Oracle exec: 11i to shake up supply chain

Oracle Corp. has been fighting a battle to get new and old users alike on its E-Business Suite 11i.

Only 10 per cent of its installed base uses it, while 55 per cent use a version which will have support for it cut at the end of the

year. But according to users at AppsWorld, Oracle’s yearly application user conference, the current version of 11i is the best and most stable yet and includes a four-fold increase in features.

The supply chain side wasn’t ignored during the upgrade from 11 to 11i. In a Q&A with Technology in Government, Jeff Caldwell, Oracle’s vice-president of supply chain business development, discusses the present and future of his area of expertise.

Technology in Government: What are the key elements of the supply chain?

Jeff Caldwell: Oracle’s definition of supply chain includes six categories: product development, planning, procurement, manufacturing, fulfillment and maintenance. Oracle’s vision is to have a complete supply chain offering.

TiG: What does complete mean?

JC: Complete means a couple of things. Complete means comprehensive in that we have robust world class functionality within each of these six domains, and complete also means integrated. Not only do we have the functionality, but the supply chain areas are seamlessly integrated. Oracle has that today with 11i. We have over 65 supply chain applications which fall within one of these six categories.

Perfection is a pursuit, completeness is a pursuit. Are we fully complete in an absolute sense? No. Relative to other providers, vendors and competitors? Yes.

TiG: What verticals are your primary customers?

JC: Within the supply chain space several industries are particularly important: aerospace and defense, automotive, chemicals, consumer (products), high technology, industrial (manufacturing) and life sciences.

TiG: What is Oracle’s strategy to augment your customer base in these industries and get new ones on others?

JC: We’re going industry by industry evaluating our product footprint against the industry requirements, identifying potential feature/function gaps and then we’re going to fill them. This current focus on industries does not mean we haven’t been focusing on industries, it means it has a increased level of attention. Some industries we’re going after include utilities, communications and government.

TiG: Do private and public sector companies have different supply chain needs?

JC: The needs and the requirements are identical; the processes are different. The key difference in the processing — which really just applies to the procurement side of the house — is budgetary control. The idea is once you decide you want to send, you then earmark that money and take it off the table so it can’t be spent twice. It deals with money management and the area where supply chain and money management overlap is procurement. The government is not all agencies; governments include departments of defence, department of prisons. There are a lot of institutions that have to be procured for, maintained, planned. It just doesn’t do them for profit.

TiG: What’s the motivation to improve if profit isn’t the goal?

JC: Sure, the public sector is not in it for a profit, but all governments are cutting back. I think we’re all going through tough times. All these agencies are told: “”Do more and, by the way, your budget is 25 per cent less.”” Although they’re not running for profit, they are being squeezed to become more efficient and to satisfy that they are very keen to move on e-business systems: e-finance systems, e-HR systems, e-business supply chain systems. It’s not about profit. They have to maintain their service levels and they have less money. Hence we’re redefining what E really stands for. It used to stand for electronic. E now has become efficiency. E-business — efficient business, do more with less.

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