It’s been a while since Oracle made the series of acquisitions that redrew the map on applications software, and they have been fairly successful there. The broadening of the portfolio created considerable challenges for the rationalization of Oracle’s BI strategy, and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Rodwick and Bill Guilmart, VPs of Product Management, to catch up on the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) story so far. We analysts are quick to criticize the pace of integration, the level of detail, and the timing of the roadmap from companies with enormous portfolios like Oracle’s. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to live every day with the consequences of my brilliant ideas about how to rationalize all those moving parts. (Remember those ads? “We don’t do. We just advise.”) Paul and Bill must live with theirs, and I was impressed with the clarity and consistency of the model they described to me. It’s a good story, with emerging successes in abundance, and the best may be yet to come.
When Oracle acquired Hyperion, the “Kennedy” release was close to delivery, and ultimately it arrived as EPM System 11 in July 2008. Later this year Oracle will release its Fusion edition of the BI family, and this is no small thing – over 40 products have already arrived in the Fusion Middleware 11g wave. Gartner has called it a “milestone” and agrees that it achieved its goals of being “complete, integrated, hot-pluggable, best of breed.” Participating in this well regarded family, which includes messaging, portal, business rules, CEP, BPEL process management and many other key components, creates an environment that will support and extend EPM reach in what will be called [deep breath] Oracle Enterprise Performance Management System, Fusion Edition Release 11.1.1. And further releases are in the pipeline for 2010 that will advance the ball considerably.
[Oracle] Essbase, the BI Server from Siebel, and a variety of predictive analytics pieces including the former Sigma Dynamics (now Real Time Decisions [RTD]) now make up the Foundation layer – which is among the soon-to-be refreshed elements of the portfolio and is to connect to “all relevant data sources” – including competing ones. Above that layer are two sets of applications, which see the content through a Common Enterprise Information Model. The first set, performance management (strategy management, business planning, profitability management, and of course financial reporting and compliance) is complemented by a growing set of BI applications. The latter include CRM and ERP analytics in 12 categories, and it gets more granular from there.
The devil’s in the details, and there are pieces here and there that aren’t working perfectly yet, I know – users occasionally explain to me why one that isn’t ready yet is a showstopper. But Oracle has been investing and delivering consistently to a clean and compelling model, especially when one steps up to the layer above, where an increasingly consistent set of UIs provides ad hoc analysis, reporting, role-based interactive dashboards, proactive alerts, and Office and Excel integration. Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Enterprise Edition (OBIEE, and did we ever need an acronym more?) had releases last August and in March of this year that increased the integration, and the way forward is clear.
Where the value gets delivered most rapidly to customers , and Oracle’s opportunities for a growing revenue expand, will increasingly be in BI applications. And Oracle has just delivered three new ones: Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, Oracle Loyalty Analytics, and Oracle Project Analytics. Looking at where these BI application offerings are available to the different Oracle enterprise application customer sets, there’s still a great deal of white space on the matrix – for example, JD Edwards customers are still waiting for most of the apps to show up for them, although Financial Analytics arrived recently.
Oracle shared some customer data, albeit under NDA. The news appears good, although a grain or two of salt must be taken until the cone of silence is removed and we can talk to more customers. Oracle asserts that migrations to the current version of EPM are complete for a sizable percentage of the customer sites. I believe that geographical distribution is good across NA and Europe, with APAC lagging somewhat (although momentum in Japan for BI seems good). Larger deals are a sizable percentage, and competitive replacements (mostly of SAP) are healthy. Sector distribution is also good, and the addition of dedicated sales resources is clearly having an impact. A progressively more experienced sales force is becoming more and more effective, and Oracle’s recent efforts in training will be leveraged as the sales specialists are given more products to sell. Oracle is well known for rewarding success with investment (and higher quotas) and BI and EPM are no exception. The pace of events and their penetration into new geographies is continuing to grow as results demonstrate their value.
I came away from my discussions with the best understanding I have had for some time of the way the pieces fit. Oracle has done an excellent job rationalizing it all – which is a boon to the sales and marketing teams who have to take it to the marketplace, of course. More important, Oracle is making the investments of its customers work together better, and beginning to deliver on the promise of a large portfolio: that together, the pieces deliver more value to the users sooner. There’s work to do – in production reporting, advanced visualization and mobile device support, for example. And Oracle needs to counter SAP Business Object’s thrust in search as a BI front end. But if history is any guide, the checkbook will open and some surprises will be in view soon.