Appsworld: Oracle to push users to upgrade

Oracle is expected to use its Oracle AppsWorld conference in San Diego this week to prod users to upgrade to the latest release...

Oracle is expected to use its Oracle AppsWorld conference in San Diego this week to prod users to upgrade to the latest release of its business applications.

But users and analysts said the software vendor also needs to appear more user-friendly in order to buff up its image with customers.

Oracle has no plans to make any major product announcements at the conference. Instead, the company will once again try to pitch users on the value of migrating to the Web-based E-Business Suite 11i applications that it released two years ago, said Fred Studer, vice-president of E-Business Suite marketing at Oracle.

Early iterations of 11i were plagued with bugs, and users also complained about customer service lapses. Oracle has largely stabilised the software and beefed up its ability to meet demands for technical support, according to users and analysts. Nevertheless, it may still have to confront some user concerns about upgrades at AppsWorld.

Oracle is also dealing with the lingering fallout from a lengthy feud with the independent Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) over the future of their separate application conferences.

In a survey of 139 OAUG members conducted by the user group and New York-based Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in December, 52% of respondents said they did not think Oracle was a customer-centric company.

"Oracle has to turn around its bad customer public relations regarding 11i and the OAUG," said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting. "I expect AppsWorld to be as much of a customer lovefest as Oracle can muster."

Donna Rosentrater, an OAUG board member, said she would not be attending AppsWorld but would be looking for Oracle to be more accessible to users and to do a better job of explaining how its new products can help meet their business needs.

To address such concerns, Oracle plans to emphasise customer success stories and highlight its upgrade assistance programs and technical education offerings at AppsWorld, Studer said.

About 1,500 users are actively running 11i-based systems, according to Studer. Another 3,000 are implementing the software or upgrading to it, he said. But fewer than half of the application users that make up Oracle's installed base have completed upgrades so far.

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