john_wookey-small.jpgOver the last week, the Internet has been burning up with the news that John Wookey, Oracle’s senior vice president in charge of all applications, is leaving the company. While Oracle is making no official statements about the departure, sources close to the company are saying that Wookey has stepped down from his post and will leave the company early next year after a transitional period. That leaves us with a number of questions about what Wookey’s departure could mean for Oracle’s Fusion Application strategy and its other application products.

What We Know

According to various sources, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison released an internal memo early last week in which he announced an executive reorganization. The memo announced Wookey’s departure and said that Thomas Kurian, senior VP for the Fusion Middleware group, is now in charge of Fusion Applications as well. Kurian will report to Chuck Rozwat, Oracle’s executive VP, who is now in charge of all Oracle products. The memo also noted that Ed Abbo, the executive in charge of all Applications Unlimited products (including JD Edwards), will now report to Rozwat instead of Wookey.

At this point, it is not clear whether Wookey resigned or was asked to leave. According to sources that are close to matter, the applications executive may have been offered a different job within Oracle but declined it. This could indicate that Oracle wanted to keep Wookey on board after the management reorganization, but that the parties could not come to an agreement on his role. Regardless of who decided what, it should be noted that Ellison’s memo thanked Wookey for his contributions, leadership, and professionalism. It should also be noted that Wookey is staying on board for several weeks to assist in the transition. These facts indicate that the parting may have been more amicable than some in the blogosphere have imagined it to be.

What We Guess

If Oracle did indeed initiate the management shuffle, what remains unclear is why the company chose to do so. For some time, sources close to Oracle have been telling us that Wookey and senior executives in other product groups have had disagreements over the vendor’s application strategy. If that is the case, the latest reorganization could be an effort to settle those disagreements by putting Rozwat in charge of all products and having group executives report to him. That said, the outside world will probably never know exactly what motivated the reorganization unless someone who was part of the effort goes public.

Besides wondering about the motives behind Oracle’s reorganization, there are several other things about which we (and the rest of the Oracle community, for that matter) can only speculate. In the “topics for speculation” category, here are the two biggest ones along with our own musings.

How will application development move forward without Wookey? As virtually everyone inside Oracle will admit, Wookey was highly skilled at getting the company’s diverse development teams to work together. The loss of his project management expertise will have an impact on how various projects move forward. At the same time, Wookey is leaving behind a deep and talented team of development managers that are well respected within the Oracle community. Ed Abbo is still in charge of the Applications Unlimited portfolio, so the impact on JD Edwards products should be limited. Steve Miranda, senior VP in charge of ERP applications, will also remain in place and manage development for Fusion Applications.

So what’s the bottom line? We believe that most of the current development projects on existing applications will experience little to no disruption. The real impact will be on “whiteboard” projects that will pave the way for today’s applications to upgrade to Fusion Applications. That brings us to our second topic…

How will Wookey’s departure affect Fusion Applications? Because Wookey headed up the Fusion Application team, we believe that his departure will have some effect on delivery dates for specific offerings. The question, however, is how much of an effect. On the one hand, we have received assurances from Oracle management that Fusion Applications will not be delayed. Oracle points to the fact that Kurian, who is now in charge of both Fusion Middleware and Applications, has been the chief architect for Fusion from its inception. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that Wookey’s loss — not to mention the division of Kurian’s time between middleware and applications — will have no impact whatsoever.

From where we sit, we still expect that some Fusion Applications will ship in 2008 as Oracle has promised for more than two years. However, it is likely that Oracle will push out at least some of its internal deadlines behind the scenes. Since Oracle has never made specific commitments about what Fusion Applications it will deliver and when it will deliver them, it would be difficult for any external observer to claim that anything is being delayed.

That said, what is the “net net” for the JD Edwards community? We see little in Wookey’s departure that should concern World and EnterpriseOne customers. Since the vast majority of these customers are perfectly happy with their software, they could care less whether Fusion Applications come out on time in 2008 or take an extra year or two to become mature enough for their consideration.

So…is Wookey’s departure a concern for any of you? What do you think it could mean for JD Edwards and Fusion Applications? If you have an opinion, submit it in the box below so that we can all benefit from it.