Several top names in the who's who of business application software have abandoned Oracle and Siebel Systems to join arch rival SAP. The exodus of talent at Oracle comes as the database giant struggles to incorporate both new products and people acquired through its purchase of PeopleSoft.

SAP said that it had lured more than 200 people away from its competitors, including a handful of top executives. The new hires reflect a dramatic shift in the movement of talent in Silicon Valley.

"They send a signal around the Valley that SAP has a winning team," said Joshua Greenbaum, a principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting. "People want to be part of a winning team."

The German software vendor is now emerging as an "American company," Greenbaum said. One of the goals of SAP board member Shai Agassi, who is responsible for the company's product and technology group, is to "turn SAP into a Silicon Valley company and not one that just has an office there," he said.

Siebel has lost several executives, including Nimish Mehta, who was responsible for Siebel's high-growth Customer Data Integration division, and Richard Campione and Bob Stutz. Campione was in charge of the group's financial services and public sector business, while Stutz, who was in charge of 21 vertical product lines at Siebel.

Oracle has also lost three top executives to SAP: Mike Mayer, Dan Rosenberg and John Zepecki. Formerly in charge of driving large IT infrastructure projects funded by development organisations such as The World Bank, Mayer will assume a similar role at SAP. Rosenberg headed Oracle's research and development for usability design, and former PeopleSoft executive Zepecki was responsible for the company's enterprise performance management product line and financial management portal systems.

Siebel has responded to its outward flow of talent by launching an employee retention programme.