Friday, August 29, 2008

Fusion Applications Seen Up Close

I took a day trip up the coast to Oracle HQ today. The purpose of the trip was to attend a special demo of Oracle Fusion Applications; a capstone to the Oracle Fusion Project Portfolio Management Design Validation project Oracle conducted with a small group of customers, including the Jet Propulsion Lab. I saw up close what will eventually evolve into Fusion Applications Version 1.0. Not a PowerPoint deck of slides, not non-functional or semi-functional prototypes, but the real honest-to-goodness applications. Not in a live production environment, but a live demo environment...akin to the "Vision" demo instance for the E-Business Suite. I witnessed execution of transactions, data input, and drill-downs from analytics into transactional detail. Some observations I made and conclusions I drew as a result of today's experience:
  • Fusion Applications are real...period. If you read anything about "vaporware" or "not real" or "far from completion", recognize it for what it is...baloney. If I were numbering my iterations or versions prior to a 1.0 release, I'd put what I saw today at roughly about version 0.7 or 0.8 ...but that's strictly a rough, speculative guess on my part, and is definitely not the means by which the Fusion development team is tracking their progress (By the way, I have nothing to share on actual progress against plans or release dates. If I had it to share, I would...but I don't, so I won't. There's enough speculation on the release date and plans without me pouring any more fuel on the fire).
  • Although the user interface is different from anything we've seen before, it's very intuitive. In addition, although the information presented through the user interface varies from application to applications, the manner in which the user interface works is fairly consistent across applications. It's definitely next-generation in terms of the way users will relate to the applications.
  • There is a big emphasis on Web 2.0 concepts: easy collaboration and communication by enabling networking (instant chat and discussion boards across social and organizational boundaries, pushing out information (especially in the form of embedded analytics) you care about where you care about it, RSS feeds on changes and transactions (which allows a user to track activities in a browser without ever logging into Fusion Applications) and leveraging tagging of business objects to arrange data in all sorts of ways according to categories or groups that are important to you and your enterprise. I was especially astounded by the number of times during the day that I tied features in Fusion Applications to something from the Oracle AppsLab (things that Jake blogged on or Paul wrote about or "gee, that looks a lot like some of Rich's work from Oracle Mix" - somebody in Fusion Applications development must be watching what these guys do and share)...very cool to see the results of the synergy there. For example, users can graphically depict networks within and across organizational stovepipes (Fusion Applications refers to this as a "Social Mesh"), depicting who is working with who and what they're working on. As a project manager, where the success of my project often hinges on good communication between the right people to determine the right course of action, this functionality will be invaluable in identifying the right people for a given situation. Personally, I could use this functionality right now.
  • Speaking of synergy, the synergy between the E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, and Siebel is also very apparent, particularly in business processes and applications functionality. Although Fusion Applications is much more than a "conceptual mash-up" of Oracle's various applications product lines, it's obvious that the development team took the time to bring together the best features, processes, and lessons learned from the existing application product lines.
  • One more important point I need to share out here: many users, including me, were under the impression that Fusion Applications will rely on a "pillar" database architecture (a concept from the PeopleSoft space that roughly equates to one database instance for each application in an application suite - one for HR, one for Projects, one for Financials, and so on). In fact, I've built a strategic plan for JPL's institutional business systems around this understanding. However, it turns out that it's not true. An upgrade from the E-Business Suite, which is based on a single database instance for all apps in the suite, to Fusion Applications will result in one database instance for Fusion Applications. However, EBS users can opt for a pillar architecture if desired. In additon, those organizations currently utilizing the pillar architecture will have the option to retain that architecture in an upgrade to Fusion Applications.
  • After today's session, it's fairly obvious to me that Fusion Applications won't be for everyone. Progressive companies, agressive IT departments, collaborative enterprises, cutting edge organizations...they'll be the organizations best suited to drive value by leveraging the next-generation features of Fusion Applications.
  • It's also fairly obvious to me that nobody should put their business and IT initiatives "on hold" to wait for Fusion Applications. Using Fusion Middleware to extend the functionality of your current applications not only will yield value in the present, it will also help your enterprise evolve toward readiness for Fusion Applications.
So, there ya go...that's how I spent my day. Want to know more? Have questions? Maybe a better story on Fusion Applications? Hit me with a comment.

14 comments:

George Mitchoms Blog said...

Floyd,

If a customer is currently 'looking' at deploying a new crm application should they wait for this fusion app you are referring to? Or just continue looking into something like Siebel?

Also, do you knwo if Oracle is planning any sessions around this at open world that would interest business managers not techies?

thanks,
george m

fteter said...

@george_mitchoms_blog: George, if I had a strong business case for implementing CRM now, I'd look hard at Siebel. I would not recommend waiting for Fusion Apps if you have a compelling need for CRM functionality now.

There are quite a few good sessions at OOW this year directed as business managers. If you have specific things in mind, throw me an email (fmteter@hotmail.com) and I'll try to point you at some good sessions.

Ted Simpson said...

Thanks for this post, Floyd. Evolution is a funny thing. I run a PeopleSoft shop and we have the pillar architecture you describe (sorta: we do have a combined Campus Solutions/HCM db -- but distinct for Enterprise Portal and Financials). Since we have gone up to higher applications and tools versions we have done so much more database linking for interfaces (and will be doing much more soon) that we are breaking out of those pillars. That has been driven by the flexibility of the applications for sure and it sounds like fusion apps will continue to drive that. Thanks again, this is very informative.

Anonymous said...

If you did one instance for all apps, you would probably be using Oracle Real Application Clusters.

fteter said...

@ted simpson: Good story...thanks for sharing. I think flexibility is Oracle's direction in general. The challenge for users may very well be which option to choose from among many offered by Oracle.

@anonymous: I think you're probably right - there seems to be an underlying assumption of some type of distributed model (RAC, grid, zones, whatever...) with most apps suites, whether it be Fusion Apps, EBS, PeopleSoft, SAP, or most other major, scalable offerings.

Anonymous said...

What concerns me is whatever product Oracle Fusion Applications will be, the upgrade from ebusiness suite 11.5.10 or 12 will be so difficult and costly (all specific development to re-write), that many companies will choose to migrate towards SAP.

fteter said...

@anonymous: I think the level of difficulty in migrating from EBS (or any other apps suite, for that matter) will vary from customer to customer. The volume, complexity and criticality of customizations will likely determine the level difficulty in upgrading. Personally, I can't imagine a case in which an upgrade to Fusion Apps would be more difficult and costly than migrating to SAP (or any other alternative).

The big trick here is to determine what the business value for your organization is in upgrading, catalog the challenges for your organization in upgrading (which means you must know your customizations), and perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether or not the upgrade makes sense for your organization. Different organizations will get different answers.

Finally, let's also keep in mind that the upgrade is not mandatory. Any current Oracle apps customer can stick with their current product line under the Apps Unlimited concept.

Steve Canter said...

Floyd,

I think that you may be operating under a slight misconception on the PeopleSoft pillars. You had stated "...one for Financials, one for Projects..." which infers that the number of pillars is larger than it really is. For example, all of Financial/Supply Chain (including projects) is in a single instance. There are a few others such as HCM and CRM.

So, for example, a manufacturing company running a full suite of supply chain and financial applications, but without CRM and HCM, would only have one instance. There is no out-of-the-box functionality to have those applications in separate instances.

David Haimes said...

Floyd,

Great review, glad you liked what you saw.

fteter said...

@steve canter: Thanks for the clarification. Didn't really mean in infer a one-to-one relationship between pillars and apps families, but what I wrote certainly sounds that way...thank you for clearing things up.

psRoy said...

Did you get a chance to look under the hood? Does it look anything like PeopleTools or more like Java? I am particularly interested in the effect on the PeopleSoft realm. Will Fusion lead to a drop in younger workers willing to learn PeopleTools? I read recently that the bulk of engineers will soon be either 60 or 20. Is PeopleSoft headed in the same direction?

fteter said...

@psroy: Oracle's stated in the past that PeopleTools won't play a role in building or extending Fusion Applications. I saw nothing to contradict that stated direction.

Ron said...

Great blog. Would love some insight on the HRMS space. We have a client we're helping select a new HR system. After speaking with Oracle, they tell me they are pushing the Peoplesoft HR suite to all new customers (not ERP targets).

Having some previous (bad) experience with the Oracle HR suite at a previous company do you see this as a stepping stone for newer customers to get acclimated with the fusion suite; meaning Peoplesoft functionality will ultimately trump Oracle HR?

fteter said...

@ron: Glad you like the blog.

So far as HR, I've always felt that PeopleSoft's strongest point was with HR. If your client's business case is centered around driving value in HR, you can't go wrong by suggesting PeopleSoft as a potential solution...regardless of their plans for Fusion Apps.

In terms of the Fusion Apps, the demos I've seen included quite a bit of PeopleSoft HR functionality. Fusion Apps represents another iteration in the advancement of that functionality. So if we limit the consideration strictly to the best starting point for upgrading HR business processes to Fusion Apps, in my opinion PeopleSoft would probably be the best choice.