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Mark Barrenechea
The head of Oracle's CRM division shoots for the top.
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If you're going to be the head of CRM at Oracle, what better place to come from than one of the pioneer companies in the CRM field? No, not Siebel Systems. That is, it wasn't part of Siebel yet. Mark Barrenechea, now Oracle's senior vice president of customer relationship management products, was, prior to joining Oracle three and a half years ago, with Scopus Technology.

Scopus had 20 employees when he joined, says Barrenechea. "In three years, it became one of the top two CRM companies, next to Siebel." Small wonder, then, that Siebel ended up purchasing the company. But Barrenechea wasn't affected. He had already moved on to Oracle.

At that time, Oracle was looking for a CRM solution to run its service business and put Scopus on its list of possible solution providers. "I met with Larry [Ellison, CEO of Oracle]," says Barrenechea. "We brainstormed and decided that the next big thing was e-business. I joke that they didn't procure a solution, they got me!"

Indeed. Barrenechea subsequently supervised the building of Oracle's CRM solution from the ground up, which, as he hastens to emphasize, differentiates the vendor from its chief rival. While Siebel has grown through acquisition of such companies as Scopus, Janna and Onlink,* as well as integration partnerships with companies, such as Kana, Broadvision and Quintus, "Oracle has a different strategy," Barrenechea says. "We built it all." Oracle had only 12 people in its CRM division when Barrenechea took over. "Today we have 1,000 people and a half-billion-dollar license and service business," he says.

Barrenechea distinguishes his background from that of Siebel's founder as well. "Tom [Siebel, CEO] started in sales," he says. "I was an engineer." Originally from New York, Barrenechea studied computer science as an undergraduate. "I had nothing better to do," he says. But it turned out to be a lucky choice. From designing compilers (programs that translate source code into object code), Barrenechea moved on to HR/payroll/benefits application development for Tessearact and Ceridian corporations.

"It takes two things to be successful in the applications business," he says. "You have to understand technology, and that's where my compiler experience helped me. You also have to know how to set up an application. HR is an application and so is CRM."

Barrenechea says his new interest is writing. His first book, e-Business or Out of Business: Oracle's Roadmap for Profiting in the New Economy, came out in mid-February and describes what he thinks companies should do to leverage the power of the Internet. "Some people jog, play tennis or work out," says Barrenechea. "I try to do those things, too, but I also find it relaxing to write."

Voracious reading helps his writing, says Barrenechea, who just finished American Caesar (about Gen. Douglas McArthur) and Undaunted Courage (about Lewis and Clark). "I like knowing great leaders' stories," he says. One of the most useful lessons came from Vince Lombardi. "From him, I learned how to rotate my team," says Barrenechea. "My staff goes through periods of working 80 hours a week. I have to rotate them to the back of the line so they won't burn out."

Despite the long hours, Barrenechea and his team remain focused on their goal of becoming the number one vendor, a goal of which the competition is keenly aware, he says. "They've seen the revenues we've generated. We came from nothing in CRM to be number two. They know we have the potential of being number one."

* Editor's Note: A previous posting of this article mistakenly listed Peregrine Systems as one of the companies acquired by Siebel. We apologize for the error.

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