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December 1, 1997


Oracle has new package for retail sector

Oracle Corporation will soon be launching a fully 'network computing architecture'-enabled ERP solution for the retail sector by the first quarter of 1998.

The retail solution is already available in a Java/network-enabled format. The software major also has plans to release a Web-enabled, total 'consumer packaged goods' ERP solution by the end of 1998, according to Asheesh Khaneja, director (consumer sector), Oracle Asia-Pacific.

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Currently the financial, supply chain and batch processing modules are Web-enabled.

Oracle's ERP solution for the CPG industry has already been installed in over 50 sites worldwide during the last one year.

Customers include New Zealand Diary Board, Kelloggs, Carlton United Breweries, Pepsi Americas, Frito Lays and Sara Lee.

Oracle started the Vertical Products Division as an

independent business division in September 1995 and this year, formed 14 different 'product virtual companies', some allied around products and others around industries.

Consumer Sector, which is one of these virtual companies, was further extended in June 1997 to include CPG, consumer durables/electronics and retail.

"Within the CPG sector we concentrate on the batch process manufacturing industries - toiletries, tobacco, breweries, paints, over-the-counter drugs and food products. Manufacturing these has different requirements than that for generic products,'' Khaneja has said.

"The quality control, formulation etc. have to be adapted to obtain consistent end-requirements for the finished products,'' he added.

"The first thing we did when we entered this field was to recognise and do away with the 'one-size-fits-all' myth," said Khaneja. "The first customers for ERP solutions were the kind of manufacturers who used assembly lines, like automotive, machinery etc. manufacturers. The requirements of these clients are very different from those of, say, a manufacturer of tomato ketchup where each batch of tomato paste has a different consistency, sweetness etc. We concentrate on meeting the needs of the latter customers,'' he added.

"Supply chain management, distribution management, logistics and promotion management are the key to our clients. Manufacturing and associated processes are not so important. To meet such requirements we adopted the 'architected-best-of-breed' approach,'' said Khaneja.

Within the CPG market, there are several small individual vendors offering solutions for different process modules.

The problem with this is that the company's IT team spends all its time integrating the solutions internally. Thus they have no time to do what they are actually supposed to do - use IT to improve the functioning of the organisation and increase efficiency.

"This is where our approach fits in. We evaluate technologies and packages key to the CPG footprint and integrate it with the GEMS and Oracle Financials, which are Oracle's own core products. We do this by working closely with our partners and sometimes, if the synergies are good, we acquire the technology from a different company and integrate it with our solution.''

"Our partners and developers work with us to build a complete solution which gets packaged and sold as Oracle's ERP solution with Oracle's guarantees behind it. So, a customer no longer needs to buy modules from independent vendors. Oracle becomes a single point of reference. This is especially attractive in terms of customer support,'' he explained.

Another sector in the Vertical Products Division, which has become a primary focus, is telecom, with Oracle entering into strategic partnerships to build solutions for Intelligent Networks and billing and customer care. This is an extension of Oracle's concerted effort to provide architectural, foundation software solutions in the different vertical sectors through strategic partnerships with developers, according to Jnan Dash, vice-president, Advanced Technology and Strategy, Oracle.

Component modelling, componentised architecture and the assembly of components into a total package allows for the openness in the solution and also enables Oracle to leverage the skills of the large number of developers working on its platforms.

"Our huge developer strength has also helped us extend very rapidly into developing markets without incurring huge costs,'' said Dash.

"This is supported by four transformations happening internally within Oracle. We are moving from being a niche player to a strategic partner, from niche markets we have started exploring broader markets. We are currently working on a pan-European banking industry project worth about $100 million. We have shifted focus from the traditional client/server to the three-tier NCA. And, most importantly, there has been a shift from working as several teams to functioning as one team,'' he added.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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