Sybase aims to be slimmer but smarter

Sybase will tonight formally announce it is slimming down to fit its take on the new landscape in database computing.

The back-end database company has a 3.15pm California-time press conference scheduled where it is expected to announce a change in management structure following the shedding of 600 staff announced earlier this week.

Mike Shelton, director of marketing and business development for Sybase Europe, said Sybase plans to focus its global sales message on three areas: the Web, 'occasionally connected' (mobile) users and data warehousing. In Europe, two sectors are specifically targeted for growth: financial services banking and insurance, and telecommunications.

"We're making these changes to reflect the changing buying patterns of companies who are looking for solutions rather than technologies," Shelton said. "Things like the database and the operating system are becoming commodities. What companies are looking for is an engine to support a business centre, such as one specialising in electronic commerce."

Shelton said the switch would likely mean more sales through the channel. Sybase Europe grew its channel sales from 25 per cent to 40 per cent in fiscal 1997 and expects a further 10 per cent growth in fiscal 1998, said Shelton. Also expected to grow are internal and external consulting deals.

The company denied it was changing strategy because of financial worries. Sybase made a $55.4 million loss for its fiscal year ending January 28. That loss included a fourth-quarter restatement caused by a mis-reporting of revenues that led to the departure of some Japanese executives.

However, Shelton was at pains to deny that the changes would leave Sybase open to acquisition.

"Absolutely not," he said. "We're a very viable company not just in databases but also in fields such as middleware. What you'll see is more partnering and us acquiring technologies such as in the recent deal to buy Intellidex [Systems, a Boston, US-based data management specialist]. We're very different to a company like Informix that only has database technologies."