Will Partners Get Crushed in Oracle-PeopleSoft Merger?

As Oracle's 14,400-strong partner program gears up to swallow the much smaller PeopleSoft partner community, Oracle must face its history of dicey relations with its own partner ecosystem.

As Oracles 14,400-strong partner program gears up to swallow the much smaller PeopleSoft partner community, some say Oracles biggest challenge may well be its history of dicey relations with its own partner ecosystem.

"Oracle has only recently gotten back into the religion of partner management in a big way," said Joshua Greenbaum, a principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting. "Thats the largest single difference: Oracle has a much larger partner ecosystem, since theyre a larger company, but they havent been the friendliest and best company to do business with."

Indeed, VARs, systems integrators and other partners have long said that, even pre-merger, Oracle Corp. must become more channel-friendly.

Oracle is known to be difficult to deal with for two reasons: First, the companys sales compensation plan is not neutral to source of sales. Second, Oracles rules of engagement dont rule out competition with partners.

Oracle has been working to change the situation. In August, Rauline Ochs, group vice president of Oracles North America Alliances and Channels, unveiled a program called "Cover the Subsidiaries."

The program was designed to allow Oracles 2,800 North American partners to sell their goods and services to subsidiaries of Oracles biggest, most strategic accounts.

Now, mere months after taking steps to improve relations with its own partners, Oracle is facing the prospect of absorbing hundreds of PeopleSoft Inc. partners. Bronwyn Hastings, vice president of worldwide alliances and channels at Oracle, told eWEEK.com that her division is still working through the exact number, "but its in the hundreds rather than thousands," she said.

It will require time to gauge how well Oracle does with its own partner-repair work, never mind how well it does in setting up relations with its new partners. "Theyve made a lot of promises, and I want to give them some time to see" if theyll improve their partner relations, Greenbaum said.

Meanwhile, as the merger continues, Hastings said its business as usual for partners of both stripes. Oracle is focused on customers needs first and foremost, she said, but it is also speaking with partners to ensure that theres no disruption to their businesses during the merger.

"From a focus perspective, assuring how we continue to service them so they can continue to operate in their business environments is important," she said.

Oracle has been reaching out to smaller partners—those who have the least ability to absorb business disruption—to try to increase communication, Hastings said. Oracle sent out a welcoming letter to the partner community, for example, reinforcing its commitment to keep product development and business development moving forward.

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PeopleSoft channel partners also have been invited to the Tuesday launch of the combined company, an hours-long Webcast event featuring top Oracle executives that will encapsulate the companys strategy, competitive strength, customer commitment, supported product lines, development roadmap and more.

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