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Oracle has plans to drag its core ERP products into a new era where flexibility and innovation can coexist with standardisation.

"ERP really was successful," Rick Beers, Oracle's senior director of product management for Fusion middleware told iTWire.

It delivered standardised data and processes, and was efficient from a CFO's perspective. Oracle and other vendors "made a big difference."
But somewhere around the late 90s the three-to-five-year upgrade cycle fell apart. While standardisation based on the 'best practices' embedded in the software worked in some parts of an organisation, others - such as manufacturing units - needed differentiation, so "customisations 'snuck in'," making upgrading more difficult.

Furthermore, "business change became continual" rather than something that happened in occasional bursts. The adoption of SOA (service oriented architecture) made it possible to wrap a technology architecture around a business model, but now enterprise software vendors are looking for another advance but nobody is quite sure what it should be, "so everyone's confused." Oracle's vision, Mr Beers said, is to provide customers with openness, adaptability and agility while retaining standards.

Balancing standardisation with differentiation is a CIO's hardest job, but "we want to provide the optimum balance."

The idea is that Oracle will continue to provide the core ERP engine, as without a single engine organisations will not be able to achieve a sufficiently low total cost of ownership.

That will be surrounded by three layers in a scheme the company has dubbed AppAdvantage - see page 2.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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