Oracle’s New Applications Suite Follows the Rules

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle said it has put the finishing touches on improvements to its entire enterprise applications suite, which it said emphasizes regulations compliance across several industries.

The software maker this week unveiled Oracle E-Business Suite 11i.9, which features more than 900 enhancements, including new features to manage electronic signatures and secure audit trails.

The release comes at a time of intense focus on electronic recordkeeping and documentation, driven in part by new government regulations.

It also comes at a turbulent time in the market for enterprise applications, where consolidation is rampant and Oracle’s bid for PeopleSoft has shaken things up.

“The real change” in this release, however, says analyst Joshua Greenbaum, of Enterprise Applications Consulting, “is the industry specific functionality. This is part of an important trend in enterprise software, where customers are looking for functionality specific to their industries, and vendors like Oracle have to respond.”

According to Oracle, version 11i9 provides new features aimed at a number of specific industries, including aerospace and defense, automotive, communications, consumer packaged goods, government, healthcare, high tech and life sciences.

The focus on particular verticals on the part of packaged software vendors like Oracle, is also part of an effort to head off the inroads that systems integrators like IBM Global Services are making on the software vendors’ turf, according to Greenbaum.

“The systems integrators are promising highly customized solutions with lots of industry-specific functionality, and companies like Oracle have to respond or be left behind,” Greenbaum says.

Coming into compliance

Government regulations such as HIPAA, a guideline for managing patient information, and Sarbanes-Oxley, the new law for accounting procedures, and others are addressed for the first time by Oracle in the suite.

Improvements to the Oracle Financials portfolio are aimed at helping financial institutions meet Sarbanes-Oxley requirements without hampering operating levels or customer satisfaction.

Enhancements include daily multi-currency revaluations, user-defined customer behavior predictions, sales and marketing content creation management, and enhanced call center support, said Mike Rosser, vice president of Worldwide Applications Marketing at Oracle.

Specifically, Rosser said Oracle Financials now includes a credit management application to help companies standardize and automate the credit management process so that businesses may monitor and evaluate customers’ credit. Another, a receivables application, offers enhanced revenue management functionality to help companies monitor and recognize revenue.

Oracle Financials also now employs eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), an XML-based standard for financial reporting, in its “General Ledger” application. Companies can use it to produce text, spreadsheet or XBRL versions of the text-based reports they currently run.

John Hagerty, vice president of research at AMR Research, said the new functionality in Oracle 11i9 gives companies more options and control over some key areas of revenue and expense management as well as external reporting requirements.

“As companies prepare to meet existing and emerging government and/or regulatory body mandates, they increasingly turn to technology and business applications to assist — even drive — compliance efforts,” Hagerty said. “As a result of the high profile financial scandals of the last few years, companies are taking specific compliance requirements very seriously and establishing conservative corporate governance policies, emphasizing financial and operational risk management.”

Separately, Oracle has also added a feature to its procurement application that lets corporate buyers browse and buy materials from online suppliers without leaving the application to navigate between several supplier Web sites.

In what Oracle is calling a first in the industry, Oracle’s new iProcurement software boasts an XML-based “transparent punchout” feature to make purchasing much more convenient for the user. The company said the feature is waiting on a patent.

Previously, buyers had to navigate through supplier Web sites to find various products. Once they settled on an item or items, purchasers were taken back to the procurement application to make the buy. The “punchout” feature lets users search and complete purchasing activities without leaving Oracle iProcurement.

Because many vendors, including Oracle rivals PeopleSoft, Siebel and SAP, make e-procurement apps, it is important to differentiate offerings. Oracle’s “punchout” feature is indicative of that push for value-adding features.