The possibility of losing its number two mantle in the applications market has provoked Oracle into making some fairly key strategy manoeuvres of late.
One of the most significant, is the company's realisation that it needs to start working more effectively with the channel.
"Up until very recently we've had a pretty direct strategy in the applications business and we haven't generally embraced partners," admitted Brian Mitchell, Oracle's regional director for marketing and business development. "But we've recognised that we need to do that fairly quickly and we're now actively in the market recruiting for more people in the channel."
Mitchell claims that part of the reason Oracle is keen to improve its channel model is because partners will play an integral role in two of the company's other new strategies in its applications business - aligning along vertical market segments and providing more volume-based solutions to the small and medium business (SMB) market.
"We're recruiting for channel partners at two levels," Mitchell said. "One is within the verticals where business partners can offer some real added value and specialisation that we don't have. And secondly, we need a selected number of partners, almost entirely Windows NT-based, that can address parts of that volume model - the parts that are more generic and require more types of skills to get the solution to market."
Mitchell maintains the channel will be responsible for handling Oracle's SMB accounts - most of the time.
"We have a number of named accounts that we think we can best serve by direct representation and we'll continue to do that, but outside of those accounts we will open the SMB sector to our channel," he said.
Similarly, Oracle still plans to have some influence on the consulting side of the applications business.
"We'd expect at the top end of the SMB market - and I mean the top end - that our consulting services would be of benefit," Mitchell conceded. "But lower than that, we probably don't have the right price point for smaller companies and they may see our solution is a little over-engineered for their needs.
"Therefore a nimbler, smaller organisation can better meet their needs and that's where the channel comes in."
To augment its push into the SMB market - and the channel - Oracle has developed Fast Forward, a solution providing a subset of its application software, packaged consulting and implementation support with a price point under a million dollars.
"We've recognised that most organisations that are not in the very large enterprise category want bundled or packaged solutions so we've created Fast Forward, and that will be a channel-centric product," Mitchell told ARN.
Also fundamental to Oracle's ability to turn things around in its applications business will be the success of the recently-announced Oracle Applications Release 11 suite. By the end of the year, a number of Australian sites are expected to have installed the Internet-centric product and as Mitchell puts it, "the proof of the pudding" will be in what the clients have to say about it.