Go for vanilla installs

Jeremy Burton is predicting a new debate. He says that business processes need to be defined to fit software needs for key business functions and not the other – and traditional – way around.

Burton, senior vice-president of product and service marketing for Oracle Corp., told a group attending the recent Canada E-Business Summit in Toronto that using best-of-breed software for your core business processes will allow IT staff to focus on product and differentiating software development.

“The challenge is that the conventional approach has been ‘We will change nothing about our business to accommodate you, Mr. Software vendor’ but if businesses accept that there are benefits from automation or digitization, then I think they’ll say, ‘Okay, we’ll try your software as an implementation of three months instead of a year, and we’ll focus our IT staff on the things that will make a difference,'” Burton said in a later interview.

Burton also tried to convey Oracle’s opposition to modifying key business process software, while at the same time promoting the outsourcing of these functions.

“Be very careful what your money buys,” Burton warned. “I don’t think customers have been properly warned about the implications of modifying software. When Boeing drops off a 747, they say ‘Don’t change a thing’ but you don’t get that with enterprise software.”

He suggested that software vendors take more responsibility for showing customers the ramifications of software and for incorporating changes customers have repeatedly requested.

“If you want to modify, you can. If you have a hammer you can change a 747,” Burton said.

“We have 10 years of implementations, and we put the customer needs into the product. If you want to set it up a slightly different way, we allow many alternatives without having to change the code.”

He added that vendors should be promoting business process change over software modification. “If the decision is still to change the software, then we should say, ‘Okay that will mean…when you upgrade you will have to go through and change that code again.”

Burton predicted that in three or four years there will be no kits and just three or four dominant suite vendors on the market.

He noted that businesses using several different pieces to make up their core businesses processes will have a hard time answering questions such as, how many employees do we have, can we carry data through from sales to marketing to administration, what can they do with the data and how effective are our marketing leads?

However, he warned that consolidating processes and bringing together data into one suite will require some major cultural shifts.

He used Canada as an example: when Oracle downsized its U.S. data centres to just one, it decided all global branches should use this centre as well, at the expense of any others they were running.

“People had become so attached to their data centres they didn’t think they could do business without it,” he told the group. “We said ‘Let’s measure this in profit and loss’ and then people say, ‘I can spend $2 million here or get it for free there.'”