Oracle has two main pillars on which its (future) business rests – dixit Larry Ellison: Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (including the Autonomous Database) and SaaS. In this article, I will relate some of the key announcement from Oracle regarding the business applications.
It is useful to realize that Oracle’s portfolio of business applications can be regarded in various ways.
There are horizontal applications – with generic functionality that is applicable to more or less every organization in the world. For example financial administration, human capital management or customer relationship management. The vertical applications are for specific – such as health care, energy upstream or dairy production. In this article we fill focus mainly on the horizontal applications – but please realize that Oracle offers dozens if not hundreds of vertical apps as well.
Another way to segment the applications is by their operating model. Some of the applications run on premises whereas others are offered in the form of SaaS. Note that the products that not offered as SaaS could still run on the cloud – but that would be on IaaS, managed by the customer. Oracle’s traditional horizontal applications – EBusiness Suite, Siebel, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards – are all non-SaaS and are typically run on premises. The Fusion Applications suite is a SaaS offering, as are tens of other products that Oracle has acquired over the years – for example BlueKai, Eloqua, Taleo, Vitrue, Involver and BigMachines.
The following is not an exhaustive list of acquisitions in the applications space (from https://www.oracle.com/corporate/acquisitions/)
One of the USPs that Oracle wants to leverage against the competition is the mutual integration between all these applications. The (implied) synergy from having various functional areas services by members of the same family – because obviously family knows how to talk amongst themselves. To some extent there is that synergy – but as much as you might expect from products from the same vendor or from listening to the salesman.
Fusion Applications and CX
Around 2006, Oracle started the development of Fusion Applications. The next generation business application. Leveraging the functional richness of EBS, PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards as well as the latest generation of (platform) technology – Fusion MIddleware. It took a while. And many things changed along the way. For example the emergence of the cloud. Then Fusion Applications were announced, launched and released finally actually implemented – over the period 2012 through 2016. Today, Oracle claims over 6000 customers live on – some aspect of – Fusion Applications. Oracle claims leadership in virtually every area of horizontal applications – except Sales & CRM where it defers to Salesforce.
Oracle proclaims its SaaS portfolio: “The World’s most innovative cloud applications suite”:
This statement arises in part from the cranked up release rhythm: once every quarter a new release is rolled out. With quick feedback loops. With the applications running on the cloud, Oracle is able to collect a lot of metrics (anonymized) on the usage of features and functions and it uses that information to drive, shape and prioritize innovation.
The key innovation themes are clearly stated and shine through in many of the new features announced. These themes are: IoT, Blockchain, AI/ML and Smart UI (powered by ML) – such as voice powered user interface and digital assistant with natural language based conversational style UI.
An example of what this innovation leads to is the Expenses Chatbot in SaaS ERP:
It allows employees to submit expenses through a mere photograph of a receipt. Using optical character recognition from scanning the receipt along with contextual information about the employee, her agenda, physical location, past behavior, the expense form is fully or largely completed automatically. Whenever possible, it is processed automatically as well – although it may engage the employee in a conversational dialog when company policies are not satisfied. This was demonstrated in his keynote by Larry Ellison.
Fusion Analytics Data Warehouse
The synergy or even the mutual acknowledgement of various Oracle products is not always obvious. However, the newly announced Fusion Analytics Data Warehouse is a nice combination of various technologies and products Oracle has at its disposal. It brings together Autonomous Data Warehouse which is preconfigured with database schemas for storing consolidated data from across various Fusion Applications products as well as predefined data integration (ETL) flows for populating the data warehouse. Additionally, Oracle Analytics Cloud is leveraged – prepopulated with relevant meta-data (describing business data objects) in the context of Fusion Applications as well as predefined dashboards and reports.
In Oracle Analytics Cloud, this is what Fusion Analytics Data Warehouse (a successor of sorts to BI Apps) looks like:
with many predefined visualizations for various business aspects for Fusion Applications:
Here an example of one of the dashboards – on this case for Campus Hire Performance:
This dashboard was predefined against data structures in ADW that were predefined and that are automatically populated. The business analyst using this dashboard to support her job did not have to configure, design, prepare or program anything. From this point onwards, the dashboard can be annotated or tailored.
After Oracle had acquired PeopleSoft (along with JD Edwards) and Siebel in quick succession, it made a strong gesture towards all customers of these products. Oracle made a pledge – referred to as Applications Unlimited – to not only honor existing commitments to the customers of these now acquired products but to step up the evolution and innovation. To continue with each product line indefinitely (or at least until 2030 as was later stipulated). It was critical that no customer would feel neglected and would be under the impression that Oracle wanted to migrate them away [to Fusion Applications] from their current product – as such an impression would open the door to other vendors.
Oracle certainly delivered on that promise. All products have evolved – some at a much faster pace than was the case under their previous owner. And for many years (in fact over a decade) there was not the slightest suggestion from Oracle that customers should consider moving away from their business application.
Until this year. Oracle has announced the Soar program.”The Last Upgrade you’ll ever do” [no threat intended].
With Soar, Oracle provides a clear path to the cloud. From EBusiness Suite and PeopleSoft and Hyperion to the cloud. Not to IaaS – but to SaaS. To Fusion Applications. So at long last Oracle tries to tempt customers to move from one product line to another. To the one that innovates fastest and will be there the longest.
Given the fact that Fusion Applications borrowed heavily in some areas from EBusines Suite (Financials, ERP) and in others from PeopleSoft (HCM) it is understandable that these are first Soar trajectories on offer. If the on premises EBusiness Suite or PeopleSoft instances are not riddled with customizations – which of course many are – then the upgrade to Fusion Applications in these particular areas could be relatively simple.
Oracle states that Soar comprises automated utilities that will move business data and presumably configuration (meta) data to SaaS. And Oracle has a proven approach – a step by step process that should bring customers within 20 weeks to SaaS – while the shop stays open obviously. When the upgrade is complete – Oracle suggests a substantial cost saving.
Oracle recognizes that fact that many instances have customizations and custom integrations, and offers (some) support for bringing over these to the SaaS environment. However, for many organizations it is important to very carefully assess the viability of this approach for their customizations. Oracle comments that because of the much richer functionality of Fusion ERP compared to EBusiness Suite, the need for customizations will be far less in Fusion ERP.
Additional tools listed for the Soar approach:
And more upgrade paths to the clouds are heading our way.
Note: to further sway organizations to adopt Oracle SaaS Fusion Applications, Oracle provided some details about how they are leveraging Oracle SaaS themselves to run their own business:
Second OOW 2018 keynote by Larry Ellison: https://www.oracle.com/openworld/on-demand.html?bcid=5853119603001 .
AMIS Oracle OpenWorld Review – Pillar 2 – SaaS – slide deck: https://t.co/PtJSBbNrC4