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Oracle Accelerate speeds ERP software solution strategy, VARs say

The one-year-old Oracle Accelerate program is helping channel partners implement ERP bundles faster, more easily and sometimes more profitably.

One year after Oracle Corp. introduced Oracle Accelerate -- a program through which it offers bundles of rapid-deployment tools and applications preconfigured for specific vertical industries and situations -- some partners have said the semi-customized approach has changed the way they do business.

Competition in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solution market has become fierce in the midmarket, as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce.com and others vie for the small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that account for the bulk of the 8% growth in a segment that totaled $30.6 billion in 2006, according to IDC.

Both Salesforce.com's and Microsoft's Dynamics on-premise and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings are aimed squarely at the midmarket, as is SAP's Business All-in-One. Last month SAP launched Business ByDesign, a separate product for smaller companies.

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Oracle's strategy is to take advantage of the vertical-market integration work it and its channel partners have already done, by bundling specialized applications and integrated versions of Oracle E-Business Suite, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, PeopleSoft Enterprise and Siebel with tools that help channel partners roll out the applications quickly.

The tools are called Oracle Business Accelerators and include, for example, an automated setup routine that can automate much of the work of configuring business process workflow by asking the customer specific questions and applying the answers to the implementation.

Currently, partners are offering over 40 Oracle Accelerate software applications for industries including engineering and construction, financial services, high technology, industrial manufacturing and life sciences. Another 200 ERP software solution applications are being developed around the world, said Tony Kender, senior vice president of Oracle's Global Accelerate Program Office.

But for channel partners, the strength of the program is its ability to shorten project implementations, reduce costs and increase customer base.

"It's a game-changing program," said Don Landrum, vice president of Norcross, Ga.-based CD Group Inc., which has been with the program since it started and developed one of the 16 new Oracle Accelerate solutions announced last week.

"Before the program, the shortest implementation we ever saw was probably six months, and some were two years. Now I would say a typical implementation might take anywhere from 60 days to seven or eight months at the most," Landrum said.

With less time for implementation, the CD Group has reassigned its employees, who now spend less time on each project. The company has had to change its business model, as well, so that it can keep up with the need to work with many customers on comparatively short implementations rather than a few customers with longer project cycles.

"We are in 50% more deals right now than we were a year ago," Landrum said.

Additionally, the cost to the customer is reduced depending on the deal, by as much as 50%, Landrum estimated.

"A faster implementation means it's easier for us to capture those dollars," said Margot McDonnell, vice president of sales for King of Prussia, Pa.-based Business Technology Services Inc.

McDonnell said customers going through a long, phased implementation might start with financials, then move to human resources and supply chain applications.

"By the time you get nine months into the project, either they've become much more self-sufficient or they stop, because we could never get to phase two or phase three. It's easier for us to capture those dollars earlier," McDonnell said.

In addition to accelerating the sales cycle, Oracle offers Accelerate partners greater access to Oracle intellectual property, support, referral programs, co-marketing resources and -- most importantly -- pricing discounts, according to Simon Jacobson, senior research analyst with AMR Research Inc.

"Prior to putting in this program, there had been issues with the cycle time of being able to get feedback from the field, which [hindered] partners from giving an appropriate discount and in some cases kept Oracle out of some deals," Jacobson said.

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