Making Enterprise ChoicesBy David A. Kelly
Pick the Oracle applications you need, when you need them.
New standards, new business pressures, and the need to deliver continuous value are redefining the benefit of enterprise application upgrades and new integration approaches. Oracle customers can choose both a road map to a new generation of enterprise applications in the Oracle Fusion Applications future and specific, continuous upgrades and enhancements that deliver new technologies today.
"A lot of customers have had a desire and need to integrate systems for a very long time, but up until the last year or so, it's been very hard to do in a scalable and cost-effective way because of the lack of standards," says Jesper Andersen, senior vice president of applications strategy, Oracle. "But now with service-oriented architecture [SOA] and the way that Oracle is embracing it, it's become a much easier goal to achieve."
One way to achieve integration is through upgrading. With investments in SOA and other standards-based technologies, customers get new functionality and greater (and easier) integration choices with every Oracle application upgrade. In addition, upgrades let organizations leverage standardized best practices and eliminate customizations from older versions. "By upgrading, organizations can take advantage of new technologiesfrom Oracle Fusion Middleware, including SOA and identity and access managementthat are integrated into newer versions of Oracle Applications," says Andersen. "In addition, customers have the security that the solutions they're investing in now will move them along the path toward Oracle Fusion Applications."
Oracle Application Integration Architecture helps this process because it leverages all the thousands of Web services that Oracle has built into its application products. "It defines the objects that you are integrating acrossfor example, a customer object, an employee object, a product objectas XML datatypes," says Andersen. "That makes everything transparent, standards-based, and highly extensible, which is really the key to Oracle Application Integration Architecture. That's what a customer's looking for in integrations. And that also gives customers a much more evolutionary ability to approach Oracle Fusion Applications."
Focus on the Customer
For some companies, the need for greater application integration capabilities and faster rollout of new functionality comes from the requirement to focus on the customer. And Oracle Fusion integration technology is a way to drive more value from existing applications, says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research, Nucleus Research, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. "In some cases, it's providing access to a broader set of users. In other cases, it's providing access to those outside the organizationfor example, to streamline collaboration and communication all across the supply chain," she says.
Easier Upgrades, Customization
For many companies, upgrading their application portfolios involves making decisions around previous customizations to those applications. However, more companies are looking at application upgrades as a great time to re-evaluate customization requirements and potentially streamline their installation as well as reduce their maintenance requirements.
Take the example of Roll International, a private holding company based in Los Angeles, which owns several businesses, including Teleflora, Fiji Water, and Paramount Agribusiness (a California grower and processor of nuts, citrus fruits, and pomegranates).
"We're actively looking at our deployed solutions and trying to move everyone into organic functionality within Oracle to reduce support requirements for the applications," says Frances Carlson, senior manager, information technology, Roll International. "But in addition, from a growth and stability standpoint, as well as looking down the road at Release 12 and [Oracle] Fusion, it makes it easier for us to upgrade and keep the applications current as well as leverage new functionality more efficiently."
With operations around the world and 24/7 requirements, simplifying makes a lot of sense. Roll is starting with a leg up, since even with a variety of companies, it runs a global single instance of Oracle On Demand (Release 11.5.10 of Oracle E-Business Suite) for all its users.
The company depends on the full range of Oracle E-Business Suite functionalityfrom financials through order management, purchasing, discrete manufacturing, and more. In addition to Oracle E-Business Suite, Roll also uses Oracle Discoverer, Oracle Business Intelligence, and Oracle's Siebel applications.
"When we moved to 11.5.10, there was more functionality available that wasn't previously available, which meant that there were some customizations that we could absorb," says Carlson. "Fewer customizations means less maintenance, more stability in the system, and a decreased total cost of ownership. We also gain better reporting because all of the data is in the system instead of other databases."
Like many companies, Roll International has built up numerous custom-built interfaces for its enterprise applications. However, as part of its IT planning process and its migration to Oracle On Demand, the company has begun to take a closer look at those interfaces. "We are identifying and targeting specific business processes and taking a look at the latest version of Oracle E-Business Suite, trying to make life easier," says Carlson.
Taking advantage of advanced Oracle On Demand services, Roll has partnered with Oracle over the entire software ownership lifecycle to help realize its vision for IT and for Roll's businesses. In addition to improving business processes, using the best practices and business processes within Oracle E-Business Suite helps Roll reduce risk.
"Right now, any time we make a change for one business unit, we have to regression-test everything to make sure we don't adversely impact the other two businesses," says Carlson. "By reducing the complexity and number of customizations, we can stabilize and reduce risk in our environment better."
Because of Roll's corporate structure, Carlson needs to be able to provide optimal support for Roll's individual businesses as well as application environments that are optimized for each company's needs. For Carlson, that means that some of the businesses may be on different versions of Oracle E-Business Suite and even different sets of applications. Thus, the future release of Oracle Fusion is an important consideration for Roll.
"I think [Oracle] Fusion will be important for us because we may be looking at using Siebel for one of our business lines and perhaps PeopleSoft for another," says Carlson. "We're always looking at new and different ways to leverage our applications to support the business and help it grow."
Upgrading the Business
Whatever upgrade and integration strategy a company needs, for Oracle the ultimate goal is to give companies the choices they need to foster growth.
"The key is that Oracle's strategy is an evolutionary strategy and a strategy of choice," says Oracle's Andersen. "Our customers can choose to stay on the existing product lines they've already invested significantly in, and we will continue to bring them incremental improvements that get them closer to Oracle Fusion. But they also have the option of moving to the next-generation, standards-based set of Oracle Fusion applications once these become available."
These kinds of choices are especially important for companies that have unique business modelsespecially since having a unique business model doesn't make your IT requirements any simpler. Just ask Rackable Systems. Unlike competitors that sell off-the-shelf systems, Rackable Systems specializes in highly efficient, cost-effective, build-to-order x86 servers and storage customized for each customer's unique data center needs. It's a sound business strategy but one that puts added pressure on ITwith a clear need for an application stack that's flexible enough to handle its specialized business processes.
"We needed a CRM [customer relationship management] solution that would be comprehensive and that would integrate with Oracle E-Business Suite," says Dominic Martinelli, vice president of information technology at Rackable Systems. As a result, Rackable Systems chose Siebel CRM On Demand for its entire sales team.
The company's need to integrate its business processes across applications led to the choice of Oracle Application Integration Architecture. Powered by Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Application Integration Architecture provides organizations with prebuilt integrations and business processes that bridge traditional operational silos and applications. For this fast-growing server and storage provider, that meant a prebuilt integration between Siebel CRM On Demand and Oracle E-Business Suite.
"We have a very small IT staff with a limited budget, so we needed something that would be very easy to use, easy to maintain, and easy to customizebut also fully integrated with [Oracle] E-Business Suite," says Martinelli. "Oracle Application Integration Architecture was the best choice to allow us to do that."
David A. Kelly (email@example.com) is a business, technology, and travel writer who lives in West Newton, Massachusetts.