There are ERP screens for the way work normally gets done, and then there are the problems and exceptions that regularly crop up and inevitably add to the list of customizations and special reports that IT has to create.
Oracle this week introduced a set of 15 extension apps for its E-Business Suite aimed at promoting self-service and cutting way back on the IT to-do list. The new apps are known collectively as Oracle E-Business Suite Extensions for Oracle Endeca, and as the name suggests, they take advantage of the technology behind Oracle Endeca Information Discovery.
Endeca's sweet spot is information-driven navigation, a search-based approach that the technology supports by bringing together diverse data and helping users make sense of it all with tools and visualizations including faceted search, range filters, tag clouds, charts and key indicators.
In addition to bringing together all the structured data managed within E-Business Suite, the Endeca technology can also drill down into semi-structured attachments and documents, such as invoices, purchase orders and notes fields.
[ Want more on the Endeca technology? Read Oracle BI, Endeca Upgrades Stress Self Service. ]
The idea behind the optional add-on extension modules is to let business users zero in on those problems and exception conditions on their own without IT support. Users of the Oracle Order Management Extensions for Oracle Endeca, for example, can spot and expedite high-value orders, or they might drill down to find out more about product-quality or shipping problems, uncovering information that would otherwise be impossible to detect without laboriously traversing multiple screens or writing special reports.
"We have pre-aggregated information in the Endeca in-memory database that serves up things like summary totals on how many orders are late as a key indicator," explained Cliff Godwin, senior VP, Oracle Applications Development, in an interview with InformationWeek. "If there's a certain reason why orders are late, a tag cloud might display top causes, such as 'damaged during shipping.'"
These sorts of combinations of information are not pre-aggregated by E-Business Suite, so without the extension modules, IT ends up creating operational reports, according to Godwin.
Other domains addressed among the 15 extension apps include channel revenue management, procurement, project management, recruitment, discreet and process manufacturing, inventory management, and asset management. In each case, Oracle has done the work of selecting and integrating all the metadata that configures the key indicators, charts and attributes available for range-based filtering.
"We built all the [extract, transform, load] core required to take the underlying transaction information out of E-Business Suite and put it into Endeca," Godwin explained. "You don't have to know anything about star schema queries to get at what you want to know about buyers, customers, territories or products. Instead it's a matter of following progressive, faceted search paths that lead to the information you want."
The Extensions for Oracle Endeca also make use of the role-based access and security provisions already established in E-Business Suite and Oracle Fusion Middleware, according to Godwin. E-Business customers do not have to separately purchase Oracle Endeca Information Discovery. Each extension is a separately priced app that can be purchased individually. Pricing was not disclosed, but Godwin said it's based on per-processor and per-user metrics, making it practical to deploy a single app.
Oracle touts its modern Oracle Fusion apps as providing an exception-based, process-driven work approach that sounds akin to what's delivered by the extension apps. But Fusion ERP is just getting out of the gate, whereas E-Business Suite, JD Edwards and PeopleSoft customer counts number in the tens of thousands. It's easy to imagine this Endeca modernization plan growing and extending beyond E-Business Suite.