E-Business Suite 11i joins the virtual world

If there is one word that Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle Corp. and its enthusiasts would use to describe Release 11i of the company’s E-Business Suite, that word would likely be “global.”

Global, because in the words of CEO Larry Ellison, at the Oracle Applications Users Group convention in Philadelphia last April, “software is dead.”

According to the company, Release 11i is the industry’s first fully-integrated e-business applications suite, adding customer relationship management (CRM) and order management components, which are designed to ensure customer inquiries and orders are automatically linked to back-end data, such as accounting, inventory and supply. 11i was designed to provide out-of-the-box integration of e-business applications throughout the extended enterprise from customers and partners to suppliers. In all, there are nearly 100 components that comprise the Suite, which is multilingual and supports global business practices and currencies.

Oracle Corporation Canada Inc. senior marketing managers Sonia Tellez and Carolyn Collett in Mississauga, Ont., claimed 11i is a new model for business, one which uses the power of the Internet.

“It (Release 11i) is a suite of applications, fully integrated and 100 per cent Internet-based,” Collett said.

“Other organizations are focused on…developing and providing their customers with point solutions, and it’s risky attempting to integrate these solutions into a legacy system or an ERP. There are significant costs to link those systems.”

11i allows key business processes to become much simpler, according to the company, such as turning a sales quote into an order that updates available-to-promise totals in inventory. 11i is also designed to give companies complete information about their customers because all parts of the Suite share the same consumer information.

Kevin Restivo, an industry analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, believes 11i is the real deal.

“Oracle enjoys a strong market and install-base in Canada; they should do well with this Internet-enabled applications suite,” he said. “It’s a different approach to Internet-enabled applications. Oracle has chosen to build on selling integration.”

IDC Canada published a report on the Canadian CRM market last October, predicting that by 2003 the sector will be worth about $1 billion.

“The ‘net model is much cheaper to maintain than client/server,” Restivo continued.

The third generation of Oracle’s E-Business Suite leverages new Internet business practices that allow companies to put their customer interactions, internal operation and supply chains on-line. Users can access information with a browser.

Evan Baergen, vice-president of emerging technologies for Vancouver-based SUNmedia.com, said his Internet marketing and media organization will be upgrading to 11i shortly. SUNmedia.com is in the process of implementing the sales compensation, general ledger, accounts payable, cash management, accounts receivable and order entry features.

“I’m an advocate of Oracle apps,” Baergen said. “They’re scaleable, robust, and when you’re dealing with millions of transactions you can’t afford to take chances. What I like best is the flexibility factor – I’m not changing my business model to meet the package. It is easy to configure.”

Baergen added that by using the sales compensation feature his company is able to effectively manage its sales staff anywhere in the world without geographical, linguistic or financial barriers.

However, for all the benefits 11i tries to offer, some have cautioned it may not be the most attractive application for non-Oracle companies, as they would have to dump their existing back office systems. It may also prove troublesome for existing Oracle customers to upgrade from an older version of the software, although Oracle’s Collett said the vendor can help with this process.

“Every 10 years or so a new technology shift occurs…as a result, organizations are faced with having to make a decision on how to compete in the Internet environment. You don’t have to take everything out and dump it, Oracle does work with its customers to make our solutions work for them.”