An Independent Oracle Human Resources Software Review
Oracle is a hardware and software giant (employing one of the largest workforces in the technology industry at roughly 110,000 workers), specializing in enterprise software solutions and driven by co-founder and inspirational leader Larry Ellison. Originally founded in 1977 as Software Development Laboratories (SDL), the company earned early success with its database management systems—and fueled this growth through one of the industry's broadest and most aggressive acquisition strategies (which to date has netted over 70 solutions company-wide). The combined acquisition and organic growth have made the company a category leader in several sectors, including ERP, CRM, HR and payroll systems.
Yet, Oracle has also incurred its share of turmoil, particularly in legal battles. Examples include a mega lawsuit with SAP over copyright infringement (the largest piracy suit of its kind worldwide); a U.S. Department of Justice suit for fraud; a Java suit against Google; and the occasional PR nightmares associated with allegedly failed ERP implementations such as the cited case with a New Jersey school filing a $20M suit against the company. These issues, many of which are not unique to Oracle, and coupled with the volatility of the enterprise software market and the fact that large-scale purchases (a historical staple of the company) are declining, have proven that even the largest of technology suppliers are not immune from trying times.
Nonetheless, the company has continued its advancement in emerging markets and new revenue models in order to maintain a market leadership position. In fact, the company's foray into hardware with the acquisition of Sun Microsystems (while potentially dilutive if allowed to bifurcate the company) is one of Oracle's top business strategies; thanks to the fact that integrated and optimized hardware and software provides the end-to-end opportunity for Oracle to own the technology stack. At least that's the thinking at Oracle. The other major strategy, discussed further in this software review, is the expansion of the Oracle applications portfolio with Fusion—the company's answer to bridging the gap between previous on-premise deployments (and sizeable license and maintenance revenues) and the industry's movement toward cloud computing.
The Fusion Strategy
With over 14,000 HR software customers spread out over 140 countries and servicing 40M employees, Oracle wields a sizeable share of the HR software market (in fact CedarCrestone's HR Systems Survey found that between Oracle E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft, nearly 50% of the sample use Oracle software). This market leadership is in large part due to the fact that the company has multiple HR software products for multiple market segments; including PeopleSoft, JD Edwards (World & Enterprise One) and E-Business Suite. The newest offering that Oracle brings to the table is Oracle Fusion Applications (OFA)—which, aside from just HR software, also includes business software products for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), supply chain, and ERP/financial software.
Near simultaneously announced in 2005 alongside the acquisitions of PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel Systems, Oracle's Fusion incurred a painfully slow gestation period—exceeding development time and showing few early adopters. In part this delay was due to working out the kinks of deployment models, integration and upgrade points for Oracle's already existing applications; however, Oracle's original intentions for Fusion also served to slow down the process. Indeed, Oracle Fusion Applications were initially designed to be a veritable "best-of" modular application suite—taking the best features from several of its legacy products; developing the application with industry-standard Java; and architecting the application for either on-premise or cloud delivery.
While the software giant's strategy sounds promising enough, the problem with this approach was that existing customers pushed back; citing concerns that Fusion was being forced upon them with no regard to the energy and expense that these customers had already expended to deploy these legacy systems. These vocal complaints in turn persuaded Oracle to create a parallel application stream called Oracle Applications Unlimited—essentially an assurance roadmap that outlined support and advancement for each of Oracle's existing applications. Somewhat Ironically though, it is this roadmap that has shed light on the inescapable fact that next generation releases do not appear to be planned for several of Oracle's legacy solutions—even those that fall outside of the HR software suites. That's not to say that Oracle won't support those offerings, or that updates to functionality will stop, but major architectural changes do not seem to be in those applications' futures—mainly because Fusion is the application future and flagship product for Oracle. Here we outline in more detail what Oracle's HR software future looks like by diving deep into the Oracle Fusion HCM solution.
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