Now Comes Oracles Real Challenge

Opinion: The acquisition of Siebel will satisfy Oracle investors, but the database giant still has to prove to customers that it is more than a one-stop shop on a buying spree.

I think anyone who has paid any attention to the enterprise applications space over the past four or five years knew that Oracle buying Siebel was not a matter of if, but when.

Siebels performance during this extended period was at best lackluster, while upstarts like took away mind share, if not market share.

Its also well known that Siebels CRM (customer relationship management) products have been notoriously difficult to get up and running.

With IT executives watching their budgets like never before, sometimes no deal with Siebel was a better alternative.

And thats exactly what was going on earlier this year when former CEO Michael Lawrie blamed poor first-quarter earnings on several "delayed" customer deal closings, due in part by "poor execution" by Siebels sales staff.

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A week later Lawrie was gone, forced out by the board and replaced by George Shaheen.

Given Oracles voracious appetite for enterprise applications companies, Siebel was an obvious target, and cheap, given the companys stock price, which as been in the single digits most of the year.

Oracle still had to digest PeopleSoft, a deal which closed earlier this year, and since then has swallowed Retek, TimeTen, ProfitLogic and I-flex.

Yet buying Siebel and the rest was the easy part.

What are we to make of Oracle now? No longer just a database giant trying its best to compete in the applications market, it truly has become a one-stop shop, from the database on through the corporate back office, and now into the hands of sales staff in the front office.

Is this acquisition spree just about that, or is it Larry Ellisons single-minded strategy for growth when the prospects for IT spending are only meager at best?

If the former, then the challenge for Oracle will be to present its embarrassment of riches to corporate customers in an integrated way, yet modular, flexible and cost-effective enough for large and small businesses alike.

If the latter, then all those businesses should be worried about a potential runaway train of databases, apps and services coming their way that may not be what they want or need.

The deal should satisfy Oracle investors, and thrill Siebels, but what about the customer?

One point of view has Oracle becoming Computer Assocates-West, after CAs longtime growth-by-acquisition strategy, which served CAs bottom line well—until the company got in trouble—but left a lot of customers disenfranchised and frustrated.

Larry and company have their work cut out if they want this new Oracle to rise up and make the company more than just the sum of its parts, and offer customers what they really need—value, flexibility and return on investment.

Its Ellisons biggest challenge yet.

eWEEK magazine editor Scot Petersen can be reached at

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Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...