Executives at Oracle Corporation were shocked when chairman and CEO Larry Ellison decided to manage the nitty-gritty details of the business a few years ago. The second-largest software maker in the world, founded by Ellison and two partners in 1977, was more accustomed to its colorful leader making headlines in yacht racing.
What was most surprising, reports Florence Stone in her new Ellison biography, The Oracle of Oracle, is that "time and experience - good and bad - have erased managerial flaws, as happens with many of our best business leaders and he has developed into a great manager."
One of the things Ellison discovered as day-to-day CEO was that he had little control over his far-flung empire, because Oracle ran hundreds of different software systems, each managing one element of the company. "I didn't even know how many employees we really had," he says.
So Ellison decided the company had to "eat its own dog food," industry parlance for using its own products. But Oracle didn't have most of the software it needed to meld those many elements into one Web-based system, nor was it happy with what was available on the market. Thus began a software revolution that Oracle is now trying to extend to its customers. And it didn't just change the company's products, it forced Oracle to completely redesign the way it does business - and saved a billion dollars a year in the process.
American Way sat down with Ellison to divine his vision for
Oracle's future and, as always, he had provocative things to say.
American Way: Tell us about what you learned in the process of turning Oracle into an e-business.