If there's one question that Jesper Andersen, Oracle's senior vice president for applications strategy, gets most often from customers, it's this. "They're asking me, 'Can you help me think about Fusion? Is it a big thing? Should I upgrade to it in 2008? Do I have to upgrade my entire suite of applications even if I'm running, say, [Oracle's] PeopleSoft HR and Oracle Financials today?'" Part of the reason for the questions, according to Andersen, is that Oracle's competitors are doing their best to get out there and talk more about Oracle's situation than they are about their own products. "They're telling customers that they should be very worried about what Oracle is doing. But the reality is, our customers should not be worried," Andersen emphasizes. "We've given our customers a very long lifeline of the current products. We intend to continue to develop them for a very, very long time."
Customer input and Oracle's continued development of its products are happening in parallel at Oracle these days, as development teams are focused on bringing together the best features of the products Oracle has acquired over the past two years as well as making sure that customers facing new challenges are getting the opportunity to provide input into the development project. "There's a lot of activity working with customers, because obviously you can't build products in an ivory tower. You have to talk a lot to your customers," says Andersen. "Over the last year or so, we've spent time at conferences and with customers. Our customers today are very comfortable with Fusion and understand that we're not forcing them to do anything. This is really giving customers an opportunity to leverage some of the innovation that's happened in this space."
Andersen, in some ways, exemplifies the spirit of Oracle right now. Danish by birth, Andersen worked at Oracle earlier in his career before joining a startup and then making a move to PeopleSoft—the same month that Oracle declared its intent to acquire the company.
"A lot of the credit for the smooth integrations we've experienced in development goes to John Wookey [Oracle's executive vice president for applications development] for integrating our teams. He doesn't have a 'not invented here' mentality, and so we've really taken what was best in all of the companies that we brought together. Overall, it's been a smooth ride," says Andersen.
But while Andersen's team is focused on the future, the present has not been forgotten. In April, at the Collaborate '06 user group conference, Oracle President Charles Phillips announced "Applications Unlimited," Oracle's program to ensure that customers get the best of both worlds—more value from their current applications, which will be enhanced indefinitely, and the option to upgrade to future technologies when the time is right.