The Long and Windy Road to Oracle's Fusion Applications

Oracle has laid out the Fusion Apps roadmap for its customers. But how each customer actually gets to the Fusion Apps destination is another question altogether.

Most high-tech vendor roadmaps, if customers can get their hands on one, are usually paved with good intentions.

These roadmaps offered by enterprise software vendors—which provide guidance on future versions of products, services or software-delivery options—are critical for their customers. The maps enable CIOs and senior execs to chart their application portfolio strategies: which upgrades they'll commit to, which legacy apps they'll "sunset," which vendors they'll do more business with.

But just like anyone else, software vendors reserve the right to change their minds: a sudden acquisition or decline in sales can significantly alter a vendor's roadmap. And that can wreak havoc with any CIO's short- and long-term apps strategy.

The enterprise application roadmap for Oracle customers has, for the past five years, always pointed toward one destination: the Oracle Fusion Applications Suite.

Oracle Fusion Apps roadmap

Image: Illuminaut / Adaptation: Thomas Wailgum

Fusion Apps, as it's better known, is Oracle's next-generation suite of open-standards-based software, available on-premise or in some "cloud" form. The suite covers seven core business areas: financials; governance, risk and compliance (GRC); human capital management (HCM); procurement; project portfolio management (PPM); sales (CRM); and supply chain management (SCM). There are approximately 100 modules within the seven product groups.

Oracle execs are well-known for their self-promotional hyperbole. But in delivering Fusion Apps to the marketplace, they have followed a methodical, low-key route. (Of course, other happenings, such as the Sun acquisition, various lawsuits and the Exadata ramp up, have taken Oracle's attention during the past couple of years.)

As Fusion Apps become generally available in early 2011, Oracle execs have, in fact, been acting in anti-Oracle fashion: There's been little pressure on customers to rush into buying Fusion Apps.

For instance, at Oracle OpenWorld 2010, the mega-event in San Francisco that served as Fusion Apps' latest coming-out party, CEO Larry Ellison had this to say, when he rhetorically asked if all Oracle customers should immediately invest in Fusion Apps: "No, absolutely not.... You can move to Fusion at the time of your choosing. Over the next five years, at some point, we think you'll move to Fusion."

Oracle execs' reticence has nothing to do with the software itself; reviews so far have been favorable. The fact is that the expected benefits of the new-age software will eventually be worth it for most of Oracle's existing enterprise app customers (running E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel).

But how each customer actually gets to the Fusion Apps destination (if they get there at all) is another question altogether.

NEXT: What's So Special About Fusion Apps

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