A one-stop shop for e-business?

Oracle claims its E-Business Suite provides 75% of the functionality to run e-business.

Oracle claims its E-Business Suite provides 75% of the functionality to run e-business.

What is it?
Oracle Applications, now known as the Oracle E-Business Suite, is a set of enterprise software modules that includes Financials, Manufacturing, Human Resources, Order Processing, Internet Procurement and Project Management, with associated business intelligence tools. Most people specialise in just one module.

Oracle Financials was one of the best-paid skills of the 1990s. With freelance rates reaching £1,000 a day, many Oracle Applications specialists chose contracting over the well-paid security of permanent employment. During the past two years freelance rates have come down and, as new licence sales have slowed, the pool of skills has caught up with demand.

Oracle has adopted a high-risk strategy which could further depress demand and rates for integration and customisation skills. The company hopes to cash in on the backlash against the high costs and delays that dogged many enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects in the 1990s. It has upset former services partners by setting up a one-stop shop for software and services.

Oracle discourages users from customising Applications, and urges them to take the full integrated solution from Oracle rather than building it from best-of-breed applications. In parallel, it has launched a pay-as-you-go application service provider channel as an alternative to having in-house installations and Applications specialists.

Where did it originate?
Oracle's Applications division was formed in 1987. This caused friction with services companies, since application suites such as SAP and Peoplesoft often use the Oracle database. Former database partners are now competitors.

In 1999, Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison bragged that the next generation of Oracle Applications would be completely rewritten for the Internet, would be ready within 12 months, and would include supply chain planning (SCP) and customer relationship management (CRM).

AMR Research says, "Oracle 11i was rushed to the market much later than promised, with many gaps and bugs in the code. Newer applications - namely the SCP and CRM modules - also exhibited poor quality the company cannot continue to use its installed base as a step in its release testing process."

After much pressure from the Oracle Applications User Group, Oracle agreed that it will support Oracle 10.7 Applications until June 2003.

What is it for?
On its Web site, Oracle says, "The Oracle E-Business Suite is the only complete set of business applications that run entirely on the Internet, enabling you to cut costs across business intelligence, CRM, finance, human resources, professional services automation, supply chain management, and project management functions."

n What makes it special?
Oracle claims to have saved $1bn (£6.8m) using its
E-Business Suite. It says its software provides 75% of the functionality businesses need, and Oracle services teams can do the rest by "tweaking". But many among the huge Oracle Applications user base still buy best-of-breed applications from different suppliers rather than putting all their eggs in Oracle's basket.

How difficult is it?
Gaining any enterprise application skill involves weeks of expensive training. Recruitment consultancies advise you not to do this at your own expense, since you will need between one and two years' experience before your skills are marketable.

What does it run on?
Windows, Unix and Linux.

Where is it used?
In pretty much every kind of business and central and local government. Oracle claims to have 10,000 Applications customers.

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