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The Man On The Hot Seat For Oracle-PeopleSoft

Larry Ellison may be the center of power at Oracle, but John Wookey is leading the make-or-break task of merging the companies' applications.

CEO Larry Ellison and co-presidents Safra Katz and Charles Phillips held forth on stage. But it was clear at Tuesday's event at the Oracle campus that the stationmaster who will run the merger of Oracle-PeopleSoft applications is John Wookey, Oracle senior VP for applications.

Wookey outlined the formation of an Application Strategy Team that "will not be four to five people sitting in a room thinking high-level strategy. It will be hundreds of PeopleSoft and Oracle employees." Their goal will be to build a future version of J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft, and Oracle applications so that existing businesses customers "may easily migrate to those products."

The merged product line has been dubbed the Fusion application set and mapping a smooth migration path to it is a top priority, Wookey said during a three-hour Webcast Jan. 18 yesterday on how the merger would proceed.

John Wookey, Oracle senior VP for applications

John Wookey, Oracle senior VP
for applications
Ellison and other Oracle officials said the migration path be as "automated" as possible, striving to avoid the usual generation gap and painful upgrade that application users encounter.

In completing its $10.3 billion acquisition of PeopleSoft, Oracle acquired PeopleSoft's Enterprise application suite plus those from an earlier PeopleSoft acquisition, J. D. Edwards EnterpriseOne and J.D. Edwards World applications. For Oracle's merger strategy to work, it must keep existing users of those applications happy with good technical support and continued application development. Then it must wean them from older product lines to its new Fusion set, scheduled to appear in 2008, with some individual apps appearing in 2007.

Wookey may be just the man to pull off such a product merger. After stints with Andersen Consulting and eight years at manufacturing application vendor Ross Systems Inc., Wookey was once offered the job of heading application development for PeopleSoft, which he turned down to become head of Oracle applications. Noting that Wookey once again has the chance to lead PeopleSoft application development, Ellison joked, "I don't think he's going to turn it down this time."

"Market leadership in applications is my dream," Wookey said. He then urged PeopleSoft developers, 90% of whom were notified they were being offered a job at Oracle Jan. 15, "to sign and send in your acceptance of the offers. I'm really anxious to get to work with all of you."

Oracle is basing a future merged product line on modular, services-oriented, Java-based applications. Both Oracle and PeopleSoft were moving in that direction, with Oracle having more experience and a greater lead in adopting Java technologies, Wookey said. Other standards mentioned by Ellison as part of the Fusion approach included HTML commonly used to build Web pages and Dynamic HTLM, a variation that allows active elements to be embedded in the otherwise static HTML page.

Hundreds of employees will be involved in the effort because the Fusion set will need to pay attention to the business strategy and life-cycle management of each product line until they can be merged, Wookey said. Future applications must be designed to be flexible, easy to customize, and easy to maintain, he added.

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