Oracle's Channel Game-Changer


Will Mark Hurd make Oracle a better partner?


Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's decision to hire former HP CEO Mark Hurd as president has the potential to be one of the biggest channel game-changers of all time. Hurd has a passionate channel following and many -- yes, many -- loyal HP enterprise partners are now suddenly talking about adding Oracle-Sun. The shift is a testament to just how big an impact a top executive change can have on channel relationships.

Bob Venero, president and CEO of Future Tech Enterprise, a Holbrook, N.Y., VAR500 power and a top HP enterprise partner, said he is planning to put more sales and technical resources into an Oracle-focused practice to capitalize on the Hurd appointment.

"Oracle's channel strategy up until now has been convoluted," said Venero. "Mark is absolutely going to bring vision and direction to that channel strategy. The channel is in Mark's DNA. I see Oracle moving from a convoluted channel to a highly focused channel machine that leverages the channel to grow."

Martin Tarr, CEO of Tiburon Technologies, a longtime Oracle partner based in Independence, Ohio, is also planning to put more sales and technical muscle behind Oracle. Tarr sees Hurd bringing real "discipline and focus" around the Oracle-Sun value proposition and providing better go-to-market alignment between Oracle's direct-sales force and the channel.

"Hurd is going to make Oracle a better channel partner," said Tarr. "He is going to give more and ask more from partners. He is going to provide partners with a lot stronger value proposition and give us more products and solutions to sell."

At HP, Hurd transformed the computer giant from a company with an on-again-off-again relationship with partners into what he called a company of "channel zealots." He plainly and simply sees the channel as the most economical route to dramatically grow sales. That's not saying, by the way, that he isn't just as passionate about his direct-sales force. At HP, he grew the direct-sales force by an order of magnitude while at the same time pressing channel partners to deliver sales growth.

The wild card in the Hurd channel gambit is Ellison. The fact is that Ellison is still the final word at Oracle. And if he isn't ready to cross the cultural chasm to the channel then there could be an internal channel shootout at the O.K. Corral. Just how much sales and operational control is he willing to give up without trumping Hurd with an Oracle direct-sales card?

For years, Oracle has had a love-hate relationship with its channel partners. The company knows it needs them. But it has never been willing to make the leap to fully embrace its solution providers as an extension of its direct-sales force.

Oracle has a chance to dramatically grow sales with a much stronger channel value proposition now that Hurd is in the president's seat. The big question is: Will Ellison use Hurd's appointment to create a new super-charged channel or remain stuck in the 20th century Oracle sales world?

BACKTALK: Do you see Hurd super-charging the Oracle channel? Contact Steven Burke at steve.burke@ec.ubm.com.