Users: Oracle should bolster customer satisfaction

Oracle is taking steps to remedy perceived quality assurance problems surrounding its E-Business Suite 11i software, even as a recent survey outlines user frustrations over the implementation of the applications.

During a session at the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) Spring 2002 conference here yesterday, Boston-based AMR Research Inc. unveiled a report on users' reaction to Oracle E-Business Suite 11i. The study focused on OAUG member companies, 60 percent of whom said they are either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with Oracle as a company.

Nevertheless, according to Jennifer Kemmeter, author of the report, customer satisfaction with the 11i upgrade and implementation processes remains low -- a sentiment reflected by other users at the conference (see story).

Although companies reported seeing system performance and business benefits from 11i, the study found that companies claimed they spent 43 percent more than they had expected on an 11i implementation, and said it required 39 percent more time than had been anticipated.

"The take-away is that it is costing more than it should and [more than] what users are expecting -- and they are not happy about it," said Bill Swanton, another analyst at AMR and author of a February report on quality and the 11i suite. "The root cause is quality."

However, he noted that Oracle has been taking steps to address the issue by standardizing its quality-assurance processes and by offering products that can automate and speed up testing for companies doing the implementations.

Detailing some of those initiatives was Cliff Godwin, senior vice president of applications technology at Oracle and a speaker at the OAUG conference. He said Oracle has taken steps to improve and standardize testing processes, such as by automatically generating patch code and creating a quality-assurance process organization.

The company will also ship a tool that can automatically tell what patches a user needs to install, depending on what version of 11i the user is running, and what steps will have to be taken to deploy them. Also coming is an automatic configuration tool to help companies configure the software for their own specific processes.

Godwin said there are, 500 live sites using 11i, with about 5,000 customers involved in implementations out of a total installed base of 9,000.

However, according to Tom Wyatt, president of the OAUG, only about 16 percent of the membership is live on 11i.

Seeing Oracle come through on the quality initiative is a key wish for Jeremy Young, past president of the OAUG and finance business process manager at DHL Worldwide Network NV in Belgium.

His company last January completed a global migration to 11i from 10.7 that included 11 different instances of the E-Business Suite globally. Like other early adopters of the suite, there were "a lot of issues with quality" and Oracle kept releasing patches to fix glitches, which meant that DHL had to keep testing patches as they were installed.

Oracle appears to be moving in the right direction, Young said, and he hopes that trend continues. "The signs are there, but you want to see it continue over an extended period," he said.

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