Hurd Has Done It Again


“Do not charge people to do what they cannot do. Select them and give them responsibilities commensurate with their abilities.” —Sun Tzu, Chinese military thinker

Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison, a fan of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” may have taken that advice to heart when he looked at Oracle’s channel shortcomings and decided to hire former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd as president a little more than one year ago.

For those that questioned whether Hurd was worth the high price tag, look no further than the remarkable sales transformation he has driven in relatively short order at Oracle. Direct and indirect sales is all about lining up compensation, coverage and culture.That’s just what Hurd has done, bringing compelling economics, operational support and even new products to solution provider partners that were considered second-class citizens before he entered the picture. The bottom line: Oracle now has more indirect sales representatives covering more of the market with more success than ever before. Passion and intensity are the keys to winning in sales. Oracle had it on the direct side of the house, but certainly not in the channel. That has changed under Hurd.

Of course, significant channel changes are never a one-man affair. Hurd himself credits Senior Vice President of Worldwide Alliances and Channel Sales Judson Althoff and Althoff’s dedicated and committed team of professionals for driving channel sales and operational support deep into the fabric of the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company. That, of course, is where the rubber meets the road, where channel programs thrive or die. Althoff and his team deserve a ton of credit for building out a significant sales and operational support infrastructure for Oracle partners.

The exciting thing about the Oracle channel charge is it is just getting going. The direct impact to Oracle competitors, including HP, is going to be felt over the course of years to come. Given that, it is hard not to wonder how the course of the industry was forever changed with Hurd’s departure from HP. Hurd, never an egotist, seems fired up driving sales operations at Oracle. And the chemistry between Hurd, Ellison and Co-President and CFO Safra Catz seems genuine.
One of Hurd’s great strengths is his hands-on support of partners in the sales trenches, treating them just like his direct sales force.

“In the last five quarters since Mark has been here we have made more presidential-level house calls to channel partners than probably in my 12-year history at Oracle,” said Althoff.

But for all of his partner savvy, Hurd does not consider himself a channel zealot. He says embracing the channel is “just the right way to run the business.” It’s a telling comment and one that far too many top executives simply don’t get. The right way to do business. Hurd did it at NCR Corp. Then at HP. And now at Oracle.

BACKTALK: What do you think of Mark Hurd’s channel changes at Oracle? Contact Steve Burke at steve.burke@ubm.com.