Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fusion Applications - By The 3's

My thoughts are coming at me in sets of three today…

I've been getting peppered with folks asking about whether or not they should take on Fusion Applications. Some are current Oracle customers and some are not…but I'm not sure that matters too much. The way I see it, different people will describe the value proposition for Fusion Apps in different ways, but it really all falls into finding value in one or more of three categories: the User Experience, the Applications Platform, and the Technology Adoption.

By the way, I freely admit that I stole the three categories from a slide shown repeatedly at OpenWorld this year, but the thoughts are my own...

User Experience

Anybody who reads here on a regular basis or talks to me for more than five minutes knows that I see the user experience (UX) as the biggest win in Fusion Apps. Three big reasons:

1) The UX is designed around shallow navigation, meaning the stuff you need to see is generally displayed on one page…fewer clicks. Lead to higher productivity for the people making their living with the apps.

2) The user interface is uses or is similar to tools we already know: the browser, Excel, instant messaging. Familiar look and feel…more productivity benefits.

3) Business Intelligence is cooked right into the apps. No leaving ERP apps to take a look at BI apps…but set that little blessing aside for a moment. The big win here is that you can leverage the BI elements to start managing by exception. Present the transaction exceptions to the analyst or specialist or whatever the correct title is this week rather than making them search for those exceptions…and let them fix those exceptions. Hmmm, analysis and management of exceptions…isn't that really the high-value activity we get from those analysts or specialist? Wow, this could actually free those folks up to do the job the boss wanted them to do when they were hired!

Applications Platform

Some folks (including me at times) really get pumped up at the thought that Fusion Apps are built with Oracle's Fusion development tools and run on Fusion MIddleware. But, to be honest, the folks with the checkbooks (the CFOs, the CEOs) couldn't care less. But they will care about three things:

1) Industry standards, which can actually work against vendor lock-in (including the redstack itself). One of the swell things about industry standards is that I can replace Oracle's industry-standard compliant components with another industry-standard compliant component…even some of that appealing open-source stuff. Replace JDeveloper with Eclipse. I've had good luck with using ActiveBPEL Designed with Oracle's Apps Server. And my E-Business test bed runs on CentOS Linux. So there's competition at the component level, and that's a good thing for both pricing and progress.

2) SOA. I personally like the SOA approach. We can get into discussions about Web Services versus REST and all sorts of nifty techie stuff, but that's not where the real appeal is for me. It's about reuse. One of the best ways to reduce costs in any effort is to build something once and use it many times. That's what services are all about. Build a service once and reuse it in many different processes for many different types of consumers. Play out this scenario to your CFO and watch the eyebrows arch with interest.

3) Getting back to industry standards, but with a point that merits individual consideration: loose coupling. The idea here is that if I build integration between two subsystems and one of those subsystems changes, the other subsystems and the integration I built will still work just fine. That's a huge cost saver when you're upgrading, or ripping and replacement, modules in your system. The applications platform in Fusion Apps leverages industry standards and SOA to make loose coupling the rule rather than the exception. More cost savings, greater flexibility - another nice case for the CFO's consideration.

Technology Adoption

Now, I know what you're thinking…what's the value to you just because Oracle is adopting some cool technology? In fact, doesn't that cost you money in the form of upgrading/relicensing? Hang with me through these three points and you'll get a feel for my perspective:

1) Think Modularity, which really ties back to that loose coupling argument I made earlier. Because of the technology upgrade, which supports loose coupling and industry standards, I can now uptake Fusion Applications on a modular basis: the apps are designed to co-exist with applications you already have in place. So if you have PeopleSoft HR, but like the Talent Management application in the Fusion Apps Human Capital Management Suite, it's doable. Ditto for Fusion Apps Project Portfolio Management with E-Business Financials. We're talking incremental uptake…moving forward in small steps. Less expensive, less disruptive moves forward than a "big bang"…appealing in this economic environment.

2) Cloud or SaaS. Oracle's been pounding this drum pretty hard lately, so I don't need to spend much time here. But think of this: If I can uptake incrementally, and I have interest in transitioning to a Cloud (maybe even inside my own firewall) or to Software-as-a-Service (either with Oracle or a 3rd-party), maybe it makes sense for me to go there incrementally? See the notes above on less expensive, less disruptive, etc.

3) Choices. Technology adoption gives you choices…falling behind the curve limits those choices. A non-Oracle example…my daughter bought an iPhone 3G a few months ago. Her idea was to jump on an iPhone and save a few bucks. Problem is that, just within a few months, the technology has passed her by: many apps won't run on her 3G iPhone (the apps need a 3Gs or a 4i). Fewer choices. Ditto for early adopters of Android phones, so don't blame it on Apple…it's just the nature of technology. My old Intel Pentium laptop is only good for Linux now…it can't run the latest Windows releases anymore. Fewer choices as technology moves on. Now here's the thing…as the choices wane, the higher the cost (effort plus dollars) of getting current - even if the dollar cost eventually drops, the effort continues to grow. Had I not upgraded that laptop several years ago, the effort of upgrading and moving all that data would be tremendous. Upgrading to E-Business 12.1.x from 11.5.10 is significantly less effort than upgrading from 11.5.4. Technology adoption provides more choices, and the competition amongst the choices keeps the cost of each choice lower - Adam Smith's "invisible hand" in action.

So, in a post-Oracle OpenWorld 10…after the Fusion Apps product launch, that's how I see it. Now your mileage could vary - you'll have to figure out the value in your own words for your specific situation. I just hope I gave you something to think about…in threes!

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