Former PeopleSoft exec leads Oracle Canada’s middleware mission

TORONTO – Oracle Canada is counting on the salesmanship of a former PeopleSoft executive to convince customers they don’t have to wait until 2008 before adopting its Fusion applications and middleware.

Stephan Scholl, group vice-president of the software maker’s consulting practice, has spent the last year assuming major leadership duties at its Canadian operation, which is based in Mississauga, Ont. This includes clearing up what he described as misconceptions among Oracle customers that its aggressive acquisition strategy – which includes the recent takeover of Siebel, among many others – will require them to hold off on using its products to create service-oriented architectures.

“People think they have to wait for Fusion. Everything is already in place today,” he said in an interview with ITBusiness.ca. Oracle uses Fusion as a brand name for middleware software it released last year as well as its forthcoming application suite combining the best of PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and eventually Siebel. The Fusion Applications suite is due in 2008, although Oracle has already outlined plans to help customers migrate from legacy applications to Oracle’s next-generation software.

Scholl said Oracle is using a program called Business Insights to help customers identify their business processes and demonstrate how the use of middleware can create more interoperable systems. He cited clients with 17 different customer information systems, for instance, who want to create a single instance of various applications and databases.

“Customers never woke up and said, ‘I want 150 business processes.’ They were forced down that road,” he said, noting that in some cases, 65 per cent of every dollar spent on software goes towards sustaining a given system. “That’s just the apps layer. The apps layer is only 25 per cent of the answer.”

In a Webcast last month, Oracle’s senior management team said it was already halfway through the process of integrating PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Siebel applications into Fusion. Oracle president Chuck Phillips said that even without buying other firms, the company would still have had to build its release of its major products.

“The only difference is there’s more customers to define applications, more resources,” Phillips said. “We also have a track record of getting customers to evolve with us at a rapid pace.”

Scholl said those customers are undergoing process transformations that pull in both CIOs, line of business presidents and even CEOs, which means tailoring its approach significantly. This was the case at one Montreal-based manufacturing client, which he refused to name. “We walked through their entire business plan,” he said. “At the end we looked at two (business processes) that would have the most impact on their business.”

Oracle recently released seven add-ons to its management software, which are designed to monitor performance of Microsoft server applications that run in conjunction with Oracle’s database. These include SQL Server database, Active Directory, BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Internet Information Services, Internet Security and Acceleration Server and the .Net Framework. Scholl said the company is focusing on providing more choice of product to its customer base.

“Oracle is not all things to all people, even with all of these applications,” he said.

In an earlier interview with ITBusiness.ca, IDC Canada software analyst Joel Martin said SAP remains the No. 1 CRM and ERP company in Canada, though Oracle’s integration of smaller rivals could change that.

“This increases the competitive market for (SAP),” he said. “There is a very well-established CRM product in Oracle’s solution set. They’ll have to marry that with the Fusion middleware solution and components they purchased through PeopleSoft/JDE.”

Oracle’s most recent acquisitions include Hotsip, a messaging software provider, and open source database company Sleepycat.

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