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Giving The Boss The Big Picture

A dashboard pulls up everything the CEO needs to run the show

It was New Year's Eve, 2003, and Oracle Corp. (ORCL ) CEO Lawrence J. Ellison was on his honeymoon. He and his bride, romance novelist Melanie Craft, were relaxing on his 243-foot Katana yacht off St. Barts, the Caribbean island known as a haven for movie moguls and rock stars. But Ellison, for the umpteenth time, couldn't help himself. He climbed to his office on the upper deck of the Katana, fired up his computer, and logged on to the Web site of a small company called NetSuite Inc. It was the last day of the fiscal year, and Ellison, the co-founder of NetSuite and its largest investor, needed to know if the startup was going to meet its numbers.

Before the Internet, Ellison says, taking the pulse of a company was sort of ridiculous. To get the latest sales information, he would call several people and wait days for them to process financial reports that often were out of date by the time he got them. "You would use your cell phone and work on feelings," he says.