Thursday, September 29, 2005

Oracle claiming ultra-fast installs in SMB market

Several months ago I got an informal briefing on Oracle's special bundle for small and mid-sized businesses, dubbed "E-Business Suite Special Edition." Although the pricing on the applications and database looked great, what really interested me was Oracle's claim to be able to do ultra-fast implementations based on some system configuration tools ("Oracle Accelerators") that Oracle is making available to its resellers. I was waiting to see whether Oracle's approach would work.

Now it looks like some results are in, and they do look good. I'm hearing of a local install here in Southern California that was accomplished in a few weeks. This is consistent with an Oracle press release that has business partners claiming installs in seven weeks. It's not clear whether these installs are for the full suite or just financials, but other discussions indicate that a three month implementation for the full E-Business Suite is a reasonable expectation for projects taking this approach.

The Accelerators
The key to the rapid implementation is Oracle's Accelerator tool. The tool presents a series of 100+ questions to the client (e.g. how many future periods do you want to see in the GL?). The tool uses the answers to these questions to configure the application specifically for the client's business and explode the test scripts that the client will use to test the system. This approach essentially automates the design phase of the implementation, which formerly could take several weeks.

With design and configuration out of the way, the implementation effort then becomes largely a training exercise--to train the client's personnel in using the system exactly as it is configured for the client's business. Traditional ERP training is often done on a demo version of the system that may not look similar to the system that they ultimately use. So, user project team members become frustrated by seeing one version of the system in training, and another version when they begin testing. Oracle's approach solves this problem by configuring the system before training, making the training more effective.

R&D for Implementation
Oracle clearly seems to recognize that ERP implementations take too long and cost too much. The problem with most ERP vendors today, including Oracle, is not that their systems lack functionality--it's that they're too hard to implement. Most customers only implement a fraction of the functionality available to them. So why do vendors spend so much time and effort adding more functionality?

I've long felt that vendors should spend more of their software engineering budget on making their systems easier to implement. Prior to being acquired by Oracle, PeopleSoft had been working hard on improving what it called the "total ownership experience," and it was making good progress. Now it looks like Oracle is doing the same thing.

Of course, the next question is, if it works for small and mid-sized businesses, why not apply the same approach in larger companies? My guess is that Oracle is already working on that.

Related posts
ERP implementation: putting processes and people first
Four problems with ERP
Solving the four problems with ERP
Big three vendors target small companies

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