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Oracle Adds Resources To Make Retek A Global Powerhouse

Oracle provides road map and timetable for integrating Retek software with its own applications.
Oracle laid out an 18-month road map late last week to beef up Retek's service and development capabilities by infusing it with resources it could never have afforded on its own. Oracle completed its acquisition of the retail-management application vendor last week after a monthlong bidding war with SAP.

Oracle-Retek, the combined retail business unit, will take advantage of Oracle's resources to give global customers, such as retail giant Tesco plc, around-the-clock technical support, quicker new-product rollouts, and new releases in 28 languages.

"We now can support customers in countries we've not been able to go to before; for example, places in Latin America such as Chile," says Duncan Angove, Oracle-Retek's chief strategy officer, noting that Retek previously released software in only three languages. "With limited resources, we've never been able to afford translating our products in Slovakian, for example, and those are some benefits we now see."

Customers can expect the first joint applications release in three to six months, Oracle says. Oracle-Retek will introduce combined enterprise applications for Retek Xi and Oracle 11/10 eBusiness Suite. A PeopleSoft and Retek enterprise application combination will follow in six to nine months. This will give customers enhanced back-office capabilities in corporate administration, real-estate management, and human resources.

"This is just what we're ready to disclose, but there'll be a lot more we'll layer on to that plan," Angove says. Long term, there are another 60 to 70 applications from Oracle, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, and Retek that the product-management team is evaluating.

One task facing Oracle-Retek is to combine Retek and Oracle applications on a common technology infrastructure such as the Oracle Database 10g and the Oracle Application Server 10g. Providing better applications for multistore and multichannel environments also means integrating Retek's point-of-sale, store inventory-management, and customer order-management applications with Oracle's assets and optimization, business-to-business sales, and E-commerce systems.

Oracle's worldwide resources also are expected to assist Retek with large-scale deployments that involve radio-frequency identification technology. Retek's warehouse-management application is being integrated with Oracle's RFID edge server to deliver on the promise of an RFID-enabled supply chain.

The largest global retailers driving RFID mandates are Retek customers. For warehouse management, process automation, and distribution, Retek is assisting Best Buy, the Department of Defense, and, as well as Tesco in the United Kingdom, Angove says.

"These are the largest guys driving the RFID mandates, and our applications are running their supply chains," says Tom Madigan, Oracle's VP of retail distribution and consumer products. "Many CIOs have been more concerned with the bells and whistles for RFID and have not paid attention to the huge data-management issues. They have huge volumes of complex data being pushed at them with no clear way of managing it."

Retek has had the process-automation applications to support RFID projects but lacked the middleware, data-management, and sensor-management infrastructure. That will change.

It's part of Oracle's strategy to build out a retail-focused product line. Oracle says it will increase capital investments for research and development to achieve that goal, but declined to provide financial details.

Angove did confirm that Oracle-Retek would move away from Retek's traditional product-development model where customers have historically funded new applications such as Inventory Optimization, Demand Forecasting, and Merchandise Financial Planning. Retek lacked the funds to successfully fund its own projects, so it turned to its large customers for financial help. Some customer-funded projects are still pending.

Oracle will complete the existing projects but discontinue that funding model. Oracle makes decisions about new features and capabilities with focus groups, agreed on by its advisory board, and supported and funded by license agreements. Madigan says Oracle will continue to work with "customers to make sure the direction is in line with their strategy."