Oracle's troubled applications business has received a big shot in the arm with the formal launch of several service-based initiatives targeting the small and medium business (SMB) market.
Ray Lane, Oracle's president and chief operating officer, released details of the new initiatives at an Asia-Pacific media briefing held here last week.
The new initiatives include a year 2000 program based on the company's newly released Fast Forward Lite methodology that guarantees compliance, as defined by the British Standards Institute, within 60 days.
The methodology is a pared-down version of Oracle's Fast Forward strategy that enables customers to get evaluations of their requirements and buy the appropriate applications that fit their business needs so that implementation can be completed within 12 weeks.
The fixed-price year 2000 solution - which includes Oracle's financials package, associated education and consulting services - will be especially beneficial for companies in the SMB market according to Mark Jarvis, Oracle's senior vice president of worldwide marketing.
"There are 110,000 companies in the $US20 to $US100 million dollar market in the US alone," Jarvis said. "Of those, it is calculated only 17 per cent have actually fixed the Y2K problem so far."
Lane said Oracle will work with other consulting companies to deliver the program.
"Anybody that wants to be certified will be given the Fast Forward Lite methodology and they can deliver it," Lane said.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Fast Forward Lite solutions will be officially launched "within 30 days" of the US, according to Derek Williams, senior vice president of Oracle Asia-Pacific.
But Oracle will reserve the right not to offer the program to companies it thinks are likely to take longer than 60 days, company officials said.
Oracle is also launching an online business allowing customers to buy its applications as a service.
"If you have a browser, you can, for example, sign on to the applications and do your accounting and we think companies more and more are going to do that - buy into a service [rather than worrying about implementing and maintaining their own infrastructure]," Lane said.
Aside from the opportunities offered by the Fast Forward Lite methodology, the channel's involvement in Oracle's push into the SMB market will extend to the addition of resellers.
"We are introducing another facet to the indirect side of Oracle's business in the form of Oracle Applications dealers who are reselling applications and selling system integration skills with our applications," Lane said.
Oracle will also be preloading its applications with several hardware vendors to boost its SMB market penetration.
"This market is destined to be a multi-channel market with our direct sales force eventually becoming the head of the channel," Lane said.
Oracle has taken a risk with Release 11 of its applications package, choosing not to release a client/server version of the product.
"We are committing to an Internet computing model by making Release 11 NCA (network computing architecture) only," Lane said. "We think client/server software is dead."
Oracle also plans to leverage its data management expertise to differentiate itself from rivals, especially SAP, in the applications space.
Jarvis claims Oracle's poor financial results in the second quarter of last year forced the company to realise it was "fallible" and in need of an image makeover.
"We've been seen as a big, stuffy enterprise player and the fact is we are a big, stuffy enterprise player," Jarvis told ARN.
"However, there's winds of change going through this company now."
Those "winds of change" include a retraining of the company's direct sales force, with a renewed focus on improved customer service, and a revamped marketing strategy concentrating on the business intelligence advantages of the Oracle Applications package, Jarvis said.