Why Oracle Fusion Doesn't Excite Customers

In 2006, Oracle promised customers it would always support and update its growing portfolio of business applications. By then it had swallowed PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems and it had to reassure customers that their investments were secure. Fast-forward seven years, and Oracle's promise, which it called Applications Unlimited, is coming back to haunt the software maker.

While trying to hold on to PeopleSoft and Siebel customers, Oracle was just getting started on its own Fusion Applications. The company marketed Fusion as its next-generation application suite that would bring together the best of its e-Business Suite and the software it had acquired for billions of dollars. Oracle believed Fusion would eventually spark a mass migration from the older applications to the latest and greatest from its own stable. But a new survey from Forrester Research has found Oracle was wrong, and customers are holding the company to its word and sticking with the older software with which they're familiar.

Oracle's Dilemma

By refusing to switch to the more expensive Fusion apps, Oracle customers are making it difficult for the company to grow application revenue, according to Forrester. "In recent years, Oracle's application revenue growth has underperformed both the overall software market and SAP, resulting from slowing growth in existing apps and too little revenue from its Oracle Fusion Applications," according to the report, entitled "Oracle's Dilemma: Applications Unlimited Versus Oracle Fusion Applications."

Forrester's numbers are sobering. The survey of Oracle clients found 65% had no plans to move to Fusion Applications and another 24% were on the fence. The biggest barriers were Oracle's muddled application strategy and the immaturity of Fusion, which became generally available in November 2011.

At the same time, recent acquisitions of software-as-a-service companies, such as Taleo and RightNow Technologies, are not bringing in enough revenue to take up the slack, according to Forrester. Oracle customers show little interest in trying the SaaS products, with only 11% of survey respondents interested in making the move.

Making matters worse, Oracle is in danger of losing business from some of its customers. Forrester found 29% of the companies it polled were planning to move to another vendor's SaaS product or packaged application. The main reasons for their unhappiness with Oracle were high licensing costs, high maintenance costs and difficulty in upgrading.

Impact on Oracle Customers

Oracle's lackluster revenue growth could eventually have an impact on customers. When revenue from a vendor's products are flat or declining, the company often treats the software as a "cash cow, milking maintenance revenues and cutting back in its investment in enhancing and supporting them," Forrester says.

While there are no signs that Oracle is heading down that path, the company is unlikely to let Applications Unlimited customers stay where they are forever. Oracle has sunk too much money and resources in Fusion Applications to let customers ignore them, Forrester says.

Oracle is expected to step up efforts to get customers to move to Fusion or its cloud infrastructure products. How the company will do that is not known, but it could decide to make life harder for companies that stay with the older technology. Forrester is advising companies to start preparing for the added pressure they will be feeling from Oracle.

For Oracle, Forrester believes it's "make-or-break time" for its applications business. The company's Fusion Applications are its main strategy for growing software revenue and defending against a number of fast-growing SaaS competitors.

Forrester believes that won't be enough.

Oracle is likely to kick-start its growth strategy with more acquisitions, and the likeliest candidates will be fast-growing SaaS companies. In the meantime, Applications Unlimited customers should ponder their next move.

Oracle did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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