Fool Me Once...

Please don't say manana if you don't mean it,
I have heard your lines for so very long"
-Jimmy Buffett

I think everyone remembers the old Peanuts episodes, where Charlie Brown trys to kick the football. Lucy is always the holder and she always pulls it away at the last minute. Then, in the future, she promises once again to hold the ball, only to pull it away at the last moment. Unfortunately for Charlie Brown fans, he never gets to kick it.

When you see this as a child, you are sad, yet hopeful that he will one day kick it. As an adult, you look at it and say "why in the world would he ever believe that she is going to hold it?". It harkens the old line, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...". I think you get the picture.

I almost fell off my chair this weekend when I read through Oracle's recent earnings call. The first thing that came to mind was the Jimmy Buffett song...the second thing that came to mind was the Peanuts. Let me share a sampling of quotes/headlines from the past 5 years:

Exhibit A
"I think the merger integration is complete. I'm not concerned with the development of PeopleSoft 9, J.D. Edwards 8.12 or Oracle 12," Ellison said Tuesday at a press conference to launch the newly merged company. "My biggest focus is on Project Fusion. That is where my focus will be for the next several years." - Larry Ellison

Exhibit B
"Ellison announced that the first Fusion applications would come out early in 2008, focusing on salesforce automation, with pre-built integration packs for Oracle’s E-Business Suite ERP."

Exhibit C
"Final comments by Ellison indicated that Version 1 of Fusion Applications will be released in 2010."

Exhibit D
"As I watched the live webcast of the Keynote tonight at the Oracle Openworld 2010, Larry finally announced the launch of Fusion Apps."

Exhibit E
"The other thing is Fusion is right around the corner, and our customers are seeing us to deliver this new technology. "-Larry Ellison

Now, let me give you the dates on each of these headlines/quotes:

Exhibit A - January 18, 2005
Exhibit B - November 14, 2007
Exhibit C - October 14, 2009
Exhibit D - September 19, 2010
Exhibit E - Last week (12/16 to be precise)

Seriously, does Oracle think that we are all Charlie Brown?

How to think about clients

"Part of the reason the Oracle culture is so strong in the field is because we feel we own the accounts, own the customers," said Phillips.

Believe it or not, I am not making this quote up. He, Phillips, actually said this. The Phillips I am referring to is Charles Phillips, the President of Oracle Corporation. He actually believes, and it is obvious that he is proliferating this culture in his company, that clients want to be 'owned'. Perhaps I am naive, but I haven't met many clients that like to be 'owned' and treated as if they are someones 'property' to be exploited. On the other hand, you could credit Oracle with the fact that their 'we own our customers' philosophy has driven short-term results. Raising prices, exploiting ELA's, and aggressive contractual maneuvering are all things that you can do to drive results, when you believe that you 'own' your clients.

Personally, I have always been focused on delighting clients versus 'owing' them. I think it is how they preferred to be treated and I am willing to go as far as I need to in order to earn their trust/friendship. 

I have also subscribed to Jeff Bezos' theory of obsessing over customers and the Tony Hsieh philosophy  of Delivering Happiness to clients.

Certainly, we are not perfect in this category, but I try to focus on getting us better at it every day.


One of the lies being perpetrated by Oracle is the fact that some Informix clients are considering other database options. In reality, every client considers other database options, as that keeps everyone honest. In fact, I am aware of over 200 clients that have moved off of Oracle recently. Let's be honest, if there is a company susceptible to losing clients, its Oracle. Does anyone know a client that likes Oracle?

On the subject of Informix, some have asked about our strategy. I have done my best to lay it out here. Feedback always welcome.

Two Truths and a Lie

There is a classic party game called Two Truths and a Lie. In short, the game involves each individual participating to make 3 statements, 2 of which are true and 1 of which is a lie. The others in the party are challenged to guess which one of the statements is a lie.

It occurred to me that many companies in the Software industry seem to be playing this game every day. In a recent interview, Steve Mills alluded to this when he highlighted the fact that Oracle operates with the perspective that "lies that go unchallenged become the truth".

While I have blogged within IBM's intranet for years, I felt it was time that I start to share some thoughts publicly. After all, someone needs to start to challenge the lies openly.