OpenWorld provided a good feel for what seems to matter most to Oracle’s top management.  I can’t claim to be perfect at reading their minds, but there was an abundance of evidence available on which to base an opinion.  Safe in the knowledge that it won’t be 100% right (but confident that it is not far off) here is my list of the things that Oracle management currently cares most about: 

  1. Closing the Sun Microsystems acquisition (nothing else comes close).
  2. Leveraging the Sun assets: hardware, an OS, Java and possibly mySQL.
  3. Offering appliances (hardware/software combinations) to grow database share.
  4. Pulling ahead of IBM in the middleware market (owning Java will really help).
  5. Taking command of the Business Intelligence market (IBM again is the main foe).
  6. Pushing SAP into second place in the applications market. 

While not at the top of the list, the strategy to take over leadership in applications remains important.  It in turn has four key elements: 

  • Buy up the best of breed applications in key market segments.
  • Integrate these acquired “edge” applications into the portfolio under AIA.
  • Bring Fusion to market as a third generation ERP application suite.
  • Build market share on top of the “Applications Unlimited” portfolio. 

“Applications Unlimited” is, of course, Oracle jargon for its second-generation ERP suites including eBusiness Suite, PeopleSoft and JDE.  The role JDE plays is to keep SAP out of key market niches and to provide a welcoming set of future prospects for everything else that Oracle sells.  In this role, the JDE customer base is neither vitally important nor too insignificant to care about. 

With many bigger things to worry about Oracle top management is currently inclined to largely leave the JDE management team alone.  This lack of intense focus from top management is probably a good thing.  Plans to spend the modest (but adequate) amount of R&D funds available to directly enhance JDE applications are largely controlled by Lyle Ekdahl and his team.   As long as the franchise continues to thrive, Ekdahl’s team is unlikely to get a great deal of unwanted attention. 

Besides providing new features and functions in releases, Ekdahl is intent on offering us the full bounty of the Oracle cornucopia – database, middleware, edge applications and the incorporation of new software being developed as part of the Fusion project.  Oracle’s executive compensation plan does not directly reward Ekdahl for doing this but it is the most direct way of achieving his most important goal – keeping the JDE franchise happy, healthy, and on the ranch.