Customers grill Oracle executives

Regional Oracle customers used a forum with Oracle Corporation executives to scrutinise the database applications giant over quality and support issues, the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) Asia-Pacific Conference heard this month.

Anonymous questions were issued to a seven-member Oracle executive panel at the Brisbane event, the most controversial being that "despite Oracle's commitments Oracle 11i would be different (bug-free)", the software was still extremely buggy to the point that Oracle's testing process was "very dubious". One user pressed the panel to prove the company had established "performance incentives and measures to [assure] customers product quality would improve".

Peter Heller, Oracle's senior director of marketing, maintained that quality had always been an "important priority" for the vendor. However, he conceded: "When you have a problem, it's hard to deny that you have a problem."

He said Oracle had "elaborate" processes and beta testing in place, performing tests among "dozens" of customers for both Oracle 11i and other specific product areas. "It's hard to explain," he said. "But we have a closed loop testing process [for] the determination, identification and resolution of bugs [which] yielded lots of bugs - which is the whole purpose." And while Heller said Oracle's 11i team was developing a patch for the suite, he could not provide users with its release date.

Adding insult to injury, a local customer confronted the panel, again, with the product quality issue, reminding executives: "There were several commitments made last year that [quality] problems would not occur again. So how do [quality] problems get fed back to the US?"

"The US is well aware of quality problems," Heller replied tersely. "We're doing everything that we can to address these issues."

One customer's comment on the need for second-level support for complex technical cases led Oracle to reveal its product support group's expansion plans in India. "It is often frustrating trying to explain technical issues and problems to non-technical support persons - you need a direct [technical] contact for this," the user said.

In response, local executives told delegates that 150 to 200 senior technical analysts would be located in India over the next six to 12 months to manage "high severity problems".

However, Oracle would not elaborate on how the transfers would affect support resources in Australia, only reiterating that the India-based team would be "substantial".

In other news, Oracle will release an e-business application suite next year on a Maxvision environment, which, according to Heller, will include ERP and CRM patches as of October 25, 2001.

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