Oracle Lays Out Roadmap For Application Suite

Oracle laid out today the details of its Oracle 11i application suite, which adds new application modules and integrates enterprise resource planning, customer-relationship management, supply-chain, and E-business applications on a single database.

The new release, unveiled at the Oracle Applications User Group conference in Orlando, will do away with the company's separate releases for ERP and CRM. By linking all applications together, the vendor says, companies can get a complete view of company operations and customer interactions. "The rhetoric of a 360-degree view of the customer finally becomes a reality," says Mark Barrenechea, senior VP of Oracle's CRM products division. A customer transaction conducted with a salesperson, for example, is immediately available to ERP and supply-chain applications.

One of the biggest additions to Oracle's application lineup is Oracle Internet Order Management, which forms a linchpin between E-commerce, CRM, and supply chain. The application will guide customers through the Web purchasing process, then accept orders from both Web sites and sales representatives. Once the order is placed, the system will give customers product-arrival information and move the order into supply chain planning and logistics applications.

Coupled with order management is an enhanced supply-chain management suite. The suite pulls together applications that have traditionally addressed only individual links of the supply chain, such as demand planning, logistics, and manufacturing resource planning. "You can have one planning engine handling the whole supply chain problem," says Ron Wohl, senior VP of Oracle Applications Development. By pulling all of the pieces into one supply-chain engine, companies can use one system to collaborate with business partners and make planning decisions that factor in such variables as location, materials, time, and availability.

The vendor also announced a business intelligence suite revolving almost entirely around customer-relationship management, including Marketing Intelligence, Customer Intelligence, Sales Intelligence, Call-Center Intelligence, and E-commerce Intelligence. The suite will analyze sales and marketing campaign success, customer cost and profitability, sales pipelines, and customer service, allowing companies to not only track what customers have done, but also why they did it. Analysts say it's critical for CRM vendors to focus on analytic applications, not just the operational applications most currently have. "Companies can improve their customer activities through business intelligence," says Steve Bonadio, an analyst with the Meta Group.

Other pieces of the release include Internet self-service applications for accounts receivable and integrated travel and expense reporting; an Internet portal that lets customers view all their interactions with a company; Internet business practices that would, for instance, compensate salespeople for purchases their customers make over the Internet; an architecture that will let businesses run global application operations on a single central data store; and a new user interface.

Despite the new features, analysts' enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by the timing of the release. It was originally intended for a fourth-quarter release, but has slipped to the first quarter for financials, projects, human resources, supply chain, and manufacturing; and the second quarter for the CRM and order-management applications. "That's a significant deviation," Bonadio says. Oracle says, however, that the pivotal order management application was actually intended for Oracle 12, so customers will be able to buy it sooner than anticipated.

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