From Sun to Oracle: Developers Become Their Own Social Media Beta Testers

KSurette    October 7, 2014

Organization: Sun Microsystems / Oracle Corporation

SMBP - Sun Microsystems logo SMBP - Oracle logo

Industry:  Computer systems, Computer software, Information technology, Enterprise software

Sun Microsystems was founded in the early 1980’s, and over the 27 years of its existence grew to become a driving force in computer systems, computer hardware and software, and information technology services. Truly a multinational company, senior leadership understood the value and importance of their employees engaging with each other, across the organization, to share ideas and to collaborate on initiatives and projects. The use of social media, both internally and externally, became an important initiative in Sun’s success. When Oracle Corporation acquired Sun in early 2010, all was not lost on the new entity; in fact, Oracle has become a powerhouse in developing enterprise software products and computer hardware systems, leading the charge in social engagement.

Employee involvement is a business process which senior management can no longer take for granted. Research has shown that keeping employees engaged is vital for business success. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, surveyed more than 150,000 full- and part-time employees, and found that only 30 percent of employees are engaged and inspired at work; 52 percent are present but not engaged; while 18 percent are actively disengaged. The report also found that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. up to $550 billion annually in lost productivity.

The use of social media / social networks in the workplace is increasingly seen as an effective way to keep employees engaged, particularly in a growing multinational business setting. By allowing employees to interact with colleagues in a virtual world, they are able to share ideas and work collaboratively on problems to find solutions

For businesses involved in the rapidly-changing world of computer systems and software development, where innovation often results from sharing and building upon individuals’ ideas, it is vital for senior management to create an atmosphere where colleagues around the world can cooperate an collaborate on projects.

At Sun Microsystems, senior leadership understood the importance of actively engaging their employees. What began as personal CAD workstation for the Stanford University Network communications project, eventually morphed into a developer of computer systems and storage, computer software and information technology. At its peak in 2006, Sun employed approximately 36,000 people globally, many of whom worked flexibly without assigned offices. Senior management took an active role in engaging employees within Sun:

• Scott McNealy, CEO, interacted with employees through WSUN, a forum on Sun’s intranet, to sustain an active and ongoing dialogue on corporate goals and objectives, and solicit feedback and opinions
• COO Jonathan Schwartz engaged with employees on technology directions through his personal blog
• Business Unit Heads and Executive Vice-Presidents held at least six ‘town halls’ with employees every years
• Senior Management at the country level constantly engaged employees through various forums, communication media and events to build excitement and passion
• Social ‘mash-ups’ were created to bring together people from different departments within Sun’s network to create social groups where participants could learn from each other, swap best practices and share technology
• The use of wikis was implemented, to share approaches and information, and seek input/feedback

Senior management embracing social media had a ripple effect throughout the Sun organization.

“You have an engineer trying to figure out a problem and it’s 2 a.m. in Silicon Valley. They could be chatting with somebody in Bangalore and getting help with their problem. The e-community bridges time zones and distances. It becomes easy to meet people you never would have known had the right expertise. Social media allow you to touch that dimension.” – Terry McKenzie, Senior Director, Global Employee Communications and Communities

Market forces resulted in Sun Microsystems being acquired by Oracle Corporation in January, 2010. Already a presence in the marketplace since the mid-1970s, Oracle was keenly aware of the need to foster and nurture employee engagement. It, too, has global operations and knows the value of enabling cross-jurisdictional and –discipline cooperation and collaboration.

Since the acquisition of Sun, Oracle has continued to develop and improve upon initiatives undertaken by both entities prior to their merger. In fact, Oracle has launched a plethora of products, services and solutions which allow businesses to more actively engage and manage their relationships with employees and customers.

Oracle HCM (Human Capital Management) Solutions
Oracle CX (Customer Experience) Solutions
Oracle CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Solutions

In addition, Oracle has developed a number of online resources (blogs, discussion forums, wikis) where employees and the general public can exchange information and views on a number of business topics and Oracle products/services, including employee engagement and social media.

Lessons Learned:
For employee engagement to be effective, senior management must believe in it and actively practice it. Equally important is the employees’ responsibility to let management know what is working and what isn’t. Social Media is increasingly becoming a vital tool to ensure engagement is meaningful and fulfilling, for both the employer and the employee.

Web References:
Wikipedia – Sun Microsystems
YouTube: I Have the Best Job at Sun ; Working in Oracle Applications Labs
Gallup Organization

Submitted By: Kevin R. Surette – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo. To contact the author of this entry please email:

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