Global CIO: Open Letters To Ellison, Hurd, Chambers, & Plattner

In the past year we've made candid suggestions to each of those executives via open letters -- were our ideas on target?
(Excerpt:) "Tell the CIO world, John, what kind of player you intend for Cisco to be in the enterprise. Tell them what role Cisco will play in virtualization and collaboration, in customer intimacy and global growth, in data centers and in lowering the cost of infrastructure, and in pushing the CIO profession and position deeply into the realm of customer engagement. Tell the CIO world what business Cisco is in today. It's a story they want to hear."

Global CIO: An Open Letter To Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd
With enormous respect for what Hurd achieved in his overall transformation of HP, and that CIO Randy Mott reflected with is total overhaul of HP's IT operations, I recommended that HP stop being everything to everybody and instead focus its enterprise mission on being The Transformation Company:

(Excerpt:) "Now take that room of a dozen or so CIOs at the All-Star game and extrapolate their concerns, challenges, nightmares, wishes, frustrations, and hopes to every CIO in every business in every industry in the world, and you've got what must surely become the #1 CIO priority for the next few years: reverse the intractable 80/20 ratio so that your customers can begin devoting only 20% instead of 80% of their budgets to maintenance and internal operations, while liberating millions or tens of millions (and even hundreds of millions in some cases) to be used for such heroic endeavors as hiring more salespeople or aggressively launching growth-oriented business-technology projects that engage and embrace customers and create new opportunities and let those CIOs help remake their companies in the image of what their customers want and need them to be instead of just perpetuating what they've always been."

Global CIO: An Open Letter To Oracle CEO Larry Ellison (second of two)
In which we recommend a more customer-centric vision from this exceptionally visionary business leader:

(Excerpt:) "It just seemed a bit odd -- actually, maybe more than a bit -- to see these sweeping and penetrating and candid comments from one of the world's top executives with so little mention of the role that customers are playing in your thinking. At a time when every business in every industry is going to extreme lengths to engage customers more directly and more intimately because customers today have more choices and more information and more-unique requirements, it would have been particularly valuable for you to talk less about Netezza and Teradata and IBM and SAP and Dell and HP and more about the customers that have invested tens of millions of dollars -- in some cases, many tens of millions -- with Oracle, and why they've done that, and how they have grown and prospered with Oracle as a strategic partner."

Global CIO: An Open Letter To SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner
Our only letter to a non-CEO was sent a couple of days after Plattner announced Apotheker's departure as CEO, revealed that even as chairman he would be taking a more active role in the company, and introduced two new co-CEOs while promising to restore trust with customers, make employees happy again, balance profits and investments in innovation, and revamp SAP's development processes. With Plattner weighed down under such obligations, the least I felt I could do was a little back-seat driving with a list of 10 suggestions, one of which centered on the issue of who is SAP's primary competitor:

(Excerpt:) "The easy answer is it's Oracle. But that would also be the wrong answer. Oh, sure, you guys will continue to slug it out and take shots at each other whenever possible (Leo's last one was that he saw Oracle "fading in the rearview mirror"--ouch!), but unless you plan to acquire Dell and become an integrated systems company, I don't see Oracle as your top competitor. Rather, SAP's top competitor is cloud computing and SaaS and rapid and lightweight deployment and automatic upgrades and low up-front expenses and shared risk and and SuccessFactors and Workday and NetSuite and many many other small, nimble, and highly successful companies who are giving the market what you don't have: speed, simplicity, predictability, lower costs, and a deeper sense of partnership and shared commitments. Now you can, of course, scoff at that comparison and say their combined revenue is barely a rounding error in SAP's overall financials. You can say that Business ByDesign will destroy all of them. You can say that customers are wrong, narrow-minded, unfair, and fickle. You can say that SAP is a powerhouse in cloud computing already and will only increase its lead in 2010. But I hope you don't--because none of that is true, no matter how eagerly you want to believe that it is. No, Hasso, your big-dog competitor is the new wave of simpler and easier and faster and less expensive cloud-based whizkids, and if you don't address that reality quickly and aggressively, just try to imagine how hairy the situation's going to be a year from now."

So what do you think -- were we on the right course with any of those recommendations? More important, what would you like to say to these highly influential CEOs? Share your strategies and suggestions with us at [email protected].

GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

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or write to Bob at [email protected].