Leo Apotheker is taking over as CEO of HP, and Ray Lane as chairman. I don’t know Leo, but I did talk a lot with Ray when he was at Oracle in the 1990s. Quick observations include:
- Ray Lane was a highly effective leader at Oracle, both calm and tough. That doesn’t mean he had perfect control of the company, but things were much better managed once he was there.
- Jeff Henley helped too, but I think Ray was the important one.
- In particular, Ray introduced accountability for making customers happy.
- Ray also somewhat tamed Oracle’s politics.
- Dueling execs Mike Fields and Craig Conway both quickly left Oracle when he arrived. This was on the whole a good thing, even though both had the talent to go on and run major software companies.
- In an exchange that was widely known even at the time, Ray told Ron Wohl he’d get him fired, to which Ron responded “Thank you — this is the first time anybody at Oracle has ever been stabbed in the FRONT.” That said, Ron did last at Oracle for a long time thereafter.
- I don’t know what happened at the end, but for years Larry Ellison was VERY pleased to have Ray at Oracle.
- There always were some Young Turk kinds of project leaders outside Ray’s control, most famously Mark Benioff.
- Ray Lane innovated the tight integration of software and professional services.
- The software/services combination was central to Oracle’s success in the 1990s.
- Ray obviously got the idea from his prior jobs, e.g. at EDS (where, this being a small world, he shared an office with Dave Peterschmidt, later the disastrously incompetent COO of Sybase).
- American Management Systems, under Charles Rossotti, did an ever better job with the same strategy earlier (albeit at a much smaller company). Otherwise, it was Ray who taught the industry how to succeed at it.
- It’s a pretty good guess that Ray leaving Oracle had a lot to do with Oracle retreating from that strategy, whatever the exact combination of cause and effect was.
- Come to think of it, it’s an even better guess now that Mark Hurd is at Oracle. The Oracle tenures of Ray Lane, Chuck/Charles Phillips, and Mark Hurd each reflect very different kinds of business models.
- HP has been pursuing a similar strategy with much less success. Perhaps Ray can teach them how to do it right.
- Ray Lane is still listed as a Vertica advisor. Start your own rumor accordingly. That said, Jerry Held has been much more involved with Vertica than Ray.
I have to head out soon to a meeting. More later.