Calling 'Em Like He Sees 'Em

Sarah Lacy

Greg Gianforte, CEO of Right Now Technologies, has a Viewpoint on our site today that's not exactly winning him friends in software land. He makes some strong accusations at the major software vendors, particularly Oracle, saying their confusing, competing architectures are all just a smokescreen to hide their own failure to deliver good software. And while even those who agree with him aren't ripping out SAP or Oracle implementations any time soon, he's got a point and he defends it well. And as you can see from some vocal reader comments--he's not alone in his views.

Whether you agree or not, kudos to him for not pulling punches. I can't help but notice a change in Gianforte since I first interviewed him last February. At the time the mania was in full swing while RightNow barely got any press for its own IPO. Gianforte said he didn't want to play what's known as The Benioff Game around tech circles-- a nod to CEO Marc Benioff’s amazing press garnering abilities. Benioff was helping evangelize the on demand model, coattails the quiet Montana-based RightNow was content to ride.

But increasingly Gianforte is getting scrappier and more vocal, taking on all challengers including salesforce. It seems every time there's an announcement by salesforce I get a RightNow rebuttal in my inbox. Same was true for Siebel back in the spring, once feisty, then-head of the on demand business Bruce Cleveland had had enough. Said one software PR veteran I spoke to earlier, "Everyone is above playing the Benioff game until they get tired of him getting a billion more stories than them. Then all bets are off."

As a journalist, I think CEOs are always better off responding to critics and doing so in plain, non-hedging English. But it's hard to know how much this war of words helps customers distill an already confusing landscape. Case in point, for years SAP and Siebel argued over who the number one CRM company is. Who's right? Both of them depending on your definition. But when it takes several paragraphs to explain, how much are the bragging rights worth?

I've already offered Oracle the chance at a formal rebuttal. No word yet. In the mean time, I'd love to hear from other tech watchers about Gianforte's piece.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.