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.