After years of delay and anticipation, Oracle Corp.’s new Fusion human resources applications are slated to go on sale within the next few months.
The software is designed to mesh the best of Oracle’s product lines, tap the software-as-a-service trend and fit the social networking phenomenon. Fusion also marks Oracle’s latest effort to compete against talent management software specialists, a slew of smaller vendors that concentrate on strategic HR tasks such as employee performance, compensation and succession planning.
It’s a tall order. Oracle has focused on selling software as a product running on customers’ computers rather than as a service over the Internet, and it faces stiff competition in social networking.
Still, analysts say Fusion will likely close the gap with talent management vendors, which include Kenexa Corp., SuccessFactors Inc. and Taleo Corp.
Lisa Rowan, an analyst with research firm IDC, says Fusion demonstrations she has seen indicate that the applications are comparable to products from talent management specialists. She also says Fusion features a user-friendly interface.
The name “Fusion” refers to a variety of business software, including applications for finance, customer relationship management and HR. Oracle plans to release a suite of 15 Fusion “human capital management” products that will range from existing benefits and payroll management tools to brand-new applications such as Talent Review.
A key Fusion feature is better data vis¬ualization, Oracle says. Talent Review, for example, allows managers to see employees distributed in a “nine-box grid” and to rank people according to performance on one axis and potential on the other. Each employee is represented by a small human symbol, which can turn green, yellow or red to signify attrition risks.
Oracle started talking about Fusion in 2005. Initially, the project focused on fusing the best aspects of business application products gained by acquisition, but it later took on additional goals.
Oracle wants to adapt to the rise of software-as-a-service, seen by many experts as cheaper and more convenient than installing code on customers’ machines.
The company says Fusion HR software can be delivered both through the traditional on-premise method and as a service over the Web.
The growth of social networking also affected Fusion’s development. Among the new Fusion products is Network at Work, which allows employees to create profiles, link to other employees and share feedback. With Network at Work, Oracle is entering a crowded market. Other vendors pitching networking tools for businesses include Salesforce.com Inc., SuccessFactors Inc. and Yammer.
Darryl Dickens, chief marketing officer at SuccessFactors, says traditional on-premise software players will struggle in the social networking market. That’s because it changes so quickly, and traditional vendors might not be used to making such frequent product improvements.
Gretchen Alarcon, vice president of product strategy at Oracle, counters that it is important to be thoughtful—not just fast—when updating social networking software so that changes add value. She also argues that Oracle has ample time to compete and win when it comes to social media use in the workplace. “We’re still in early days” of social networking, she says.
Workforce Management, January 2011, p. 10 -- Subscribe Now!