Oracle Re-Enters BI Market Seeking Leadership Position - InformationWeek

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Oracle Re-Enters BI Market Seeking Leadership Position

Acquisition of Siebel brings new BI technology, applications and strategy.

VentanaMonitor™

Summary
Oracle has announced the Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Suite, which includes the recently acquired Siebel Business Analytics products. Oracle now has a large collection of disparate products that it is assembling into packages as part of its Oracle Fusion middleware strategy. Before examining this package, organizations should decide whether they need to reconsider their BI strategy and suppliers. Oracle unquestionably has a substantial portfolio of BI products ranging from database, application server, BI platform and tools to applications, but Ventana Research advises potential customers to monitor its execution on its product integration roadmap.

Assessment
Oracle made a splash celebrating its new BI Suite, which contains the recently acquired Siebel Business Analytics products. The BI Suite groups products from four categories: Oracle Fusion middleware, Oracle Database, Siebel Analytics and Oracle Applications. Reluctant to leave any technology behind, Oracle has chosen to continue to develop and support Oracle Discoverer and Oracle Reports and cover them under the lifetime warranty and maintenance plan it calls Protect, Extend, Evolve. Oracle now presents a three-pronged BI product strategy that includes creating an integrated set of BI platform and tools, a BI-empowered database and analytic applications.

Oracle will build its BI tools strategy on the Siebel Business Analytics platform and complement it with other technologies from the Fusion platform. The company has lined up a 12-step process for the full use of BI: model, integrate, analyze, visualize, publish, collaborate, monitor, compare, predict, sense, respond and secure and manage. This new analytic platform from Siebel has been test-driven in business and IT organizations over the last three years, and we see it as a critical technology for Oracle's BI success.

The company says it will integrate its event and data architecture into the platform to support traditional analysis, business activity and process analysis. In fact, though, Oracle still has to decide what to do to bolster its enterprise reporting technology; Oracle Reports has not been as successful in the market or as widely adopted as reporting software from other vendors. Siebel's previous relationship with Actuate could provide the platform with the depth in enterprise reporting that most global organizations require, but it is not currently part of Oracle's BI strategy.

Oracle Fusion's strategy for analytic applications is focused in three areas: corporate performance management, interactive dashboards and embedded analytics. These categories of applications will span industries and organizational functions and eventually, when the integration is complete, will compose a common information model. Unlike Siebel, which did not emphasize how its applications could enable performance management processes, Oracle makes this a key piece of the applications strategy. The company asserts it can serve both finance and operations and support critical applications such as profitability analysis and scorecards. The interactive dashboards and embedded analytics can be found in existing Oracle, PeopleSoft and Siebel transactional application product lines and also will be in the future Fusion platform and applications.

Oracle BI will continue to change substantially over the next few years as the company integrates pieces into the Oracle Fusion platform and applications. For 2007, it is planning new releases of the analytic applications for performance management that should add value to customers' existing investments in transactional applications. It has a very aggressive product roadmap and schedule for integration, platforms and applications that, if it delivers on them, could change the BI market. However, much is uncertain, and we lack sufficient information to judge how these changes will impact clients' existing investments or to what extent it will influence future ones. Ventana Research believes that Oracle will need to demonstrate that it can successfully integrate and expand on Siebel Business Analytics; only when it does so can it build trust with current and potential customers.

Market Impact
Oracle has invested in BI for well over a decade, but its past investments did not result in great market success. Now it must position its broad collection of products in ways that respond to the market's demand and timing. Several factors are critical to Oracle's near-term success. It must keep and use effectively the infusion of talent from Siebel. It must demonstrate leadership with a marketing, sales, product and services organization that is dedicated to BI that is just coming into being. Oracle is not Siebel; Tom Siebel's company found success by building such a dedicated organization rather than merely through integration into others' databases, tools or applications. In this regard, Oracle, SAP and others have fallen short in the past. Oracle historically has been late to market with BI products and uneven in delivering the degree of usability that many global organizations demand, which is why they continue to purchase BI from dedicated providers.

Oracle's disparate BI products have varying degrees of integration into its core architecture. Just as Business Objects encountered when it acquired Crystal Decisions and Oracle did in buying IRI Software in 1995, there are always challenges in integrating people and technology into a new organization. Market leadership requires not a list of product offerings but rather innovative technology and execution in the field. Oracle now finds itself with formidable competitors in SAP, Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion, MicroStrategy and even Microsoft, and will have to convince large organizations that they should trust Oracle for enterprise-wide BI.

Recommendation
The strategy organizations should build for managing information and master data should be a solidified approach that can leverage existing investments. In considering Oracle for BI, organizations should not only investigate its future roadmap but also consider Oracle's history of absorbing acquisitions. Ventana Research believes companies' BI strategy should be independent of their application server and transactional applications to minimize the risk of dependencies and potential delays in deployment and usage by business. Oracle is an embryonic stage in its adoption of BI as a strategic component of the overall business. Nonetheless, this could become a significant element of its business and deliver sophisticated technology for enabling companies to manage their performance.

About Ventana Research
Ventana Research is the leading Performance Management research and advisory services firm. By providing expert insight and detailed guidance, Ventana Research helps clients operate their companies more efficiently and effectively. These business improvements are delivered through a top-down approach that connects people, process, information and technology. What makes Ventana Research different from other analyst firms is a focus on Performance Management for finance, operations and IT. This focus, plus research as a foundation and reach into a community of over two million corporate executives through extensive media partnerships, allows Ventana Research to deliver a high-value, low-risk method for achieving optimal business performance. To learn how Ventana Research Performance Management workshops, assessments and advisory services can impact your bottom line, visit www.ventanaresearch.com.
2006 Ventana Research

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