Five-year integration project almost finished – but customers will take it slow
Oracle has provided more detail on its Fusion Application suite of CRM, ERP and HR packages, saying even though the mammoth project to build the software is coming to an end, the company won't be rushing customers into implementing it.
Fusion Applications aims to bring together elements of Oracle's acquisitions – including PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel – to create a single suite of applications that are built on a common middleware platform.
It's taken a while: "We've been focusing on building Fusion Applications for a very long time - more than five years," Oracle CEO Larry Ellison told the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco this week.
Ellison has high expectations of Fusion, claiming that the business intelligence embedded into the suite will help organisations make better decisions – making it more than software to automate some basic business processes.
"There had to be a better payoff [for Fusion] than doing a better job of automation. We thought better information and making better decisions was a bigger payoff than simply eliminating a bunch of clerks," Ellison said.
According to Oracle, Fusion could assist with decision-making such as helping a sales manager to answer the question: 'If I approve this product discount will I still make money?'.
And by offering customers the option of running the software on their own hardware, behind their firewall, or hosted in Oracle's datacentres, the company hopes to head off the increasing challenge coming from software-as-a-service companies such as Salesforce.com.
But despite the length of the project so far, Oracle isn't going to hurry the software out into the market.
This week Oracle unveiled an early adopter customer programme which will allow some customers to get access to the software before it becomes generally available next year, and Ellison has already said Oracle only expects 50 to 100 customers to move onto Fusion in the first half of next year.
"What Oracle has done is seriously hard. It's a huge deal" said Ronan Miles, chairman of the Oracle UK User Group. "If Oracle gets it right, it will transform the way enterprises think about software. If Oracle doesn't get it right, it will have invested six years in something that has provided to the market a different bag of bits."
The opportunity for customers is to get "orders of magnitude of efficiency and a way to understand your business performance", Miles said, with applications that can be brought together through configuration rather than through significant engineering.
But it could be a slow revolution – with Oracle continuing to support its existing range of software as well, customers will need a compelling reason to go through the pain of moving to the new suite, especially given the scale and complexity of ERP projects.
Indeed, Ellison predicts that it will be over the next five years that customers will be looking to move to Fusion, and he even recommended this caution himself, saying: "For most customers the right thing to do is watch and see how the early deployments go."