BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : NOVEMBER 20, 2000 ISSUE
BUSINESS WEEK E.BIZ -- MANAGEMENT

A Tale of Two Cultures


They sound like the Odd Couple: New Economy startup Plumtree Software and Old Economy icon Procter & Gamble ( PG). But a joint software project is teaching both compnaies management lessons.


LESSONS FOR THE STARTUP

Big can be beautiful.
P&G execs have quietly steered Plumtree through problems with other large customers. When a Plumtree project at Motorola ( MOT) ran into miscommunication snags, a P&G exec sat both groups down and smoothed ruffled feathers.

Be wary of young arrogance.
Plumtree engineers thought their software was tops, but they found it was lacking features once the P&G project got started. The result: An improved version of Plumtree's software that it can sell to other customers.

They say ''jump.'' You say, ''how high?''
A customer like P&G can make or break an upstart. When P&G's execs demanded proof that Plumtree could meet P&G's requirements, Plumtree engineers worked around the clock for a month to pass the test.

Get adult supervision.
Plumtree has young engineers working on the P&G project. But the key personnel on the project are industry veterans--a 41-year-old former consultant for Oracle Corp. ( ORCL) and a lead salesperson with a long history in enterprise software sales.


LESSONS FOR THE BIG COMPANY

Make the startup jump through hoops.
P&G's list of requirements from Plumtree was 68 pages long. P&G made Plumtree prove it was up to the challenge through product demos and details of how it would handle the project.

Ensure the startup doesn't fail.
P&G invested $2 million in Plumtree. Why? P&G saw it as a sound financial investment, and it gives P&G an active role in the future of Plumtree. That may sound like a lot of money, but it's nothing compared to the cost of a global project that goes sour.

Bridge the cultural gap.
A startup may have engineers who are a little nervous about working in a big corporate environment. When Plumtree developers landed in Cincinnati, P&G techies socialized with them, from eating at the local chili joint to sampling the local brew.

Let the startup culture percolate.
At P&G, the Plumtree project is letting young P&G engineers work on cutting-edge Net software while learning how to get the job done differently.



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EBIZ Contents for issue dated Nov. 20, 2000


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