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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.

Promising its new Fusion Apps will bring together for customers the formerly disparate worlds of transaction data, BI capabilities, collaboration insights, and business-process infrastructure, Oracle executive vice-president Thomas Kurian said customers will be able to mix and match the new Java-based applications with existing apps and will be under no pressure from Oracle to upgrade.

While Kurian would not say when the Fusion apps will be available, CEO Larry Ellison has said publicly that they'll be available in the second half of calendar 2010. Based on my own inferences from an hour-long conversation with Kurian at Oracle headquarters, I got the impression that if Oracle's going to meet Ellison's timetable, it's going to need every single one of the 183 days in that second half.

But since Oracle has already missed its original target date for the new apps by about three years, I don't think any customers are going to make final decisions based on whether the products become available on Christmas Day 2010 or Feb. 1 2011. Instead, that decision will be based solely on customers' perceptions of the level of business value within the new apps—and Kurian is confident that Oracle can deliver on that.

Saying that "some very important things have been done in every module of Fusion Applications to deliver really differentiated value propositions," Kurian highlighted those enhancements for Oracle's core horizontal application areas including CRM, financials, and supply chain.

"CRM is no longer just about managing the pipeline but about helping you create the pipeline and go all the way from assigning people to the right territories to managing their quotas and collecting sales compensation—so it spans the full process, not just the pipeline. With Fusion, we will help customers build new opportunities, not just manage old ones.

"In financials, customers will certainly get subledgers and general ledgers and everything, but it's not just about accounting rules any more—now, it's about how we handle using this infrastructure as a centralized reporting system for the entire company.

"And in supply chain management, order-management is one of the most-complicated processes in companies today, and that's because all the software vendors—Oracle, SAP, and everybody else—tie the order-management flow and process directly to the instance in which they're capturing orders," Kurian said, noting that orders come in by phone, fax, online, and in person.

"This is an incredibly common problem: all companies that run multiple order-capture systems have this problem that the visibility of inventory, the ability to do availability-to-promise, and the ability to centralize order-management processes is impossible because it's tied into the order-capture system. With Fusion, we have a new module called Distributed Order Fulfillment which handles this."

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More on those new capabilities in a moment, but on top of Fusion's new functional capabilities comes a new and almost leisurely approach (ha!) from Oracle in allowing customers to ease their way into the products in a low-pressure fashion that facilitates the mixing and matching of new apps with old, Kurian said.

"We wanted customers to not be afraid of Fusion. So from day one, we have said that customers who are on Oracle's existing product lines—Peoplesoft, Siebel, E-Business Suite—if you're a guy who came in from a product line like PeopleSoft or Siebel, you can say, 'Hey, I only care about that one product line—I don't want to talk to you about anything else.' Fine—and we'll give you new releases that are easy to uptake," Kurian said.

"Another alternative is somebody says, 'Hey, I just have one of your product lines, and I didn't realize you guys have all this other stuff. Can I pick up a couple more pieces?' "

Kurian noted that 70% of Oracle's current apps customers are on releases that have been shipped in the last three years, which he says is an indication that customers are comfortable with Oracle's overall upgrade program. On top of that, he said, about half of that 70% that have upgraded have also added at least one new module from a different product line, which Kurian says makes him confident that many customers looking at Fusion will at least consider expanding their reliance on Oracle's new apps.

Here's how he described the new and nicer Oracle approach:

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