Oracle Details Product Plans, but Fusion Questions Remain

By Staff Report

Nov. 5, 2006

Under fire for not saying enough about future product plans, HR software giant Oracle said plenty at its recent conference in San Francisco.

During its OpenWorld show late last month, Oracle provided details about the next versions of its Oracle E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft Enterprise products. The company also emphasized its Applications Unlimited program, a pledge made earlier this year to keep advancing various product lines.

But it said little about what to expect in Fusion, Oracle’s project to blend the best of various applications in a new product line.

Albert Pang, an analyst at research firm IDC, gives Oracle credit for clarifying its vision at the show. “It’s a major improvement over what it did last year,” Pang says.

But, Pang adds, Oracle has downplayed what features will go into the Fusion application.

“There’s still anxiety among the Oracle customers about what the Fusion strategy is going to look like,” he says.

In a statement, Oracle said it “communicates product road maps to its customers through a variety of channels.” Among those steps, the company said, is a set of 1,000 events around the world this year focused on applications.

Oracle and archrival SAP, both of which make software for a range of business tasks including human resources, are each seeking to dominate the growing HR software world. Meanwhile, a host of smaller players focused on “talent management” applications, such as recruiting and performance management, are growing quickly.

Oracle has expanded in recent years, in part through its acquisition of PeopleSoft in 2005. Its San Francisco show was its biggest ever, with more than 41,000 attendees and 1,400 sessions.

Among the improvements to E-Business Suite Release 12, Oracle said in a statement, are new capabilities planned in the Oracle Compensation Workbench tool that “show all forms of compensation for employees in a single place regardless of the employee’s geographic location.”

Among the changes in PeopleSoft Enterprise 9 is the ability to print electronic pay slips using the common PDF format. Currently, employees using PeopleSoft print those slips from Web pages that might not match up well to printers. Applause broke out in a session when an Oracle official described the check-printing change.

A document on Oracle’s Web site says Oracle will release Oracle E-Business Suite 12 and PeopleSoft Enterprise 9 this year. But during the conference, Oracle said E-Business Suite 12 is scheduled to be available within 12 months and declined to give details about the timing of the human capital management component of PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.

Attendees also didn’t hear many specifics about Fusion.

During one session, Oracle officials were asked about the road map to Fusion. Gretchen Alarcon, Oracle’s vice president of human capital management product strategy, responded that it was “too early” to spell out what will be included in Fusion HR applications. She said Oracle had concluded its “gap analysis” of the differences between its product lines and was in the midst of defining what the product should be able to do.

Oracle has said it plans to release initial Fusion HR applications next year and a full suite of products in 2008.

Ed Frauenheim

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