by Connie Moore, Colin Teubner, Rob Karel, Ken Poore, Rob Koplowitz, Stephen Powers, Barry Murphy and Claire Schooley.

A few weeks ago, several Forrester analysts attended Oracle World. Now that we’ve gotten back and had a chance to think about what we’ve heard, we wanted to post this blog to share our thoughts with clients. Here are some observations on what we heard from Oracle about BPM and middleware, data integration and data quality, search and collaboration, enterprise content management and social computing, message archiving and retention management, and human capital management.

BPM and Middleware feedback from Colin Teubner:

What really struck me is how much Oracle was talking about middleware. Charles Phillips opened his keynote talking about it and Oracle’s application integration architecture (AIA — if you don’t know what that is, it’s a whole separate discussion), and Larry spent a lot of time in his keynote talking about it too. In fact, middleware has been the fastest growing part of Oracle’s business for at least two or three years, and they have several significant advantages over IBM’s stack from my perspective.

Specifically, they are talking about having the only business process management suite that covers content-centric processes using the same engine as for integration-centric or people-centric processes. (This discussion wasn’t at the executive level, but farther down in the BPM product management area.) They poked fun at "some vendors" who make you use different, acquired technology for different types of processes. I haven’t seen specifics of how Oracle’s BPEL product (Collaxa) works with Stellent though, but they definitely do NOT go for IBM’s idea of a "portfolio" of software. It’s a comprehensive stack, and if you don’t want to use one piece of it, that’s fine — just use the other pieces and they’ll integrate with what you have. They don’t sell anything that overlaps in functionality with anything else.

Data Integration and Quality feedback from Rob Karel:

My main takeaway from OracleWorld, specifically around Oracle’s data integration strategies, is that its data quality software strategy is a mess.

Oracle already has some internal competition from an ETL perspective between its Oracle Warehouse Builder (OWB) product that the Database Group embeds within the 11g database and the Fusion Middleware groups’ Oracle Data Integrator (ODI), which was acquired last year from Sunopsis. While Oracle is doing some cross-development between the two solutions, for the most part these two teams operate independently with their own roadmaps and objectives — sometimes competing for mindshare.

The most recent demonstration of this was when I met separately with executives from the database group, the ODI team, and the master data management team and discussed what Oracle is doing about data quality. The ODI team just informed me of a DQ partnership with Trillium Software with the release of Oracle Data Quality for Oracle Data Integrator (ODQODI).  ODQODI is a joint development partnership that packages both Oracle’s ODI data integration and Trillium’s DQ products into a single license, single install. ODIODQ includes Trillium’s batch data profiling, parsing, and matching functionality, although customers who are looking for real time data quality or postal address verification would need to engage Trillium directly to enable those capabilities and services. This is a strange partnership because I expect ODI to be Oracle’s "real-time" integration solution, while the partnership only supports batch (not real-time) data quality.

The database team, on the other hand, continues to focus on data as an embedded part of OWB functionality and doesn’t seem to care what ODI is doing.  In the meantime, the MDM team is focusing its integration efforts with ODI, but I don’t see this Trillium/ODQODI partnership as all that valuable for their MDM product since they should prefer to have real-time/transactional data quality capabilities to complement their MDM offerings.

Oracle has other data quality solutions spread throughout its portfolio including Siebel Data Quality Matching Server used within its Siebel apps environment, recently acquired Hyperion System 9 Financial Data Quality management that came along with its purchase of BI vendor Hyperion, and matching and parsing functionality embedded within its Universal Customer Master, Oracle Customer Hub and Oracle Product Hub MDM offerings. To enhance data quality within its MDM offerings, Oracle also partners with Silver Creek Systems for product data quality and Trillium for customer data quality. 

I believe Oracle will need to reconcile its internal product development and partnering strategies to eliminate the confusion created by so many data quality offerings spread across its portfolio. 

Search and Collaboration feedback from Ken Poore:

I focused on search while at Oracle World. I had several one-on-ones, a few which included my colleague, Matt Brown. We had a session with a partner that had positive things to say about the Oracle Secure Enterprise Search (SES) product and team, most notably that the team was very helpful and took many of their suggestions and rolled it back into the product — a good sign for a still relatively young product. In my experience, that sort of ‘listening’ only lasts for the first two or three releases of a product. We also had a session with a customer, but it was more portal-centric and turned out to be marginally useful.

I had an extended couple of sessions with Vishu Krishnamurthy (Director of Development for most of their collaboration tools) and several of the product managers. It was a very positive two-way exchange. They shared many of their latest developments, and I shared some my thoughts on their direction as well as some ideas that I have been developing to help push the market along. I felt — and they concurred — that SES is just emerging as a true contender against similar products from IBM and Microsoft. They are still fleshing out a lot of me-too capability, but they are really bolstering their connectivity capabilities and entity extraction, two key areas in the enterprise search market these days that could leap-frog or least enable them to catch up quickly. Oracle has some really solid ideas, especially around distributing components of search indexing to the owners of the applications being searched (CRM, ERP, etc.) instead of leaving it in the hands of the ‘search team’. Doing so enhances the buy-in from every department involved and leverages the application owner’s expertise and context.

So while I would say there were no earthshaking announcements, I felt like they have a very strong product management, technical, and marketing strategy that will only gain momentum from this point forward. It is a very competitive market, and like IBM, they will struggle trying to be successful against the pure-plays for customers that do not have a significant incumbent investment in Oracle products (or in IBM products, in IBM’s case).

Enterprise Content Management and Social Computing feedback from Rob Koplowitz:

I heard a bit about the ECM direction from Rich Buchheim. He states that at least one Stellent product will be retooled to run directly on Content DB. That’s an interesting development from a scalability perspective. I suspect that will be a major engineering effort and won’t be fully implemented in the next release.

The other thing that was interesting is that WebCenter Suite is being positioned as the standard front-end for Fusion apps. As a matter of fact, one of the defining elements of a "Fusion" app is that it will have a WebCenter front-end. The convergence of WebCenter and Content DB is pretty cool. Essentially, any app using WebCenter will have native access to content stored in Content DB. Essentially, it means that Oracle apps will be able to seamlessly surface content in context in any application. The cool part will be that content generated on one app can be surfaced anywhere. For example, if a document is stored as part of sales process in a SFA app it can be called natively from inside of a support CRM app if they want to see what the customer was promised. Since it’s a Web service call from a database with rich metadata the content becomes extremely portable.

The other thing Oracle talked about a lot was Social Computing. There was a big emphasis on blogs, wikis, social networking, tagging and RSS in WebCenter, which again means it can be natively leveraged in Fusion apps.

Enterprise Content Management feedback from Stephen Powers:

I spoke with some members of the ECM team, and they were talking up integrations between Oracle’s Universal Content Management, and Siebel. But Siebel will act as the base application, not UCM. So, if Siebel customers are looking for ECM, Oracle wants to offer them an SOA-based ECM option that sits on top of Siebel, rather than trying to sell them a separate UCM package. They’re also making noise around product catalog management, and real-time predictive analytics. They hedged a bit on functionality roadmap, though.

For Digital Asset Management (DAM), Oracle plans to go upmarket, with integrations with Adobe InDesign. And it will be able to have greater video management capabilities, such as management of multi-part files, indexing of closed captioning, management and indexing of call center audio files.

I also spoke with someone from Sealed Media, the DRM vendor that was acquired by Stellent a few months before Oracle bought them. Oracle has rebranded Sealed Media as Information Rights Manager. But I got the sense that they are not very well integrated with the rest of the company; while we spoke about Sealed Media functionality, I didn’t get the sense that they’re working very closely with other members of the UCM team.

Human Capital Management feedback from Claire Schooley:

HCM people in recruiting and learning talked about the social computing aspects of learning that are coming soon (whatever that means) and that will be a part of Fusion in the future. Here’s an overview of the scenario:

An organization that wants to hire an intern who might turn into an employee after graduation would contact colleges and get student recommendations from professors. An email would then be sent to the students suggesting that they go to a link on company’s Website and read about the job. If student is still interested, he/she registers and then can interact about the job with those in charge. If still interested, the student completes a proposal on how he/she would approach and carry-out the task along with information about themselves and a picture if they want. These proposals are read and reviewed by staff and online discussion occurs (Web and video) with the final two or three candidates. Once chosen, the successful candidate is put into a partitioned group of temporary employees and completes all the HR forms and information well before they start work. They also are part of a community of practice (CoP) that they can access to get more familiar with organization, project documents, etc. and meet and interact with people on the team they will work on. When they start work, students know and have interacted with the people they will be working with, will have taken care of all HR transactional material — and are ready to work. (The key is that all these technologies are linked seamlessly).