November 21, 2005

Why Oracle doesn’t “get it” about apps

Since the mid-1980s, Oracle has put huge investment and market strength behind its apps efforts. Given those resources, success has been extremely limited. Obviously, there are many reasons for this run of (relative) failure, including a lot of internal management/cultural/political issues. But much of the problem can be summed up in one short phrase: Oracle doesn’t fully understand the importance of business process.

The majority of an application can be created by the following three-step process:

1. Design the right database.
2. Automatically generate the add/change/delete/query/report functionality.
3. Add other BI/analytic functionality as needed.

And Part 3 is a relatively recent addition in most cases.

But that’s not the whole story. What’s left over can be described as “business process,” which is where SAP shines. And Oracle underrates business process. To see what I mean, go to SAP’s web site, search on “business process,” and look through the first few pages of results. Then try the same exercise on Oracle’s. There’s a dramatic difference. Siebel’s and’s sites also talk much more about “business process” than Oracle’s does.

So far as I can tell, Oracle has always believed that if you design the right database — and create the obvious interfaces to it — you’ll have a great application. I remember Larry Ellison seeming to believe that in very early days, before Jeff Walker led the first high-investment Oracle apps effort. The whole CASE-model-based vertical apps strategy of the early 1990s clearly depended on that premise, and probably failed because of the premise’s flaws. And finally, I remember a bizarre conference call in connection with the release of some generation of Oracle’s app dev tools in the late 1990s, which Larry touted as one of the most important events in the entire history of software. I can’t imagine him saying that unless he thought that these tools would automatically generate your apps for you. But they couldn’t actually do that – and the extent to which they couldn’t was almost exactly the extent to which they didn’t capture the business process aspects of the app.

So will Oracle overcome its longstanding business process blind spot, now that it’s made such a huge bet on apps? It well might. But until it does, Oracle’s prospects in the app business aren’t good at all.

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3 Responses to “Why Oracle doesn’t “get it” about apps”

  1. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » SAP — the Un-Oracle on December 8th, 2005 1:52 pm

    […] All process, all the time If SAP has one theme and message, it’s “process.” They spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the business process of creating applications supporting the business processes of, among others, the process manufacturing industry. You hardly hear them talk about selling software or applications or infrastructure; much more commonly they talk about selling “processes.” As I’ve previously noted, this is exactly what Oracle still hasn’t really “gotten” about the apps area […]

  2. DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services»Blog Archive » Application logic in the database on December 15th, 2005 5:46 pm

    […] 2. The myth that an application is just database-logic-plus-the-obvious-UI has been with us for a LONG time. It’s indeed a myth, for several reasons. There’s business process, for one thing. For another, UIs aren’t as trivial as that story would make them sound. (I keep promising to write on the UI point and never get around to it. I will. Stay tuned. For one thing, I have a white paper in the works on portals. For another, I’m not writing enough about analytics, and UI is one of the most interesting things going in analytics these days.) Plus there are many apps for which a straightforward relational/tabular database design doesn’t make sense anyway. (That’s a primary theme of this blog.) […]

  3. Oracle’s evolution — overview | Software Memories on October 3rd, 2012 4:17 pm

    […] past IBM mainframes as well. Its application business also finally got some traction, albeit with a long way still to go. And most interesting to me, Oracle triumphed with a blend of product and professional services […]

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