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Oracle Recognizes the Need for Change
Mark Hurd is no stranger to big success. In his five years as president and CEO of HP, he was credited with righting the company's financially struggling ship. Now, starting his third year as president of Oracle, he is steering yet another big ship on a completely new course.
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Making Sense of Fusion

Oracle Fusion Applications, a software suite designed to give an upgrade path to the customers Oracle inherited through its PeopleSoft, Siebel, and JD Edwards acquisitions, is slowly carving out its own space within the company's numerous product lines.

Fusion Applications is composed of a combination of features and functionalities that were selected from Oracle's E-Business Suite, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and Siebel product lines. The suite of applications is built on top of the Oracle Fusion Middleware technology stack, which leverages the service-oriented architecture capabilities of Oracle Fusion Architecture.

Fusion Applications was announced at Oracle OpenWorld in 2005, but customers had to wait until late 2011 for it to be generally available.

Oracle claims the applications are designed to run on premises, as well as in private and public clouds, including the new Oracle Public Cloud. At the time this story was written, Oracle was still in the process of making the entire suite available as a SaaS solution.

Customers can choose between seven Fusion modules: financial management; human capital management; customer relationship management; supply chain management; procurement; governance, risk, and compliance; and project portfolio management, as well as separate applications within each of the modules. More than 200 Oracle customers are already using some component of Fusion Applications.

Once customers overcame their initial confusion about how to implement it, one of the qualities that they liked most about Fusion Applications, according to Basheer Khan, founder and CEO of Innowave Technology, an Oracle partner, is its "ability to coexist alongside your existing applications footprint.

"Several organizations have now realized that implementing Fusion Applications is not necessarily a 'rip and replace' exercise," Khan maintains in a statement published by Oracle. "One or more pillars of Fusion Applications can be deployed to take advantage of their unique functionality, seamlessly integrating them with your existing applications."

The SaaS option is also proving to be a popular aspect of Fusion, comments IDC’s Fauscette. "Oracle Fusion Apps are quite good and starting to gain traction," Fauscette says. "I've talked to several customers who have already deployed Fusion CRM and/or Fusion HCM in the cloud and are waiting to get access to the other modules in the cloud before moving off other products."

Teter describes Oracle's emerging cloud computing strategy for Fusion as "key" to attracting customers.

"For companies that are trying to host [Fusion Applications] on premises, it's a huge investment, and there's a lot to maintain," Teter says. "If you look at the SMB marketplace, [SaaS] will absolutely be key because you'll have customers who'll say, 'I want this stuff if I can partly subscribe to a module or buy an entire enterprise app suite without having to install it on premise'—that's a big deal."

Oracle has also aligned Fusion Applications with its powerful Exadata and Exalogic databases. Prior to this year's OpenWorld, a session summary described these products as the "ultimate platform" for deploying its next-generation Fusion Applications.

Large enterprises, Teter notes, will "love the speed and high performance" that an integration with Exadata or Exalogic injects into Fusion Applications, but it also comes with an equally big price tag, he adds. "We're still at the early stages with Fusion…. [Users] will have to make a decision about where they fit along the scale from Exalogic's architecture to buying SaaS products piecemeal," he says.

In terms of Fusion Applications' future, Pombriant agrees that the Fusion suite has yet to prove itself to customers, noting that it was late and adoption has been slow. "That said, most new ideas enter the market this way," Pombriant adds. "If Oracle attends to educating its customers and supporting them well—core strengths for them—they'll be fine."

Fusion Applications at a Glance

Oracle Fusion Financial Management

Oracle Fusion Financials features a broad suite of capabilities including general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, fixed assets, and cash management applications. It also includes expense and collections management, all of which sit on top of the open, standards-based platform.

Fusion CRM

Oracle Fusion Customer Relationship Management offers applications for sales performance management, marketing, and enterprise integration. Customers can choose from a number of applications, such as Fusion CRM Desktop, Fusion Enterprise Contracts Base, Fusion Incentive Compensation, Fusion Customer Relationship Management—Marketing, Fusion Customer Relationship Management—Partner Relationship Management, and more.

Human Capital Management

Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM) helps users create a foundation for HR data and improved business processes. Fusion HCM includes a number of applications organized into four categories: Global Core Human Capital Management; Workforce Service Delivery; Talent Management; and HR Analytics.

Supply Chain Management

Fusion Supply Chain Management (SCM) applications are next-generation applications that are designed to provide users with a single view of their order, supply, and fulfillment plans across the entire enterprise; an embedded Global Order Promising solution to normalize supply and demand information across disparate fulfillment systems; and inventory and cost management capabilities. Its applications are grouped into three categories: Fusion Distributed Order Orchestration, Fusion Product Hub, and Fusion Procurement.

Governance, Risk, and Compliance

Fusion Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) provides a platform that gives users insight into the status of GRC activities across the enterprise, support for cross-industry and industry-specific GRC processes, as well as automated controls that work across multiple business applications. It offers applications organized under Risk and Financial Governance, Performance and Operational Controls, and Access and Segregation of Duties Controls.

Project Portfolio Management

Fusion Project Portfolio Management is designed to help customers optimize their project with the option of choosing from several applications: Fusion Project Performance Reporting, Fusion Project Contracts, Fusion Project Control, Fusion Project Costing, Fusion Project Billing, and Fusion Project Integration Gateway.

Procurement

Fusion Procurement offers tools and analytic features to help users optimize their spend analyses, sourcing, contract management, collaboration efforts, and more.

Competing in Commerce

Broadly speaking, from a buyer's perspective, e-commerce is increasingly becoming a part of the CRM picture beyond even the standard marketing, sales, and, customer service capacities, according to Bill Band, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Subsequently, the latest "Forrester Wave: CRM Suites for Large Organizations" slightly expanded upon its criteria to account for e-commerce capabilities in product suites.

"This speaks to the ATG [Art Technology Group] acquisition that Oracle made," Band comments. NetSuite, with its launch of Suite Commerce, is also a vendor that's vying for an excellent service experience on any device or channel and, perhaps more importantly, tying it back to CRM. "When we did our review, NetSuite was the only one [that] actually has a half-decent e-commerce capability that's pretty well connected with their CRM or ERP," Band says. "That's their strength."

"I don't think we can discount what IBM is doing with its Smarter Commerce initiative, or its acquisition path," Wettemann notes. "Today, what it has with Cognos Consumer Insight, Coremetrics, and Unica…they're the e-commerce backbone for an awful lot of companies out there."

IBM has positioned Smarter Commerce as a set of software services and offerings that will address the entire spectrum of enterprise commerce, as well as new ways to buy and sell as a result of social and mobile buying patterns.

But Oracle's spate of acquisitions—ranging from its purchase of knowledge management platform InQuira to Web experience management company FatWire—proves that it is committed to creating a real multichannel commerce experience.

When Oracle acquired e-commerce powerhouse ATG for $1 billion in 2010, the company padded its capabilities in content personalization, live help, merchandising, and automated recommendations, which it called "highly complementary" to its standing CRM, ERP, retail, and supply chain applications.

"Everybody's talking about multichannel today, but when you really think end to end—from marketing and customer loyalty to actually selling, whether it's to a consumer or a business, and then being able to support the service, Oracle really has a complete offering—the e-commerce piece being the really important [piece], which Oracle got with ATG," Wettemann says.

In October 2011, Oracle picked up Endeca Technologies, a provider of unstructured data management, Web commerce, and business intelligence solutions. Oracle said then that a combining of ATG Commerce and Endeca InFront would enhance the online customer experience by enabling cross-channel commerce.

Brian Walker, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, wrote in a blog post that Oracle's acquisition of FatWire had left one unanswered question on the table about customer experience management: "What was going to pull that all together with a strong, well-attributed, rich index of content, customer, and transactional data?" Endeca, he wrote, was Oracle's answer, since it was inherently complementary to ATG, Siebel, and FatWire.

This July, Oracle took its ATG and Endeca acquisitions a step further when it unified Oracle ATG Commerce and Oracle Endeca into an umbrella solution now known as Oracle Commerce.

"ATG has been a leader in the commerce platform world for many years, and Endeca has been the leader from a search and navigation perspective, as well as for some of its analytics capabilities," comments John Andrews, vice president of product management at Oracle. "We have a number of customers that were leveraging both platforms, and the value of each [individual solution] has been clear."

Endeca brought "the concept of relevance to the game," Andrews adds, which he says extends beyond standard search results to bring the customer the most relevant promotions or content in the form of user reviews, videos, or other attributes that continue a dialogue with the customer.

"Customers expect that if they walk into a store, [from which] they recently bought something on the Web, that the business has their information, knows who they are, and it should remember them and be able to suggest items they might like," he adds. "But they also don't want you to box them in too much. They want to know that they're still in control, but that the business is able to provide value no matter where they are."

Walker noted that while Endeca is inherently a B2C commerce solution, it also had a strong value proposition for B2B companies with "large, complex product assortments."

Experts maintain that Oracle will continue to focus on selling itself as a full solutions stack provider. "They're saying, 'Once you have a product from us, there's value in continuing to have products from us because the value of the integration of this data is now becoming more important than the bells and whistles of the data,'" explains Don Sweeney, managing director of packaged applications at Emtec, an IT consultancy and integrated solutions and systems provider. "They're buying products to maintain the [Oracle] footprint or increase the footprint within their clients."

And that footprint can run the gamut from financials to retail management, security or search software, human resources, or even social media, Sweeney says. "The core message that the Microsofts and Oracles are now bringing to the table is, 'We believe the value is in partnering with us as a technology stack and, soup to nuts, you should use our technology and tools.'"

Oracle realizes it's more important to own the value of integrated data and to provide a true, 360-degree view of that data than being, as Sweeney puts it, "really, really uniquely good in one area."


Contact the editor at editor@destinationcrm.com.


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