Data integration will be one of the major themes at Oracle's OpenWorld conference this week.
The conference itself integrates Oracle's previous applications conference, Oracles AppsWorld, with its technology conference, OracleWorld, into a single show. But if opening day is any indication, OpenWorld will focus more on the technology behind the applications than on the applications themselves.
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Oracle unveiled Business Intelligence 10g, a business intelligence architecture that rolls up numerous Oracle business intelligence point solutions into a single product.
Oracle BI 10g will include Oracle Discoverer, Spreadsheet Add-In, Warehouse Builder and BI Beans. Discoverer, a query, reporting and analysis tool, is in fact several years old. What is new about the package is its ability to access both relational and OLAP data.
According to Oracle's Steve Illingworth, senior director of business intelligence products, the challenge in business intelligence until now has been the need for IT to have different tools and skill sets to capture different types of data, put it into different data buckets and access it. "This is the first tool that goes against relational and OLAP data," he said.
But although Gartner research director Bill Hostmann gave Discoverer an overall thumbs up, he also said there was a big gap in its reporting capability. "Competitors like Cognos have an integrated reporting capability. Oracle will have to address that, but it is a big step forward."
Oracle Spreadsheet Add-In will give Excel users direct access to Oracle OLAP data and store the data in the database rather than on the local hard drive.
Oracle Warehouse Builder will generate the code to extract data from a variety of application data types, including SAP, Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2.
Oracle BI Beans are re-usable Java components that will give business users the same query and presentation interface, whatever type of data they are accessing.
The other news around Oracle BI 10g is the unbundling of the business intelligence tools from the application server. According to Hostmann, users will benefit from Oracle's ability to focus on business intelligence as a single product rather than part of a monolithic applications server package.
Oracle's CRM division also had news yesterday on integration. Last summer Oracle announced that its customer services components, Oracle Service 11i.10 applications, would share the same customer data with its CRM sales and marketing applications. In August, the company announced the integration of sales and marketing customer data.
Oracle Service 11i.10 now connects and shares data with other CRM applications, including marketing, sales, HR, supply chain and financial business systems.
Robb Eklund, vice-president of CRM applications marketing at Oracle, said companies were looking for new ways to reach customers with promotions and marketing campaigns in the light of growing "do not call' and anti-spam initiatives.
"By integrating marketing with service such as call centres and field service, companies will be able to upsell and cross-sell to drive revenue using the call centre," he said.
Eklund said Oracle could achieve a high degree of integration between these applications by building all of them on top of its database. "Because it can access all of a customer's information, a company can design personalised marketing programmes."
Yesterday, Oracle also announced a new spares logistics capability that integrates parts inventory with scheduling and human resources. With this capability a company could schedule on-site calls based on parts in stock and the skill level of the field service technician.
Oracle Business Intelligence 10g will be available in the first quarter of 2005. Oracle Service 11i.10 is available now.
Ephraim Schwartz writes for InfoWorld