Getting To Fusion

Communication is the key for Oracle's relationships with customers.

One of Oracle's strongest achievements over the past year has been the introduction of Oracle Fusion Middleware, a crucial component of the overall Oracle Fusion application development infrastructure. Oracle Fusion Middleware—a set of leading, standards-based, and customer-proven software products that span a range of tools and services from Java Platform, Enterprise Edition, and developer tools to integration services, business intelligence (BI), collaboration, and content management—has been certified for Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise applications. This is a significant interim accomplishment.

Oracle has the intellectual and financial wherewithal to complete the Fusion effort, even as the jury remains out on the details and execution. My confidence is bolstered by knowing that my own implementation, along with the hundreds of other customer implementations, will be supported through 2013. It's encouraging to know that we won't need to rush into hasty decisions, which happens all too often when companies issue an aggressive cutoff date.

The Siebel acquisition is another area where customers can expect to see benefits. The impetus to move to an Oracle platform that can utilize an integrated suite of solutions, although not without its risks, has obvious advantages. The acquisition of Siebel gives Oracle a treasure trove of BI tools that could easily be enabled across multiple facets of organizations. With this one move, Oracle has developed additional penetration in the BI marketplace, where competitors are absolutely itching to find additional functionality. The Siebel acquisition makes Oracle the market-share leader in customer relationship management (CRM) software, and it closes the gap with SAP in the overall enterprise applications business.

But there's always room for improvement. It's apparent to me that the Oracle user groups and customers need greater baseline knowledge and awareness about what exactly is going on regarding Oracle Fusion and Siebel. While I see that Oracle is working hard to perform outreach, there is an overall lack of knowledge among customers who are not involved in the process and who are not participating in programs such as customer advisory boards.

It is also mandatory that the high-level Oracle Fusion application product road map comes down to a level that customers can grasp, and that includes conveying a strong understanding of what applications, features, and functionality customers can expect, along with approximate timelines during which these things will be rolled out. It is crucial that Oracle provide timely strategy and development information that brings the "50,000-foot vision" to a "rubber-meets-the-road" level. Customers have a number of decisions to make over the next year or two. Understanding, for example, how their enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is going to evolve—including how that evolution may affect the rest of their information technology infrastructure—is key.

While Oracle Fusion is a massive undertaking with considerable challenges, in the long term the vision to bring together the best human resources, CRM, ERP, and systems software in the industry and roll them up into a unified offering is a move I believe organizations will laud. To ensure that the company is on the right path, Oracle has enabled numerous mechanisms through which customers can provide input into the Oracle Fusion application strategy. First and foremost is recognizing the International Oracle User Council's Product Development Committee as a primary mechanism to receive customer and user-group feedback, and providing this committee with a direct link into Jesper Anderson (Oracle's senior vice president of applications strategy) and his organization. Funneling customer and user-group input through this channel provides customers with access, at the highest levels, to the Oracle Fusion development and strategy organizations.

As Oracle continues to refine Fusion, many customers will be able to engage in a true give-and-take with Oracle on its future direction. The greatest challenge for the company will be to engage those other customers—ones who aren't participating in the many customer advisory boards, umbrella user groups, and outreach programs that have been created for customers to provide input to Oracle.

In addition to his current roles as chairman of the International Oracle User Council (IOUC) and president of the Quest International User Group,John Matelski has been chief security officer and deputy CIO for the City of Orlando, Florida, for the past eight years.


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