Althoff's Effort Paying Off For Oracle Channel

Oracle Senior Vice President Judson Althoff knows that in athletics, as with channel initiatives, it is sometimes a marathon and not a sprint.

The veteran triathlete has learned that discipline in the form of a regular workout schedule, engineering in the form of a custom-made bicycle frame and execution born from his mental strength and stamina will pay off in big performance gains in the multi-sport (swimming, cycling and running) event.

Partners credit that same marathon-like dedication and perseverance for the gains Althoff has made moving Oracle from a direct sales-dominated database software maker to a partner-engaged maker of innovative hardware/software-engineered systems that encompass applications, middleware, storage and servers.

If Oracle President Mark Hurd provided the strategic vision to move Oracle to channel high ground, Althoff, a 12-year Oracle veteran, has provided the execution skills, leveraging his knowledge of the organization to get the job done.

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’Part of his success comes from his experience through all of his roles at Oracle,’ said Howard Moore, president and CEO of Keste, Plano, Texas, one of Oracle’s top partners. ’He knows how to navigate Oracle and understands the psychology of the company. He has been on the front lines and has moved up the organization with a lot of hard work. The channel likes that about Judson. He’s like one of us.’

When Althoff took the top channel job three years ago, he started a steady channel march that began with stepped-up partner training for Oracle’s expanding product portfolio under a Partner Enablement 2.0 initiative, then onto new Oracle Partner Specializations and, finally, in the past year, dramatic improvements in rebate incentives that have made Oracle margins competitive with others in the industry.

Partners praise Althoff’s keen listening and diplomacy skills as he has executed widespread partner program changes. ’It really feels good to be heard, and not just be heard but to see action taking place,’ said Mardi Norman, president and CEO of Dynamic Systems Inc., an El Segundo, Calif., federal integrator.

Althoff, an Illinois Institute of Technology mechanical engineering graduate who credits his math teacher/debate coach mother for ’instilling the importance of discipline and academics at a young age,’ had roles in both channel and product management before taking the worldwide channel job. Previously, Althoff was head of the Oracle Technology Channel Program Office, where he developed go-to-market initiatives for midsize businesses; and director of E-Business Solutions responsible for developing next-generation enterprise applications. Before Oracle, he was a district sales manager overseeing a direct/indirect sales team at EMC.

NEXT: Althoff's Partner Recruitment Push

Today, Althoff oversees an Oracle channel organization made up of what he calls roughly ’2,500 people around the world that live, eat, breathe and sleep partners.’ That staff is likely to get bigger with Althoff leading an aggressive recruitment blitz aimed at growing Oracle’s solution provider network by 25 percent to 25,000 over the next year.

The blitz comes as Oracle is investing more than it ever has in targeting the broad small- and medium-business market. With the new Oracle Database Appliance, the company is attempting to bring on board top partners from the likes of Hewlett-Packard, VMware, Red Hat, EMC and NetApp, said Althoff. He said the target is the upper-echelon VARs from competitors that have been selling products on top of Oracle software.

’Those are the guys we are going after,’ he said. ’They actually know how to speak to this notion of a federated stack. They also know how to speak to a customer about why a more elegant solution that is engineered from top to bottom is a more effective fit for the customer.’

Those solution providers that take the time to evaluate the Oracle Database Appliance and the Oracle partner program will find a much different Oracle than from just two years ago. The company’s partner program and go-to-market strategy have been completely revamped to sell hardware/software-engineered systems.

Oracle is promising partners selling the Database Appliance margins in the mid- to high teens. The Oracle channel offering even includes for the first time rebates (hardware and software) directly paid to VARs rather than VADs (value- added distributors) and a pay-as-you-grow software licensing model for the Database Appliance.

’Based on the old model when all we did was pay rebates to a distributor, whatever got passed downstream was highly subjective, meaning some VARs were getting paid and others weren’t getting anything,’ said Althoff. ’Now based on the economic plan that we have, it is quantifiable.’

The new channel program has allowed Oracle to provide incentives directly to the ’folks that talk to customers,’ said Althoff. And, he said, the ’feedback we are getting directly from these guys and, trust me, they are not shy when they are unhappy, is they are thrilled. It is very competitive, more competitive than Oracle has ever been. And, oh, by the way, they are saying the products are also more competitive than they have ever been.’