Third-party players get the spotlight at OAUG event

While Oracle Corp. may not be making announcements at the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) meeting this week in Atlanta, a number of third-party players are.

Last year a dispute between the OAUG and Oracle over hosting led to Oracle pulling back from the OAUG and launching its own user events. Even so, many third-party vendors and a projected 5,000 user attendees are expected at the Spring 2001 OAUG Conference, which runs from April 24-28 in Atlanta. Conference registration begins Monday.

ClearOrbit, formerly BPA Systems, will be launching a new suite of products called the Gemini series at the conference.

The software is designed for enterprise users to extend their Oracle ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems to support supply-chain execution for discrete manufacturing, said Michael Palmer, chief technology officer of Austin, Texas-based ClearOrbit.

While most ERP systems provide 80 percent of the functionality that enterprises need to tackle supply-chain execution, the Gemini series will optimize ERP systems to gain the additional 20 percent of functionality, Palmer said. "We can reduce shop floor labor by 20 percent," he said. "We can increase inventory accuracy by 20 to 30 percent."

While a stand-alone supply chain management solution may offer enterprises 100 percent of the functionality needed for execution, it commonly will overlap with an ERP system and require substantial integration, Palmer said.

"Now you have to interface the two together and decide which to neuter," Palmer said. "Integration isn't a problem, it's the problem."

Noetix also will launch a new suite at the conference. Noetix Enterprise Technology Suite, an updated version of its query server, is designed to extract data from 15 Oracle modules in two days or less, sometimes in real time, said Ann Markley, vice president of marketing at Bellevue, Wash.-based Noetix.

"We take the data that is locked up in Oracle applications and we are able to translate them in business terms," she said. "Oracle applications are structured for transactions, processing. They're not really designed to get information out, reports out."

For example, BellSouth has used the suite to slash the time it takes to generate reports from its financial module for analyst from several weeks to real time, she said.

Last year, the OAUG rejected Oracle's offer to serve as host for OAUG events, arguing that it had to maintain its independence from the vendor. In return, Oracle decided to sponsor alternative conferences focused on Oracle applications and make those events the forums for Oracle product news.

Since then, the two conferences have been competing for attendees. For the OAUG show this week, users want to get practical information that can be applied to their implementations.

Raman Batra, Oracle infrastructure manager at Legerity, an Austin, Texas-based communications chip and integrated circuit company, said that while Oracle's AppsWorld conference provided a lot of technology road maps for new products and services, much of the material was "academic."

"With OAUG, these are real-life experiences," Batra said. "There's no substitute for experience. People can criticize Oracle. There's no Larry Ellison watching over the conference to make sure you're not bashing them."

Batra, whose company has been using the financial, manufacturing, inventory, shipping, purchasing, and human resources modules of Oracle's 11i applications suite, will be looking for details from other users at the show about Oracle's CRM (customer relationship management) solution. Legerity does not have a call center operation, but the company is interested in stripping those features out of the Oracle CRM system to use minimal functionality, he said.

Legerity officials also are interested in finding out how difficult it is to integrate their reporting systems and business intelligence reports to Oracle's portal product, Batra said. The company plans to deploy personalized portals to employee desktops that would provide access to business intelligence data and details about employee benefits, he added.

"We're trying to build a whole information system around that, where you have a whole bunch of reports and people can dig data out," Batra said.

Conference attendees from S4R, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based managed IT services firm, also will be eyeing Oracle's CRM solution and seeking details on a rumored new price-quoting module, said Erika Barajas, S4R's Oracle project manager.

Barajas said a quoting module would help the company's sales representatives more easily provide prices to customers. They now use Excel spreadsheets.

"It's very tiresome," Barajas said. "It doesn't go into a database. It's all being tracked in Excel, which is not very secure."

S4R is an Oracle 11i user, with modules including financials and purchasing in place.

The OAUG was formed by users in the San Francisco Bay area in May 1990 when 32 users of the Oracle Application suite gathered to create an independent forum.

Based in Atlanta, the OAUG counts more than 15,000 user members worldwide, and can be reached at www.oaug.org.

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