Global CIO: Oracle Product Chief Offers Glimpse At New Fusion Apps

Infused with new BI and collaboration functionality, the long-delayed apps can be mixed and matched with existing Oracle applications, says EVP Thomas Kurian.
"With Fusion, all we are saying is that you now have yet another choice, and Fusion was designed to exist with the Applications Unlimited product family—from Day One. Example: I'm a PeopleSoft HR customer, it's running fine, but I'd like to see if I'm paying the people in my organization for performance. Traditionally, that's a segment called Talent Management. So we have a Fusion Talent Management module that the Oracle Human Resources user group loves—they were super-concerned about whether this would mean that to get it, they would have to migrate their core HR system from PeopleSoft to Fusion, and we said, 'Of course not—why would we require you to do that?' You can choose to if you want to, but we're not going to force you."

Switching back to the products, here are Kurian's more-detailed descriptions of the new capabilities Oracle has woven into Fusion's apps—CRM, financials, and supply chain—to give them more business context and more real-time communications power. And while I think all of the new attributes he describes are important, my favorite is his rationale for the new financial tools and the profound changes he cites in what has become their fundamental purpose.

"In the past with applications like ERP and CRM, a big problem has been that you don't have BI where you need it, which is in the context of the transaction system. When you're doing a transaction, our question is, 'What do you need to know in order to do what you need to do?' " Kurian said.

"It's not the executives who need to know this information—it's the people who are every day working on the floors of the company: the manufacturing clerk who is running the shop-floor order-processing system–he needs to know what is the order backlog he needs to fulfill in order to be able to understand what's going on and where does he need to expedite fulfillment.So we built in these business-intelligence dashboards and tied them into the applications—it's very very fundamentally tied.

"Take ledgers: people asked us, why would you rewrite financial applications?" Kurian said. "The rules haven't changed since, oh, 1990—what do you think has changed in accounting that requires new financial applications? But in fact, something very fundamental has happened: it is not that the accounting rules have changed, but rather that how people run an accounting system has changed.

"If you look at Oracle, in 1990, we were a much smaller company than we are today, and we had about 2,000 people who touched our internal Oracle Financials implementation. Today, we have about 45—because 90% of these applications are automated through batch processes. So today, more people are using our financial applications as a reporting system—so we fundamentally changed how people can use the application so that when you come into work you don't have to say, 'Oh my God, tell me which accounting entries I need to pay attention to in my ledger today'—we tell you, 'Here are the pending transactions, here are their amounts, here are all the journals you need to close today, here are the tasks you're behind schedule on.' "

For CRM, a top Oracle priority was to raise the business value of the products by adding functions and insights that let customers not only manage their pipelines but also expand them, Kurian said, in part through the interlacing of collaborative tools.

"Traditionally CRM has been about managing a pipeline of opportunities. In Fusion, it certainly let's you do that, but it's also about helping you find and create opportunities. For example: territory definition tells you how many regions you have sales structures for, vertical or horizontal, which accounts get assigned to which territory, which sales reps get assigned to what territory, etc. etc. That process is very driven by business intelligence because if you put the wrong rep on the wrong account, no matter how many products you have that could be sold, the results are gonna suck. So there are a lot of key performance indicators that are 'hands off' for sales people and operations people doing that process—that allows you then to go to second phase.

"In this instance, you've got some data-mining and real-time-recommendation technologies that'll work off of your installed-base information and tell you, 'Hey, we've got 170 accounts that have Oracle Financials, and we noticed that 40 have purchased BI but 130 have not. And by the way, if you talk to them, you should be talking to them about the OLAP product because that's what most of them will want to stick in front of their general ledger. So it's basically what does for analysis of SKUs and who's buying what, but done for enterprise customers," Kurian said.

"And here's where collaboration comes in: you're a sales rep and you have been given a list of customers, and a dashboard with all the products that should offer good opportunities, and you see all that and say, 'By God, it'd be great if I could figure out two things: one, who are all the salespeople who've already sold this OLAP product into similar customers—I'd like to create an online workspace for them into which they can put their competitive-win documents , the quotes that they made, and be able to pick their brains about their successes.'

"In the past, you couldn't do that in a business application—you left that application to go into email. And two problems with that: all of that information that was secured in the application was then copied into email, which was not secure, and sent around to everybody. So you had this artificial picture where everyone felt, 'My God, my system is so secure,' when in reality 80% of the financial information was floating around on email. Plus, a lot of the customer-insight information that was in the CRM system was never made available to other salespeople, and you had to try to figure it out by going out of the application to email lists and other things. So we put this collaboration foundation out there to use the web as the medium for collaboration because that's where all the information already is and, frankly, where all the people are."

As we were winding things up, I asked Kurian how he'll manage to keep himself occupied once the Fusion apps are released.

"Oh my goodness, we have lots of things to do!" he said with a laugh. The youthful Kurian then pointed at his hair, which seems to be, well, not quite as dark as it was not so long ago. "I have an 18-month-old son, and I don't think I've gone gray because of him."


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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