We are blogging from the Oracle Open World Conference being held in San Francisco this week.  Readers can review our previous Commentary One and Commentary Two updates.

For this particular commentary we focus on Oracle’s family of supply chain management applications.

Somewhat similar to SAP, Oracle umbrellas the leadership of its supply chain development umbrella to include a wide swath of related support applications. That includes supply chain planning, warehouse and transportation execution, supplier collaboration, procurement, product lifecycle management (PLM) and business intelligence.  The addition of the procurement side is rather new, transferring from the financial applications and PeopleSoft side, and perhaps a strong indication of deeper support for direct materials and broad-based supplier network procurement business process needs. Having such a wide swath reinforces the need for technology support to span the complete value-chain requirements  from product introduction to product retirement, and from order to cash.

As noted in our previous commentary, for this author, this will be my eight OpenWorld conference and thus I provide a historic context. As the industry analyst for AMR Research in 2000-2001, I introduced the market and clients to the initial capabilities of Oracle’s then supply chain planning suite. A lot has transpired since then.

Value Chain Planning (VCP) within the Oracle E-Business Suite is now much more mainstream in customer adoption. One of the most strategically important acquisitions for the VCP team was that of Demantra, which has now garnered lots of customer acclaim in demand sensing, S&OP process and other product demand facing business process support needs. Adding more reinforcement, I had the opportunity to sit-in on a customer panel of four VCP customers at this event and walked away with the impression that this suite of applications is now being deployed in far broader vertical industry settings, such as oil and gas equipment and complex discrete, and delivering discernible value. The same can be stated for the warehouse management and transportation side, and the previous strategic acquisition of G-Log. The addition of the new Release 12.2 of Oracle E-Business Suite with its Online Patching features to support high availability application needs will certainly add more capability for VCP and broader supply chain focused customers.

Moving forward, Oracle’s supply chain umbrella will likely take two dimensions, the above noted suite of behind-the-firewall application support capabilities and the new generation of Fusion Supply Chain Management cloud-based applications. Our commentary from last year’s OpenWorld noted a rather thin and fuzzy timetable related to Fusion Supply Chain Management. A year later, some progress has been made in Distributed Order Orchestration and Order Promising, along with some compelling features within Fusion Master Data Management. The future timetable now includes new features manufacturing execution, lifecycle PLM and other areas.  The missing link to the previous fuzzy timetable we believe was the need for further Oracle-wide developments in engineering the cloud-based infrastructure and middleware components including in-memory row and columnar database processing and a switchable cloud database as well as other developments.  Now that the infrastructure side of Oracle is reaching the pinnacle of its efforts, the applications side must now crank-up its efforts and demonstrate to customers how cloud-based applications can be more appealing.

By our view, Oracle has all of the elements to enable both a supply chain control tower form of capabilities along with deep predictive analytics applied to supply chain resource planning needs.  However, cranking the applications development side of Oracle has its own set of challenges.  We’ll see what the future holds.

Bob Ferrari