That's idealistic to say the least, the public will take what they're given .. whether they like it or not. Don't believe that? Then you obviously don't know (or at least pay attention to) historical, docemented cases along similar lines (hint: ...there's libraries full of 'em).
            thx-1138_
  • Yeah not a great tactic. But then Benioff

    seems fine with sending millions to nobama to do much worse in his campaign smear jobs. At least they purportedly stuck to the truth which nobama can't seem to do with his Benioff funded smears. So until I see some comments about how disgusted he is about that I don't by his crap about this for a second. Oracles got enough problems with their bend over and ream pricing. But under no circumstances should anyone consider sales force as a solution. Best to rid yourself of both them.
    Johnny Vegas
    • To Johnny Vegas

      Really!! a political comment on a tech site. Poor form.
      schultzycom
      • In this case...

        ...it's a drive-by flame; completely irrelevant to the current article and therefore should be flagged.
        John L. Ries
  • Evosys & Oracle is hosting a half-day event on VCP in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    1st October 2012: Evosys and Oracle are jointly hosting a half day event on VCP Solution on 1st October, 2012 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The main focus of this event will be on current Supply Chain scenario and need of a value chain planning, Presentations on VCP Products and Panel Discussion from Oracle on VCP Products. This is an Oracle customer dedicated event where Evosys will share its experience and methodology on VCP Solution.

    About Evosys: Evosys is a premium Oracle Partner providing consulting services for implementation and maintenance of Oracle Applications. Evosys is an industry pioneer for various solutions like “Activity Based Costing for Healthcare“, “Demand Forecasting for Telecom and FMCG”, “Fully integrated Mobile Applications” and “PeopleSoft Campus for Education”. We are also one of the leading implementers of Oracle’s EDGE solutions like Demantra, Hyperion, BI Apps, & Fusion CRM.

    For more details, please visit our homepage at www.evosys.co.in
    Contact us : business@evosys.co.in
    Rekha pandey
  • Oracle's Gamesmanship

    This is both typical and entirely explainable. It's gamesmanship, pure and simple, and Oracle doesn't mind going the ethically questionable route. That said, what @scottmonty chooses to do is expose Oracle's dirty-pool through a known stratagem, which my consultancy calls the Mirror play.

    How this escalates (or doesn't) is predictable. It can also be learned, so that when you (or your company) find yourself in similar situations you know how to counter or collaborate. Say what you want about Oracle, but they wrote the book on this kind of competitive gamesmanship (for better and for worse) and usually outplay and outwit their rivals.

    John Koval
    Client Services Director, Playmaker Systems, LLC
    jkoval@playmakersystems.com
    http://bit.ly/thestandardtable
    tebucky234
  • The buck stops at the CEO's desk

    Even though lawyers and legislators like to pretend otherwise, corporations are not people, so strictly speaking, Oracle (which is a legal construct) didn't decide to conduct a smear campaign; rather one or more individuals working for Oracle did (almost certainly managers). Which ones is anyone's guess, but there is a chain of command linking those individuals with Larry Ellison, who is ultimately responsible. If he really disapproves, then he need to find out who's responsible and chastise them severely (anything from verbal chastisement to dismissal, as seems appropriate). If he fails to stop it, it's his fault.
    John L. Ries
    • You're joking surely?

      Larry will be cheering them on!
      jorwell
      • Well...

        ...Dennis quoted an Oracle exec as saying that they don't condone such tactics. If the statement is actually true, then it's pretty clear what management can do about it. Regardless, Larry Ellison is in charge, so the buck stops with him either way.

        But you're right that this could all just be the usual public relations blather and efforts like the one reported in the article have the full unofficial support of Mr. Ellison.
        John L. Ries
  • And this is news? Really?

    For those who are Oracle's customers, this should not really be news at all. As it is "par for the course" in how Oracle goes about running its business. Believe it or not, there is a choice in the marketplace. It is really ok to pick a product made by another manufacturer and have nothing to do with Oracle. As hardware business of Oracle shows, many customers have made their decision there. Why not just do what is needed with regards to software and move away from Oracle if one is offended by Oracle's practices. It is really not that hard.
    mikies
    • However

      Changing DBMS is technically challenging, but not impossible.

      Overcoming the political obstacles to such a move is the far more difficult task.
      jorwell
  • oracle is always shady

    I worked for a company that brought our client to the table with Oracle. they were buying the product and we would integrate it for them. The Oracle team decided to start sending emails and calls directly to our client, saying that he should cut us out of the process. they apparently didn't understand the relationship my boss had with our client. He copied every email they sent him to us. My boss had a nasty blowout with Oracle over this.
    tiderulz
  • Oracle's tactics have always worked well in the past

    Hammer mercilessly away at what you detect as a competitors weak point - it's always worked fine in the past.

    Why change a winning formula?
    jorwell
  • From hero to zero (or possibly null)

    Once upon a time Oracle were the heroes who were opposing Microsoft.

    Now everyone hates them.

    Interesting to see how the world changes.
    jorwell