Oracle shopping spree shelves users

As the litigious saga of Oracle Corporation's attempt to take over PeopleSoft yields a near-daily list of salacious ambitions from the vendor community and media alike, Australian IT users caught up in the fray seem to be taking it all in their stride.

While revelations that Oracle drew up a list of nine potential software vendor acquisitions – including Cerner, JD Edwards, Lawson Software and SunGard - have sent some vendors and analysts into an opinion frenzy, some at the sharp end of managing enterprise systems reckon energy could be better spent listening to the needs of users.

Smorgon Steel group general manager of business services and heavyweight JD Edwards ERP user, Doug George, said mergers and acquisitions are an inevitable part of business, but he has concerns about how two vendor cultures are mixed.

"What happens with mergers and acquisitions is totally beyond our control. Suffice to say that we have certainly noticed with the PeopleSoft acquisition [of JDE] that the voice of the customer is not transmitted with the same clarity or with the same proximity that it used to be with JD Edwards," George said.

Moreover, while merged vendors may want to create a single customer culture, George feels recognition must be paid to the real benefits users derive from being able to network and develop ideas autonomously - rather than being steered by a vendor's marketing department.

He said the JDE community's great strength is the number of JDE users around the world and its networking, whether it's sponsored by JDE, the vendor-independent user group Quest, or just local users.

"From a Smorgon point of view it is important for me to know the view of other JDE users and be networked with other mainstream users, [considering] all the investment we have made," George said.

Users with large software investments also want to identify, preserve and add to human capital surrounding software investment for commercial reasons, he said.

"We are pressing towards $3 bil [revenue], 5300 people and 170 locations. We are not doing it to flex muscle, [it's about keeping a knowledge base within our enterprise]. It's protecting our investment," George said.

However, mergers can also present positive benefits to customers, according to John Lewis managing director of Consultech Engineering, a WA-based reseller specialising in applications for the mining sector.

Lewis said many of its mining clients were customers of both Business Objects and Crystal Decision and the recent friendly merger between the two had been warmly received because it allowed an expansion of functionality and a consolidation of applications which delivered on the value proposition.

"[The merger] created a lot of new opportunities and it's been positively received by clients. It's definitely improved sales [despite consolidation]. Most people want best of breed [applications] in the first instance, but if they see two best of breed products [integrated] they will go for that," Lewis said.

Vendors also must be careful to ensure customers are kept informed, with roadmaps and migration strategies clearly defined and presented, Lewis said.

"It depends on how an acquisition is presented. It can be presented very well or very poorly. With Business Objects it was done very well with roadshows," Lewis said.

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More about Business ObjectsCernerJD EdwardsLawson Software AustraliaOraclePeopleSoftReckon AustraliaSmorgon SteelSUNGARD

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