Oracle users cautious about new apps

Although Oracle Corp. is pointing to an increasing number of installations of the E-Business Suite 11i applications it shipped last year, users and analysts said many companies are still waiting for the technology to become more mature before upgrading from earlier versions of the software.

Certainly, many of Oracle’s users are eager to move up to the 11i software, which promises a fully integrated suite of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) applications. But at the Oracle AppsWorld conference in New Orleans this week, some attendees cited continued concerns about technical glitches in the software and the amount of internal business process changes that would accompany an upgrade.

“My sense in talking to various users is that they want to [upgrade to 11i] as soon as they can, but with caution,” said Rocky Bertz, a project manager at Denver-based CH2M Hill Inc. and treasurer of the independent Oracle Applications Users Group. Bertz said his own company, which provides manufacturing and technology project management services, doesn’t plan to go live with 11i until next year.

Oracle executives said at AppsWorld that the latest versions of the 11i software are stable and that implementing the new suite is getting easier. An updated 11i release became available last week, said Mark Jarvis, chief marketing officer at Oracle. And for users who don’t need to customize the applications, upgrading is relatively simple, he added.

Since 11i was released eight months ago, 180 users have gone live with the software, Oracle said. Companies that are up and running with the application include Barclays Bank PLC, Compaq Computer Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems, according to Oracle that said a total of 2,500 implementations, are under way.

Agilera Inc., an application service provider in Englewood, Colo., said 11i has presented no special difficulties during its conversion to the software from homegrown systems. The company is doing a phased implementation that started last October, said John Czapko, director of global alliances at Agilera.

“We got our core financial module up in less than 30 days under budget,” Czapko said. “There were some minor headaches, but nothing beyond belief. Oracle offered outstanding support.” He added that the company is trying to keep its 11i system as close to vanilla as possible to avoid any customization work.

But other users said they’re still taking a cautious approach. “Unfortunately, the early releases of the 11i software indeed had too many [technical] issues that are still being resolved,” said Joel Flemming, global program leader at Honeywell Sensing and Control in Freeport, Ill.

The Honeywell Inc. subsidiary has been upgrading its procurement software and other application modules from Oracle’s 10.7 suite to 11i, Flemming said. He said Oracle has been quick to assist Honeywell in trying to address the glitches it found. And Honeywell users particularly like the new expense report module included in 11i, Flemming said.

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