Oracle aims to differentiate with BI application releases

The vendor adds new modules for tracking project costs and customer loyalty

Oracle announced on Wednesday Business Intelligence Applications Release 7.9.6, which includes improvements and integrations with other Oracle software, as well as a pair of new programs, Project Analytics and Loyalty Analytics.

The release adds a number of new human-resources dashboards, such as for talent management, recruiting, and absenteeism. The vendor's procurement and spend-analytics BI module gets a number of updates, including a new employee-expenses dashboard and a "spend analyzer."

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In addition, Oracle has integrated its JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Financial Management application with its financial analytics BI software.

Meanwhile, the new Project Analytics module is aimed at governments, construction companies, and services companies that want to analyze the costs of their projects. It includes a number of prebuilt dashboards tuned for both private and public-sector organizations. Loyalty Analytics enables users to determine the success of marketing campaigns at both the customer and partner level.

Oracle's announcements reflect the fact that it's getting tougher for vendors to further evolve their underlying BI platform's capabilities, since the technologies have matured, according to Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson.

"All the core functions have really been addressed," he said. "The real difference is in the applications."

The prebuilt tooling in applications like Loyalty Analytics will likely have more appeal for smaller enterprises, which are interested in getting software up and running quickly or may not have a core competency in a particular area, Evelson said. A customer might say, "'We're a small bank, we know everything about banking, but not CRM (customer relationship management). We're going to trust Oracle."

But large enterprises tend to shy away from such an approach, preferring to build out specialized BI applications themselves to gain a competitive advantage, he said. "There's no way anybody there is going to say, 'I'm going to trust Oracle to lead the way of how I should analyze my customers.'"

Meanwhile, the new project-analytics module could prove attractive to companies as the world attempts to emerge from an economic recession and government stimulus spending ramps up infrastructure projects and related activities.

There have always been plenty of choices for project portfolio management software, including the technology Oracle acquired last year by buying Primavera. But there is probably room in the market for advanced analytics that ride on top of such applications, Evelson said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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