By Greg Wilson
If you hadn’t heard, Oracle is making lots of noise about its integrated 11i E-business Suite. According to Oracle executives, 11i will allow businesses to web-enable their internal and external businesses processes rapidly without costly and complex customisation.
Gartner expresses doubts about 11i|~||~||~|If you hadn’t heard, Oracle is making lots of noise about its integrated 11i E-business Suite. According to Oracle executives, 11i will allow businesses to web-enable their internal and external businesses processes rapidly without costly and complex customisation. While competitors in the business application space are racing around forming alliances or acquiring smaller point solution vendors, Oracle is saying that it can do it all — from a company’s marketing efforts, sales force automation, manufacturing, financials, human resources and Internet business activities.Oracle’s integration message has already won some major accounts within the region, including organisations such as DIC, Emirates Airlines, Jeraisy, Dubai Duty Free and Merdal Cables all of which have completed or signed up for major 11i rollouts. However, Gartner Group has expressed doubts about Oracle’s top-to-tail integration message. An integrated solution may enable organisations to rollout solutions rapidly, but whether Oracle has the depth of functionality in its application suite to cover all an organisation’s needs is debatable. “I’m quite convinced that collaborative commerce is based on integrating things together, but I’m not sure that integration equals unique vendor,” says Maria Jimenez, research director, Gartner Group.According to Jimenez, Oracle’s straightforward integration message sits well with the CEO and CIO positions. The vendor is likely to emphasis the cost savings of standardisation and centralisation messages of 11i to senior executives that won’t look too long and hard at the actual functionality of the package.But says Ayman Abouseif, Oracle’s marketing director for Middle East & Africa the E-business Suite strikes a fine balance between functionality and integration. As businesses increasingly automate their processes they will need to share information across all areas of the businesses, and 11i enables as the whole suite is based on the same data model. “80% of the integration dream is there now. That is better than working to achieve integration in different areas of the business, only to find that overall the systems aren’t integrated,” says Abouseif. “All our applications are based on the same data model, which enables organisations to rapidly cross-business applications using and sharing data.” But even if 11i achieves 80% coverage of the required business functionality, if the remaining 20% relates directly to a key competitive area the benefits for the business will be diminished, warns a Gartner Group report.However, Oracle isn’t likely to join the race to buy point solution vendors, in an effort to reinforce its application portfolio. Any acquisitions will leave the software vendor with the task of integrating a ‘foreign,’ product into its singular data model, at the risk of diluting its integration story. “We’re not ruling out the possibility of acquisitions,” says Abouseif. “Acquisitions may fill a gap in a product portfolio. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t extensive work to be done to integrate [the technology with] the other products,” he adds.Other criticisms about the release of 11i have focused on the ‘buggy’ and inconsistent quality of the application suite. Timothy Tow, a Gartner Group analyst with the administrative application strategies service, blamed the flaws and Oracle’s emphasis on the application suite in its entirety as the reason for the slow adoption rate in Europe and the US since its launch in May 2000. Laurie Orlov, a Forrester analyst said the bug-list in 11i pushed out 5000-item patches within the initial six months of release, and noted particularly problems with payroll and order management.In Oracle’s defence Abouseif says the vendor has already fixed any significant bugs in 11i. Also he adds, the number of bugs across the entire 11i suite is comparative to the size of the software. “Considering the size of the software it had some bugs. 11i equals SAP, i2, Siebel and Ariba all rolled in together, so the initial release was bound to have a number of bugs.” Many of the bugs in 11i have come to light as customers have customised their application suite, something that Oracle does not recommend. “Those organisations which have done straightforward implementations have had less problems,” says Abouseif.However, at the recent AppsWorld conference in the US when Larry Ellison tried to blame 11i’s instability on end user customisation, it brought an angry reaction from industry analysts. Orlov’s recommendation to Oracle was simply, “less blame and more customer support.”||**||