Forrester Research recently wrote a report entitled "Oracle's Dilemma: Applications Unlimited Versus Oracle Fusion Applications." The upshot of the article is that Fusion Applications is not gaining traction with customers already using other Oracle applications under the Applications Unlimited program. Having surveyed 139 Oracle applications customers, the report states 65 percent of Oracle clients have no plans to move to Fusion Applications and another 24 percent are "on the fence." Adding fuel to the fire, Forrester found that 29 percent of the Oracle customers polled were planning to move to another vendor's SaaS or packaged applications. You can check out full summaries of the report…it's all over the web. It all sounds pretty grim for Oracle's Fusion Applications. I even saw an opinion stating that Oracle is at a "make-or-break" point with their enterprise applications approach.
Now, I like Forrester. Know some of the folks there and greatly respect their opinions. In fact, my own employer (EiS Technologies) is a Forrester customer. So no Forrester bashing happening here - I like their work. Still, I must respectfully disagree with the report and the conclusions drawn therein.
First, there is the issue of statistical significance. When you consider the full realm of Oracle Applications customers (over 26,000 last time I checked), a sample size of 139 seems a bit thin. But, just for argument's sake, let's disregard the statistical significance issue and assume the report reflects the current perception of Oracle's entire customer base. Because the second shoe to drop here lands with a much louder thud.
That second shoe dropping? Historical patterns of acceptance for Oracle's applications customers. Granted, my thinking here is based strictly on my own observations over the history of Oracle E-Business releases (which probably does not have much statistical significance itself) , but it's still worth considering. Seems like the typical customer acceptance lifecycle is around four to five years after general availability. EBS 10, 11, 11i, and R12: customer acceptance on each seemed to turn the corner between four and five years after GA. During that four to five year cycle, Oracle listens and adjusts…then listens and adjusts…then listens and adjusts… We're seeing the same cycle play out with Fusion Applications. But we're not even two years into that cycle.
I'm sure you're thinking "c'mon, Floyd, four to five years? How can Oracle do that?" Well, take a look at the past sales cycles for EBS. The uptick in customer upgrades and net new sales picks up right around that fourth or fifth year. Oracle knows it, and I suspect they plan around it to a certain extent. Essentially using paying customers as field testers? Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing…but it's definitely a thing that exists in the Oracle world. But wait…how can Oracle afford an uptake cycle of four to five years? Have you checked their balance sheet? Looked at their cash reserves? Oracle can afford to buy the freakin' galaxy if they really want it. Yes, they can afford five-year uptake cycles.
Consider the cycle with R12. As recently as 18 months ago, polling any group of EBS customers would have shown that there were far more customers on 11i than on 12. So much so that Oracle extended the 220.127.116.11 support lifecycle more times than I can remember. Today, I suspect there are many, many more customers on R12 than 11i. And how many years are we out from GA on R12? Hmmm….
Now let's drop a third shoe. The big play in Fusion Applications is Co-Existence. Utilizing Fusion Applications does not require an upgrade, nor a "rip and replace" approach. Customers who stick with their Applications Unlimited products can still deploy and utilize Fusion Applications in co-existence with those products. This same strategy can also hold even for those Oracle clients who…gasp…move to products from other application vendors. Deciding to avoid upgrading, migrating, or continuing…none of those decisions necessarily eliminates the value customers can get from Fusion Applications.
The opera is not over until the fat lady sings. With all due respect to Forrester, it's a bit early to make predictions on the outcome of the Fusion Applications products. The fat lady is not even warming up yet, much less singing.