Merger mania puts software buyers in a spin

Only weeks into the New Year and my head is spinning. And if you're a software buyer I'm betting your head is spinning too.

This dizzy disposition has very little to do with champagne and everything to do with "Merger Mania" a condition that has been ravaging the IT industry for the past two years. It's spreading like a disease and infecting the hapless hordes we call customers, also known as the forgotten people.

That's right, those poor souls caught in the crossfire of acrimonious acquisitions and the unquenchable thirst that drives shareholders in their quest for double-digit profit margins. As the corporate titans battle it out in the boardroom users are bandied about, swapped, replaced and exchanged like pawns on a chess board.

JD Edwards users - still reeling from the PeopleSoft merger - must now adjust to life with a new supplier, the triumphant and mighty Oracle.

There is no respite for these users once again left without a technology roadmap, competing product sets, unsupported apps and more uncertainty. In fact, uncertainty seems to be the prevailing theme for software buyers in the 21st century... and I thought consolidation fever had peaked with the HP/Compaq merger (silly me!). I realize now it was just the beginning and still there is no end in sight.

But there is some medicinal relief likely in coming days with Oracle announcing its newly expanded vision in a Webcast boasting the cheesy title of "Oracle-PeopleSoft Better Together" (better for whom I wonder?).

Integrating these two companies and cultures will undoubtedly be a daunting task but more disturbingly, it will be a long and protracted one. And the longer it takes, the harder it will be for those forgotten people struggling to reconcile their apps and platforms.

Like all mergers success relies heavily on an effective and functioning joint management team to lead the charge. I'm betting most of the leading will be one way ... yep, that's right, straight out the door as an exodus of PeopleSoft execs lead the charge away from their new chief Larry Ellison.

From the outset there were plenty of PeopleSoft execs who expressed their distaste at having to engage in any future working relationship with Ellison.

During the legal wrangling emotions ran high although much of this bitterness has clearly been misplaced. The right to bitterness surely rests with the users who received little consideration throughout the protracted 18-month takeover battle. But then there has been no shortage of uncertainty to merrily spread among software buyers over the Christmas break.

Thousands of Veritas customers returned from their holiday travels only to find the company is merging with Symantec.

Predictably, they found out very little else. It was the same old story: users blissfully unaware of their suppliers' product plans, confused about licensing issues and unable to get any solid information, direction or detail. Welcome newcomers to the land of the forgotten people.

Keeping in step with the new century theme of shrinking options for IT buyers, Gartner announced over the holiday period that it will pay $US162 million to acquire the Meta Group.

While it leaves IT managers with fewer choices when it comes to seeking out independent research or the services of an analyst, pity the poor Meta Group client who will now be subjected to the Gartner hype cycle and magic quandrant (lucky them).

Have you been affected by recent mergers? Are you one of the forgotten people? E-mail Sandra_Rossi@idg.com.au

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More about CompaqExodusGartnerJD EdwardsMeta GroupOraclePeopleSoftSymantecVeritas

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