Outside the SAP user conference in Atlanta, the cameras were rolling. Looking for sound bites were Oracle operatives, trying to get SAP customers to say – on camera and with SAPPHIRE logos as a backdrop – that SAP’s software was expensive, hard to deploy, and helped make the world safe for global terrorism and $400 haircuts. It was a pretty low-blow, albeit one that was largely deflected by the arrival of the local gendarmerie to hustle them off the premises.
Meanwhile, inside the show, I was comparing notes with colleagues and friends who cover Oracle. All of us have noticed a sudden surge in access, and an even light-hearted attitude towards otherwise negative coverage. I personally haven’t been taken to lunch in a long time, the Oracle analyst relations team’s version of being taken to the woodshed, and that despite some rather unflattering comments about their lawsuit against TomorrowNow. Other than forcing me to buy my own lunch – with a resulting downgrade in quality and taste – it made me wonder if there were any truth to the rumor. The rumor I’m starting right here and now.
My rumor is the following: John Wookey, head of Oracle’s applications efforts and someone even his rivals at SAP concede is a overall good (not to mention talented) guy, is personally chagrined at the lawsuit and the negative press (and analyst coverage) his group has been getting of late. Bear in mind John was given a truly Herculean task – (cf the Augean stables) and has pulled together a morass of product and technology into an increasingly relevant product suite in record time. You can argue about whether he is delivering what his bosses promised at the outset of the buying binge, and whether the actual value of what he has been handed – and thereby created – is really worth the price they paid. But Wookey and his team are plugging away in impressive form, and customers are obviously voting with their dollars.
In my rumor fantasy -- which I give a high probability of being largely true – Wookey wants to be recognized for his team’s achievements, and would rather not be tarred with the same brush that has been used to pillory his bosses’ strategies and methods. His personal efforts at being a nice guy are genuine, despite his company’s rapacious reputation. I for one would be happy to give him the benefit of the doubt – even if I have to buy my own lunch. The whole market can benefit from raising the level of discourse and dropping the attack tactics and disinformation campaigns. Nice guys don’t have to finish last.