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What the Big Boys are Doing

Friday, December 22, 2006
What the Big Boys are Doing

Oracle finally spilled some beans about Fusion Applications at the Oracle HCM User Group, and SAP gave a lot more detail about its product plans at its Analyst Day.

By Bill Kutik

The Big Boys are Oracle and SAP, naturally. Last month, I urged you to attend their software user conferences because the vendors frequently reveal "secret details" there on product direction. And Oracle did just that at OHUG (Oracle HCM User Group), which now includes PeopleSoft users, of course.

It may have been inadvertent, but for the first time, an Oracle executive revealed in a presentation some nitty gritty, very technical details about what's going to be in Fusion Applications, their next generation HCM.

Oracle has been very secretive about this (probably while still deciding), saying only that the application will be based on Version 12 of its own HCM, E-Business Suite, while incorporating some of the best software features from the other companies they've bought. And it would be delivered in 2008.

In various earlier briefings, Oracle strategy executives said Fusion HCM would include the Person/Job Profile system being further developed in PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0 and that Oracle's lightly used Daily Business Intelligence (and presumably PeopleSoft's equally unpopular Workforce Analytics) would be scrapped for the more flexible analytic dashboard obtained in the Seibel acquisition. But nothing more until OHUG.

There, a Fusion Application architect described the programming language, tool set and software for workflow integrations Fusion will use (if you're in IT and want the names, drop me an e-mail). He also described a new organizational structure that will borrow from both applications, maintaining E-Business Suite's multi-tenancy (great for HR-BPO), while adding Enterprise's data sharing between business units. So in Fusion HCM, you'd no longer have to fire someone to transfer them, currently often required in EBS.

Fusion will include the person model of EBS, but add Enterprise's flexibility -- allowing one person to work for multiple groups, perhaps in multiple countries, including the differing international data requirements. PeopleSoft's "trees" will be used as the foundation for all applications in Fusion, including providing role-based security.

In sum, after Oracle officially flip-flopped half a dozen times on Fusion, now that the work is actually getting done, it seems that the best is indeed being taken from both products, and it will not be just Oracle EBS plus.

At SAP's Analyst Day (admittedly not a user conference), the company revealed its plans for a new version of its mid-market product, All-in-One (for companies up to 2,000 employees), that it described as "SOA by Design" (service-oriented architecture).

Not only would it be fully hosted (or the current buzzwords, Software as a Service or On Demand), it sounded suspiciously like SAP's own version of Workday: a clean sheet of paper with new data models and all the new technologies and architectures used unfettered (in this case) by a pretty small installed base. It's still in quality assurance, with no availability date announced.

SAP's current HCM, part of mySAP ERP 2005 (could we hope for a better name?), will be frozen for five years and all new changes will be delivered in twice yearly Enhancement Packs. SAP is calling that "SOA by Evolution," which means "old applications wrapped in the new technologies" to some experts.

But this makes changing for current customers a lot easier. Duet, SAP's use of Microsoft Office to access their own applications, will add recruiting next.

Though not new, SAP's module called "Governance, Risk and Compliance," based on the acquisition of a company called Virsa, was impressive -- offering an end-to-end audit trail with real-time monitoring of everything everyone does on the corporate network, thanks to an integrated Cisco product.

When it finds something, GRC alerts appropriate executives about both mistakes and misdeeds. Sounds exactly like what a company should want its system to do. The product group is run by HCM veteran Doug Merritt, founder of the dot.bomb-era supernova, Icarian, and later general manager of PeopleSoft's HCM product, which he left long before the acquisition.

Plans are to add "social responsibility" to the module's hunt (love to see the business rules behind that!) by the second quarter of 2007.

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is also co-chairman of the 10th Anniversary HR Technology Conference & Exposition® in Chicago, Oct. 10-12, 2007. Information will be available at www.HRTechnologyConference.com. Bill can be reached at bkutik@earthlink.net.

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