Oracle Hopes To Sweeten Partner Relations

That was one of the messages from Oracle co-president Charles Phillips on Thursday when he and other Oracle officials spoke before 150 specially invited executives from 50 system integrator firms at the Oracle SI Executive Summit.

The summit had the twin purpose of convincing systems integrators that Oracle means to play nice, while providing more details on the next major version of Oracle's business management applications for large enterprise customers. To be released in the next two weeks, Oracle E-Business Suite version 11i10 offers 2,100 new capabilities and new industry domain features that systems integrators can tap into.

"I came because it was advertised that Oracle will tell us about the features and functions of the new release," said Michael Tompros, an Accenture associate partner.

But while systems integrators came to hear the product details, with a particular eye on Oracle's new industry focus, the Redwood Shores, Calif., vendor kicked off the event with promises of partner empowerment.

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"The debate over whether we are partner friendly is behind us now," said Phillips in his opening statement. "It's not a debate anymore. We can say we can do this on our own as much as we want, but we don't have enough troops to do it on our own. We have to get better at working with partners, get more efficient and educate you on our strategies. You have to hear where we are going and where we are not. And we have to hear your feedback."

Phillips said 47 percent of Oracle's revenue comes from the indirect channel—and soon expects the channel to account for more than half of all business. "We are not perfect, but we have a good start under way," he said. The key is the right attitude and objective, and we have that. It's now a matter of fine tuning it."

Reaction to Phillips' promises was decidedly mixed. "Our Oracle business is 110 percent on our own," said a vice president of a regional Oracle implementation company, who asked not to be named. "Even when we've brought business to Oracle, we end up competing against Oracle Consulting even more than before. [Phillips'] message is the same pitch they've given for five years."

In contrast, Mike Petruzzi, a partner with New York-based ThoughtDigital, said he's seen marked improvement in how Oracle works with partners. "Oracle is making a conscious effort to curtail growth of Oracle Consulting," said Petruzzi. "For the first time they are working evenly well with players of all sizes. They're even excited to work with regional implementation companies like ours."

Oracle's channel efforts will include a new Partner Management System, based on the PRM module found in the E-Business Suite. The phased U.S. rollout, which starts in January, eventually become a single partner hub for all systems integrator-related programs and efforts. These will include lead routing and management, marketing and development funds and joint engagement opportunities.

"Partners can see all of the opportunities outstanding with us, how many they've closed with us and the spends that are linked to us," Bronwyn Hastings, vice president of Worldwide Alliances and Channels told CRN. "Internally, the partner manager can see such things as how much we're doing with joint demand generation, and how much opportunity is in the pipeline." In addition the Oracle Partner Network online portal will boast hundreds of online training courses on the new version 11i10 of the application suite.

That new version features a streamlined user interface, pre-built reports and built-in Daily Business Intelligence functions for building hundreds of realtime dashboards without the need of a separate data warehouse. Those BI capabilities can also act as a bridge between the different modules, enabling users to seamlessly drill down to transaction data within order management or sales management modules, without extra effort.

In addition, Oracle now targets new verticals with domain-specific modules for such industries as the public sector, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, retail and consumer packaged goods, life sciences and communications. Entirely new modules include Procurement Contracts, Services Procurement, Sales Contracts, Transportation Planning and UCCNet Trading Connectors.