Oracle releases updated e-biz suite

Boasting more than 900 new features and upgrades aimed at customers in at least 20 industries, Oracle Corp. recently released its revamped E-Business Suite 11i. But one industry analyst says there won’t be a mad dash to upgrade.

The latest version, 11i9, will help companies better manage electronic signatures and secure audit trails. It will also focus on regulatory compliance and

corporate governance issues for U.S. customers dealing with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory compliance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA), which manages patient information, and accounting procedures and practices legislation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company said the ninth version of its software will benefit many verticals, including the aerospace and defence, automotive, financial services, government, health care, high-tech and life sciences industries.

According to Robb Eklund, vice-president of CRM applications and marketing for Oracle in Redwood Shores, Calif., the thrust of the release continues to be Oracle’s commitment to the needs of specific industries based on the company’s collaboration with customers and user groups.

For the government sector, a new addition is the constituent management of CRM, providing greater flexibility in capturing a citizen’s question and routing that query to the appropriate government agency. For telecom service providers, a move, add, change or disconnect (MACD) service piece was added to better manage and serve customers, Eklund explained.

Financial services outfits such as banks and insurance companies will find more functionality with the addition of an analytical modelling tool, which allows these organizations to “get predictive” about selling opportunities to existing and new customers for their services, he said.

Paul Hamerman, a director of research for Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., says 11i.9 represents an “incremental release” with several new features from a financial services customer’s vantage point. Hamerman doesn’t expect customers to “flock” to the latest release initially, but instead anticipates customers to transition to the upgrade over the next year or two.

The Internal Controls Manager addition is an application that addresses compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Hamerman deemed it important “because it helps companies document their internal controls to comply.” Rival vendors SAP AG and PeopleSoft Inc. already offer software that addresses the new U.S. accounting practices.

Also, the inclusion of the Credit Manager application – which extends Oracle’s receivable and accounts management solution – was the only new feature that Hamerman said was “comprehensive” for financial services customers to keen in on.

On the supply chain side, Oracle has tied the analytics component directly to transaction information, which allows for role-based access for alerts and reports on current and ongoing activity, explained Tim Minahan, vice-president of supply chain research with Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. While the suite already offered some collaborative capabilities, “from a product lifecycle management (perspective) they have advanced the product catalogue to manage the data more effectively,” and improved collaboration in the process, Minahan said.

Oracle also said its software will allow the health care industry to increase patient satisfaction and trim operational costs by using Oracle’s Healthcare Transaction Base, which provides a single repository for health care data and security and audit services.

Other enhancements include daily multi-currency revaluations, enhanced call centre support, and sales and marketing content creation management.

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