Oracle has taken a major step towards providing a fully integrated front and back office applications suite by launching Oracle Applications 11i at its Applications’ User Group conference in Orlando, Florida on Monday.
So far, Oracle is the only vendor to make this degree of progress towards application integration, with others focusing on either integrating third party packages or providing loose links to technology they have acquired.
And the release also goes some way to answering critics who were scathing about the lack of usability of the firm's customer relationship management (CRM) 3I packages. Customers will have to wait until the second quarter of 2000 to see the offering, however, rather than the end of this year as was originally promised.
Jyoti Banerjee, chief executive of UK based TBC Research, said: "I was pleasantly surprised. For once, it appears that Oracle has listened to its customers and is delivering what they need. This is a marked difference to the past."
A particular bugbear that Oracle has promised to rectify is order fulfilment tracking and management - a key component that requires tight front and back office integration. Although this was originally scheduled for later release, it will now ship at the same time as the rest of the 11i suite.
But Oracle has also given its packages a Web browser front end and plans to present them to users via role based ‘portlets.’ The approach is similar to that proposed by SAP with its mySAP.com initiative, which was announced at its Sapphire user conference earlier this month.
Josh Greenbaum principal consultant at Berkeley based Enterprise Applications Consulting, said: "Oracle has done a good job of defining how the Internet is changing business practices for both CRM and ERP, and how its applications and technology can leverage the Internet for global companies."
While Oracle may be jumping on the portal bandwagon, it is not being as aggressive about it as SAP, which believes it has a right to own the desktop. Today, Oracle's portlets are derived from content that comes from its own 70 applications rather than third party information.
Gary Pugh, Oracle UK's dataserver marketing manager, said: "The proliferation of Web sites within organisations is out of control. Users don't know where to start. Oracle’s Portal Framework brings order to the chaos and, through portlets, gives users a single view into all the applications and information they need to do their jobs."
It is understood that Oracle has about a dozen global customers acting as beta testers for its new suite.
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