Oracle Dives Into Retail Analytic Apps

The company's Retail Merchandising Analytics combines a prebuilt data model for building a data warehouse with predefined dashboards, metrics, and reports on various aspects of retail performance.
Breakthrough Technologies For Retailing
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The latest addition to Oracle's Business Intelligence Applications portfolio is Oracle Retail Merchandising Analytics, an industry-specific app announced on Wednesday. It's the first in a series of planned retail apps and a clear signal that Oracle will follow SAS and SAP into industry-specialized analytical applications.

Built on Oracle's Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition suite (OBIEE), Oracle Retail Merchandising Analytics combines a prebuilt data model for building a data warehouse with predefined dashboards, metrics, and reports on various aspects of retail performance, including sales, store operations, inventory turns, and profit trends. The app also offers guided analytics that help managers spot potential stock outs and plan merchandise reallocation, markdowns, and promotions.

The whole idea behind a prebuilt app is to provide a shortcut and faster time to value than customers could achieve with a build-it-from-scratch approach. The app is said to incorporate expertise and best-practice capabilities contributed by Oracle Retail, the business unit that now oversees acquired retail businesses including Retek, Profit Logic, 360 Commerce, and Advanced Visual Technologies.

The data model is an important starting point because it ensures consistent data from a source-independent data warehouse, which can be built on Oracle Exadata or an Oracle database used in a conventional hardware deployment. Otherwise, retailers tend to get different answers from different systems.

"System A calculates sales per square foot one way and system B calculates it another way, so having a common data model solves that problem," Dave Dorf, senior director of technology strategy at Oracle Retail, said in an interview.

Because the app is built on OBIEE, it can be customized and extended with various tools in the suite (data integration, dashboarding, report writing, and so on), and the app also takes advantage of the data-modeling environment and infrastructure capabilities including mobile delivery to iPhones and iPads (with tablet support added in the latest OBIEE release announced in early May).

Oracle's Business Intelligence Applications portfolio includes 18 apps, most of which came out of the Siebel Analytic Applications portfolio, which was acquired along with that company in late 2005. Oracle has added at least four apps since the acquisition, but the portfolio mostly addresses cross-industry, functional needs such as finance, HR, procurement, sales, customer analysis, and service.

With this week's announcement, Oracle is taking a vertical-industry path already taken by competitors including SAS and SAP. SAS, like Siebel, was an early proponent of analytic apps, but its portfolio of more than three dozen "solutions" is dominated by specialized applications targeting at least 10 different industries. There are seven apps just for retail, including allocation, customer insight, and price optimization.

SAP launched 10 domain-specific applications last fall, including Trade Promotion Effectiveness and On-Shelf Availability for consumer products companies, and Sales Analysis for Retail.

Oracle Retail Merchandising Analytics will be the first of several apps for the retail sector, Oracle said, with merchandising, supply chain, retail planning, and store execution apps planned for 2012 and beyond. Oracle declined to detail the costs of the retail merchandising app or to provide a precise roadmap for future application release dates.

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