Aneel Bushri, Peoplesoft?s vice chairman, has become a general partner at venture capital (VC) firm Greylock, while simultaneously retaining his role as confidante to Dave Duffield, Peoplesoft?s chief executive.
Bushri is expected to take an active role in managing the product portfolio at the Palo Alto, California based Greylock office, which would imply he is likely to slip into the background at Peoplesoft.
A Peoplesoft spokesperson said: "Aneel?s decision was his own. It is something he wants to do. He will continue his role as counsellor to Dave and as vice chairman of the company."
But the move would appear to send mixed messages to the market.
Bushri?s reduced role at Peoplesoft indicates a significant management change from last year, when as senior executive responsible for product, corporate and marketing strategy, he was portrayed as one of the most important people on the senior management team.
In an interview given at Peoplesoft?s user conference at the time, Duffield said: "Aneel is without question a key person?he is very important to us."
And the timing of the move is also not good. Peoplesoft is currently at a delicate stage in its development as it seeks to maintain growth amid difficult trading conditions, and the scaling back of Bushri?s position could be viewed as weakening to the management team at a time when perceptions of strength are critical.
The PeopleSoft spokesperson said, "I would agree it is all about confidence, but our strategy is in place and it is now about execution."
The enterprise applications supplier recently reshuffled its top management team by promoting Howard Gwinn, former head of Europe, to replace Al Duffield in the company?s top sales job.
It also appointed Mike Gioja, former head of SAP?s human resources (HR) product development, as senior vice president of development for core applications, which include accounting, manufacturing and HR. Gioja will also have responsibility for Peoplesoft?s recently showcased enterprise performance measurement products.
But the changes leave analysts divided.
Jim Holincheck, senior analyst at Giga Information Group said: "I dont think it is a bad thing for PeopleSoft. I?m not overly impressed with what Aneel has done from a strategic positioning standpoint - too many vertical markets, wasting the Red Pepper acquisition, missing the boat on CRM, and a lot of ?me too? stuff relative to the competition."
Chuck Philipps, managing director at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter continued that his VC role would benefit him by providing him with insights into emerging market trends. "He is more interested in strategy than in day to day operations, so the current arrangement suits his interest and where he can add value," he said.
And Bruce Richardson, senior analyst at AMR Research agreed: "Aneel is a very bright guy, but he wasn?t an operations guy. He's one of those idea a minute people, but should never be in charge of a large group of people and projects with lots of details. His downfall was when they put him in charge of 250 people. He never returned voice mails or followed up on requests."
But the changes still leave Duffield with an unresolved problem. While it is well known he wants to hand over the operational reins, all of the new hires still report into him.
And with Bhushri?s time now divided, there is effectively noone in the top strategic position, although Giga?s Holincheck speculates that Gioja may step into Bushri?s shoes - but this is far from certain.
However, the situation of who is or is to become chief strategist may become somewhat clearer when Peoplesoft delivers on its promise of an acquisition in the customer relationship management space. Some analysts speculate this could be a midrange player like Saratoga Systems or Onyx.
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