Oracle Apps strategy gets the nod from Forrester Research

A new research report out of Forrester titled Which Has The Better Apps Strategy: Oracle Or SAP? (subscription required) was recently published.

The last time Forrester published a comprehensive strategic review of the vendors was in 2006 and as noted in the new research report, much has changed since that time.  Back in 2006 they called it a “battle of the architectures” and SAP was given the nod by Forrester.

Since that time however Oracle has closed the gap in terms of enterprise apps revenue (with a 33% compund annual growth rate versus SAP’s 13% ignoring currency fluctuations) and out of eight criteria for success identified by Forrester, Oracle has the advantage in 4 and SAP only 3 (one resulted in a tie).

More importantly, the criteria where Oracle is considered the leader shows that we have the focus on the most important aspects of our customer’s businesses.  For example we lead in Vision, Support for Openness and Standards and the Path to Dynamic Business standards – all of which point to a better future for our customers with Oracle than with SAP.

The traction we’ve gained since 2006 is starting to pay off and the momentum will continue going forward.  I can’t wait to see what Forrester thinks in 2010!

Oracle Buys Primavera

See the full press release here.

 

Oracle Buys Primavera

Creates First, Comprehensive Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solution for Project-Intensive Industries

Redwood Shores, CA – October 8, 2008

News Facts:

Today, Oracle announced it has agreed to acquire Primavera Software, Inc., a leading provider of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions, to accelerate its momentum in delivering mission-critical operational applications.

Primavera’s PPM software helps companies propose, prioritize and select project investments, and plan, manage and control the most complex projects and project portfolios.

Together with Oracle’s applications and infrastructure software, Oracle expects to provide the first comprehensive enterprise project portfolio management solution that helps companies allocate the best resources, reduce costs, meet delivery dates and ultimately make better decisions, all by using real-time data.

Oracle Enterprise PPM will be tailored to project-intensive industries such as engineering and construction, aerospace and defense, utilities, oil and gas, manufacturing, and professional services.

Primavera employees and management are expected to join Oracle to form a global business unit (GBU) focused on Enterprise PPM, and to help ensure a smooth transition for Primavera customers and partners. Primavera’s CEO Joel Koppelman is expected to lead the business unit as Senior Vice President and General Manager.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the second half of 2008. Until the deal closes, each company will continue to operate independently. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The insidious effects of Productivity claims

Interesting little tidbit in CIO Insight this week about productivity.  Parallax View – IT Spending – IT: A Bright Spot in an Economic Slowdown.

There’s nothing wrong really with trying to see the silver lining in an economic slowdown (ie. that workers are increasing their productivity while the economy slows), but I think we need to see beyond the short term effects of this productivity surge as they call it.

The writer’s feel that businesses haven’t been investing as heavily as they did in in the 1990′s and I agree with that.  I cut my teeth in the business world during the go-go days when everyone was installing ERP systems to head of the doomsday scenario that Y2K was sure to bring.  I felt fortunate to be in consulting those years because it was lucrative but I really should have been in sales.  I think you just had to sit by your phone for a few years in the late 90′s and fortunes rained down upon you.

Back to today’s reality however, I think the game has changed significantly.  The low hanging fruit is gone.  What major or even medium sized company doesn’t have an ERP system already?  There’s even plentiful solutions for the SMB market.  Where to invest the IT dollars isn’t as much of a no-brainier anymore but I think the returns to be had can be significant if you’re actually aligning your IT projects to your business needs.

Anyway, I started out talking about productivity and what’s left unsaid behind the numbers.  I tend to think that productivity is going to go up during recessions because companies force less people to do the same work that was done by more.  Whether companies actively reduce their headcount or let it happen by attrition it’s natural that the ones left behind will be obliged to pick up the slack.  You know they want to do it because the alternative is looking for a new job when there are plenty of others doing the same and businesses aren’t hiring.  I think this is, at best, a very short term solution.  I say we should look for productivity to increase going into the downturn but start to lag just like everything else.  Despite fearing for their jobs, people still get burnt out.  They will start to spend more time complaining about the way things are versus how they used to be.  They might still stay at work until 9pm and come in at 7am but the output during those hours just is not going to be sustainable over time.

One of my favorite sites, iTulip, posted this great article on the insidious unseen effects of Inflation.  Although the topic of the article is inflation, I think you can draw a great parallel between that and what happens during an economic slowdown.  In the iTulip article they used a restaurant as the business to illustrate how inflation changes the way they operate.  You can read between the lines though and see that all companies could react the same way – all businesses have people and they have inputs to their end product.   A restaurant or company cutting back can cut their fixed expenses by reducing the number of people, or they can try to lower unit costs by substituting cheaper products or providing less quantity for the price.  While having less shrimp in your pad Thai is a bad thing, I’m more focused here on what the effect is on the employees left to hold it together.

The quote from the article hits it right on the head:

Management tries to lower fixed expenses (versus per plate of food unit costs) by reducing staff. Customers experience this as slowness and crankiness among the remaining overburdened wait staff.  If your wait person is cranky and unresponsive, count how many tables they are covering before passing judgment. These days it’s probably too many.

The morale of their article is that well run, properly capitalized businesses that have a lot of cash can use these recessions to steal the customers from their weaker competitor’s.  The key is to not do the things that are forcing your competitor’s to go out of business.  Don’t raise your prices as much, don’t begin to skimp on the quality of the products you offer and most importantly, don’t let the service you provide slip because you’ve decided to rest all the work of many on the shoulders of less.

Bad things can happen when you push people to the point of breaking…

Who will bring SexyBack?

With apologies to Justin Timberlake, I read with interest an article in CIO Insight today about a blogosphere debate over the merits of ‘sexiness’ in enterprise software.

It seems that Bill Gates started the maelstrom by insinuating consumer technologies got more than their fair share of press coverage versus the enterprise offerings.   Thus a blog dispute was born by some heavyweights about whether or not enterprise software needs to be friendly, let alone sexy.  I have trouble with both of those terms since they’re pretty nebulous.

When they say friendly I guess they mean intuitive, logical and allows the end user to complete their tasks in minimal clicks.  Or does it mean providing context sensitive information so the user is presented what they need to know or task specific help at the time they’re following through a business process?  Maybe it’s all of the above.  But ‘sexy’?  What is that in relation to enterprise software?

The author of the CIO article tries to define it later on when he states ‘Usability is a measure of sexiness…’  I can live with that although I think usability is also an overused term.  If end users tell me they want better usability and provide no more details, then I’d have a hard time guessing what specifically they want.  Faster processing?  Different colors?  Less clicks?  Or perhaps more options to drill down into information?  Any of those items could fall under usability.

Finally, I find it very ironic that CIO Insight is covering this topic on sexy software when they themselves have one of the ugliest websites around.  They have more junk all over their page than I certainly prefer and a lot of it is advertising.  Also, where can readers leave comments and see what other readers have posted to spur some lively debates on the topic?  Oh yeah, you can email their editors and they’ll be sure to get back to you. 

 Not very sexy if you ask me.

Does anyone really want to un-collaborate?

Here is the headline of a recent CIOinsight.com article: Collaboration: The $588 Billion Problem.  The tag-line reads “E-mail, instant messaging, and blog reading are costing the economy billions in lost productivity, new research finds.”   The report from Basex further states that information overload is the “Problem of the Year” for 2008.

Doom and gloom baby, that always sells reports.  They know CIO’s will snap up that research and be able to kill all those little pet projects people are working on under the guise of ‘lost productivity enablers.’

Do you really think that the new collaboration tools we use everyday are costing us that kind of money in lost productivity?  I don’t think it’s very useful to say what is lost in productivity without also netting it out against what is gained.  Who wants to go back to a time before there was IM, blogs, wikis, etc.  Let’s look at some of the assumptions in the article.

The costs that authors Jonathan B. Spira and David M. Goldes computed claims that interruptions from phone calls, e-mails and instant messages eat up 28 percent of a knowledge worker’s work day, resulting in 28 billion hours of lost productivity a year.   Now my issue with this statement is what do they think is the alternative?  How many knowledge workers could even complete their job without interacting with co-workers?  Is it unreasonable to think that about one quarter of your work day is spent answering and requesting information from co-workers?  I don’t think so. 

Imagine there were no collaborative tools and you had to talk to co-workers the old-fashioned way; you had to actually get up and go to their desk or pick up the phone.  Is that not a disruption of their time?  If you decided to go see them later and put off what you were working on in the meantime, then wouldn’t that also be considered lost productivity on your part?  If you could get the answer you need in a relatively short time-frame by pinging someone with an IM or email it may be a disruption on your co-workers part, but it also vastly increases your productivity by keeping you progressing your task.  Even better you might find what you need posted on an internal wiki, which means you’ve leveraged the effort someone took to publish that information and no one gets distracted and your work gets done with minimal detours.

One point they make that I will wholeheartedly support is the plea to not send out a reply all when your only comment is “Thanks!”.  I’ll add my favorite pet peeve to their list – stop with the reply all when you’re just pointing out “Why are you emailing this d-list?  You’ve got the wrong group!” 

Information overload isn’t a new problem.  It’s been talked about for years now but we also have to remember that we have a lot better tools to manage the vast amounts of data we need to keep tabs on.  First of all, search technology has advanced to the point that finding information buried in all of your emails and files is as simple as running a web-search.  Other collaborative tools like wikis and tagging help keep information much more accessible as well.  Remember when all your project files were stored in folders on the server but you had to remember which of the hundreds of folders it was in?  “Now were those functional specs stored under the folders by phase of the project, or by the author, or was it placed in that miscellaneous FDD folder?”  Probably yes to all three of those options because everyone did it their own way either deliberately or by accident.  Now even if someone misfiles a document it’s not lost or subject to a 15 minute hide and seek game to retrieve it.

After reading this article and all of the suggested behaviour changes they feel are contributing to this so called ‘lost productivity’ I can’t help but feel like this article is more about how to communicate effectively using collaborative tools and not so much about how we’re losing billions of dollars in productivity thanks to the rise or abuse of them.  Could proper use help increase productivity even more?  You bet, but I still don’t see how it’s actually costing us.

So, is information overload the “Problem of the Year” for 2008?  I like to read the WSJ every morning with my coffee, and judging the number of doom and gloom articles that seem to multiply each day, if this is our biggest problem of the year I’d be mighty surprised and relieved at the same time.

Bringing that Web 2.0 feeling

Everywhere you turn on the internet now you see Web 2.o.  Everybody has it or everybody who doesn’t have wants to have it or is trying desperately to prove they have it.  And the ones that have it now want to one up everyone and say they have Web 3.o!  (Although there are some naysayers against that as well.

Well here at the big red machine we are no different.  We get those pangs of envy about sporting Web 2.0 just like everyone else.  Thing is, large enterprise software companies like us aren’t usually going to be on the cutting edge as much smaller companies can.  They can go from concept to product in the time it takes their developers to quaff 30 Red Bulls (is that the drink du jour for programmers?  I lose track of what those kids do these days.)  Whereas we have a lot more at stake when we develop something.  Our product is obviously much more integrated throughout an enterprise that we have a lot of dependencies to consider.

That’s not to say we don’t recognize a good thing when it happens though.  Obviously Web 2.0 isn’t a flash in the pan so it’s imperative that we too examine the business applications for it.  We have to go beyond just mashing up Google maps and facebook applications of course.  When a company is running their mission critical projects using our software the users want more than just to know what’s the latest Starbucks (or anti Starbucks )  location and status of their friends.  They need to see some business value in what we develop otherwise it’s just slick interface that is amusingly distracting for a while.

We’re bouncing around several use cases and business ideas and frankly looking to rip off (nay, “borrow”) some of the great ideas that those smaller, nimbler companies I talked about earlier are bringing to market.  Over the next little while I’ll examine some of those applications and the ideas behind them and how they might help a big company like us become another hip follower of the Web 2.o wave.

First Post!

Hello Project Management Lovers!  Is there really such a thing?  I’m sure there are.  From my experience I’ve found it takes a special breed of person to want to become a project manager and actually enjoy the job.  Sadly, project managers are often seen in the same light as a referee or a dentist – necessary evils that do essential jobs but people usually don’t like the news they deliver or advice they dispense.

I was personally drawn to project management because I like being in charge of things but more importantly it is a great way to see progress made on a continual basis.  I’ve always been a bit of a gamer too, and sometimes you can see how managing a project to completion compares to finishing off a video game – completing the quest, vanquishing the boss, rescuing the fair maiden, etc etc.

When I first started as a project manager the tools were quite rudimentary however compared to what is available today.  Of course there was Microsoft Project, but the consulting firm I worked for used a more sophisticated program called CA Super Project.  It was one of the last programs to become ‘window-ized’ after Microsoft made it practically the standard for software applcations.  You didn’t use a mouse on this program and it’s powerful functions were hidden layers deep in an arcane menu structure.  It took us two days of training on the product just to learn to setup a fairly routine work breakdown structure with resources, rates and schedules.  The last thing a project manager needs is to spend hours fiddling with a program just to visually represent the work that is happening and needs to happen.

When I joined Oracle I was very impressed with what they had built for a project management application.  It went so far beyond the tool that we had even though it still had some features that were deeper around the workplan.  From an overall standpoint though, the Oracle product managed many more of the day to day tasks a project manager needed to do and had collaborative and powerful reporting features to boot.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that our product isn’t perfect.  It would be hard to ever believe that anyway because in strategy you’re usually dealing with customers telling you what’s NOT in the product versus what is great about it.  That’s perfectly fine of course since if no one bothered telling us what they want next, we wouldn’t have much of a job now would we?

Just to wrap up this first post and get it ‘in the can’ as they say, my focus with this blog is to discuss project management software in general but also with a slant towards how we view it in Oracle.  I’ll try to share as much as I can about future directions and ideas but obviously I have to remain very careful about what I can say.  Since I don’t want to publish a Safe Harbor staement at the front of every blog posting, I will need to keep it clean.

 One last thing – feedback!  I’d love feedback.  Any and all kinds.  Whether you’re a customer (or a competitor!) or just a person interested in project management feel free to leave your thoughts on what I say or if you have some topic ideas.  As to frequency, I don’t want to commit to anything specific but I am going to try and get a new posting out every few days or so.  In the meantime I’ll be asking some of my colleagues to share their thoughts as well and posting links to interesting relevant articles.