Since we broke the story of Lenely Hensarling leaving Oracle early this week there has been speculation elsewhere that both he and his former boss Ed Abbo must have been pushed aside.  If that indeed was the case it might imply that a major change in direction for Oracle’s application business was coming. 

All the intelligence I have been able to gather this week points in the opposite direction.  I believe that both of them decided to leave on their own.  Most importantly, I do not think that a major change in direction has been signaled by this.  The opposite is more likely: facing a short-term leadership vacuum, momentum will cause Oracle’s application business to remain on its previous course for now. 

Oracle has not responded to my requests for official comment so I am left to read the tea leaves on my own.  Here are the reasons behind my conclusion: 

  • Oracle’s top management is consumed with acquiring Sun and is not focused on fine-tuning the internal organization, especially parts that are performing well.
  • The “Applications Unlimited” unit Abbo was running was doing just fine under his leadership, especially in a very weak market. No reason to change horses.
  • Oracle’s earnings announcement this week indicated that weakness was primarily being felt in data base sales and that applications were selling surprisingly well.
  • When a senior executive is removed for poor performance there is almost always a replacement waiting in the wings.  A full quarter later the Abbo position has not been filled.
  • Under Hensarling’s leadership the JDE unit has exceeded the modest expectations that Oracle had for it when PeopleSoft was bought.  His responsibilities within Oracle have been increasing recently.  For example, the unit developing data warehouse connectors for all Oracle applications reported to Hensarling.
  • If Oracle management was unhappy with Hensarling they would not have promoted Lyle Ekdahl to replace him.  Ekdahl has been the power behind the scenes during the entire Hensarling tenure. 

Oracle’s executive ranks are already short on people that have a deep understanding of how to develop and sell applications.  Oracle’s core competency has always been technology and infrastructure software.  It needs more people like Abbo and Hensarling not less.  Even in a job market where talent is abundant Oracle will not fine it easy to obtain true experts on applications. 

Ekdahl will carry on the strategy now in place largely because he had a major role shaping it.  He will report directly to Tom Kurian who now has responsibility for all software development within Oracle.  With the de facto retirement of Chuck Rozwat, Kurian is now a virtual peer of co-presidents Safra Katz and Charles Phillips. 

More postings discussing Lyle Ekdahl, Tom Kurian and what all the musical chairs at Oracle means to the JD Edwards community will be coming soon.  Your comments will be most welcome.

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