The long fuse to Fusion

Over the past few years Oracle has purchased several application software manufacturers, including Siebel, Retek, ProfitLogic and PeopleSoft (plus JD Edwards). Following its acquisition binge, Oracle has announced that all its current application software will be migrated to a new platform, Fusion, that will be introduced in late 2007.

Migrating to Fusion will not be your average upgrade. It's a completely redesigned enterprise application suite based on the best functionality from the packages Oracle has acquired. In addition, Fusion will have completely new technical underpinnings based on a service-oriented architecture and Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS). Oracle's "Applications Unlimited" commitment announces extended support for its current application suites. However, it is hard to believe that it will support multiple development teams indefinitely.

Any organization that uses an Oracle-owned application suite must make a conscious migration decision regarding Fusion. Because of the size, scope, technical complexity and associated costs of this migration, you should base your decision on business criteria, not on technical features. As you decide what to do, consider the following:

  • Migration to Fusion may require multiple upgrades of each application package. For most applications, Oracle will provide an upgrade to Fusion from only the two latest versions (some of which haven't been released yet). If you're using an older release, you'll have to upgrade to one of the newer versions first.
  • Fusion is a complete rewrite. New product releases typically have more problems than normal upgrades. It's often better to upgrade after the software has been in the field long enough for the initial bugs to be identified (by someone else) and corrected.
  • There will be a shortage of Fusion expertise after the initial product release. As a result, individuals with Fusion experience or even Fusion training will be in high demand and very expensive at that time.

If you use any Oracle-owned application suite, you need a Fusion strategy. Waiting until 2007 to plan will limit your options. Even though Fusion details have not yet been released, you should develop your business case and migration strategy now. Three basic strategies are possible:

Migrate to Fusion as soon as possible. If Fusion will quickly provide significant business benefits, begin your migration preparations soon. Start training your technical and business staffers. Migrate your applications to a release that supports a Fusion upgrade. Acquire ERP implementation experience now; hire new people, train your internal staff or find outside consultants. Get ready to initiate the project as soon as Fusion is released.

Hedge your bets and defer migration. If Fusion doesn't offer clear benefits for your company in the short term, wait to migrate. After three or four years, the "hot skill" premium for Fusion expertise will decrease, and the software will have fewer bugs. Consider upgrading your applications in the meantime, however. Newer releases offer additional functionality and will reduce the complexity of your eventual migration.

Do nothing. If you are running an older Oracle-acquired application that's meeting your business needs well, don't migrate. Run your current package for three or four more years, then revisit the business case. At that point, it may be easier to install a completely new ERP system than it would be to undertake the double migration that Fusion requires. This has the added advantage of allowing you to completely re-evaluate your ERP strategy down the road and possibly select a non-Oracle solution.

Ignoring the decision while the fuse continues to burn is unproductive. That approach will eventually blow up in your face. Leverage the lead time provided by Oracle's early announcement of Fusion to make the migration decision that's right for your organization.

Bart Perkins is managing partner at Leverage Partners, which advises on IT investments

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