Users blast Oracle's 'takeover' tactics

Local members of the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) are appalled by a recent proposal database giant Oracle made to fold the independent group's annual conferences into a single, vendor-driven corporate event, an Australia-based group director said.

On the eve of the Asia/Pacific OAUG conference in Brisbane, Jeanney Dobney, ACT-based IT consultant and a director of OAUG in Australia, agreed with Computerworld US reports that OAUG worldwide "was at odds with Oracle".

"The sorts of sentiments we're getting here are very much the same as the US press reported," said Dobney. "While (OAUG) in the US has a larger conference, we put the suggestion to our members and got a very strong vote of 'no, thank you' from 85 per cent of them. They've given us more than a mandate - a directive."

Dobney claimed Oracle would withdraw its traditional education and training support stand from this week's conference owing to power struggles which erupted between the vendor and OAUG during the October OAUG Conference in Hawaii. Oracle education "would not be represented" at the Asia Pacific event, Dobney said. "There'll be far less user group support."

However, Andrew Clay, director of e-business Oracle Australia disagreed, maintaining the vendor did not feel "at odds with the OAUG". He refuted Dobney's claim Oracle would withdraw support from the Asia/Pacific event. "While we will be putting the majority of our support behind [Oracle Applications World], we will also provide support to the OAUG. In fact, I will be speaking at the OAUG Asia Pacific conference as will be Derek Williams, senior vice president for Oracle Corporation Asia Pacific and other local and overseas representatives from Oracle," Clay said.

Dobney added that OAUG would be hit with the official line the move was not a budgetary issue, but a "directive from [Oracle] Corporation".

While she conceded users may be disappointed by the prospect of a smaller Oracle corporate presence next week (20 registered executives compared to 200 in Hawaii), it could keep the event more honest.

"If you've got a reduced Oracle attendance in terms of education, training and development, users would say this is a shame. Lose the marketing people, the user group would say 'thank God'.

"Users don't need to be marketed to," she said.

She speculated Oracle may feel "in competition" with user group business customers because of bold objections OAUG executives made to Oracle marketing division's idea to host vendor-controlled OAUG events, posing a threat to OAUG's independence.

"I can't understand why Oracle doesn't want to talk to its customers," Dobney mused.

"This is the only way it can get close to its customers, who by and large are its biggest fans and really like its products."

However, Clay said its events were highly customer-centric. "The key issue to focus on is making sure that our entire user base has access to information on implementation, support and education issues, as well as forward-thinking topics including how to transform a company to an e-business. Both Applications World and the OAUG is about reaching out to as many users as possible."

OAUG's Australian and Asian members will use the Brisbane conference to address issues around Oracle's standardised pricing structure, which Dobney called "expensive" here due to the devaluation of the Australian dollar, GST price hikes and the cost of migration of licensing.

OAUG business users will present papers on newly-released database application Oracle 11i, early adopter testimonials, and operational workshops.

Oracle will conduct sessions on enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management directions and Oracle support and there will be an open Q&A session.

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