Software giants announce upgrades

Sticking to the promise made when it acquired PeopleSoft earlier this year, Oracle announced this week a significant upgrade for users of the JD Edwards World solution in the form of an A7.3 Service Pack 16. In addition, Oracle talked about the roadmap for Project Fusion, which will integrate PeopleSoft Enterprise, Oracle eCommerce Suite, and the JD Edwards solutions into a single application.

In the meantime, rival Siebel announced availability of CRM OnDemand Release 8, which will include a new business-level social networking utility and the capability to import outside data sources like Dunn and Bradstreet or Hoover's to increase the number of leads for a sales or marketing campaign.

Oracle's Service Pack 16's major enhancement is the inclusion of three self-service modules.

The first self-service component gives enterprise users access to orders, permits changes, and provides payment views. A supplier self-service module allows vendors to view purchase orders, inventory levels, and payments due.

The second self-service component is targeted at company employees, allowing them to interact with the company HR application, record life change events, and enroll in programs.

According to John Schiff, general manager and vice president at JD Edwards World Group, these upgrades come this early in the year because Oracle felt it was imperative to show its commitment to its new user base.

"We wanted to bring this out concurrent with the user conference. The user conference wasn't [originally] in the cards for this month," Schiff said.

Other enhancements include improved purchase-order traceability of financial transactions to facilitate compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley.

Schiff also said Oracle is committed to a new version of the JD Edwards World applications in 2006. Although sparse on details, Schiff did say the next version would have better interoperability with non-JD Edwards applications.

"We're looking at it not just from an Oracle perspective but industrywide standards for better transaction flows in and out of the system," Schiff said.

Finally Schiff said Oracle is in the early stages of its Project Fusion. The project is a follow-on product to all of its current solutions from PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Oracle.

Schiff said the data will be delivered through Oracle middleware such as the customer data hub, product data hub, and financial data hub.

"It will have real-time business information flows," Schiff said.

Service Pack 16 is shipping now.

Siebel had a major announcement of its own this week -- the unveiling of Release 8 of Siebel CRM OnDemand, the company's software as a service offering.

The fifth release within 12 months is focused this time on collaboration and marketing segmentation, according to Keith Raffle, group vice president for OnDemand Products.

Raffle agreed that one of the major enhancements in Release 8 might be called a social networking module for business, targeted especially at wealth management and even life sciences where relationship selling is paramount.

"If someone is another customer's lawyer or golfing buddy, in wealth management that is how sales are made," Raffle said.

Therefore, the feature gives users input fields to show such relationships. Then, using the built-in data warehouse, a salesperson could run analytics to compare results of selling using different relationships.

According to Raffle, a user might discover that making a pitch to one customer's golfing buddy is five times more successful than pitching a customer's lawyer or relative.

The other new feature is a marketing segmentation wizard that will allow users to import leads from outside data sources. Using analytics, the module can also "slice and dice" different aspects of opportunities and accounts for more targeted marketing campaigns.

Release 8 is available now.

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