Attendance at Collaborate this year was up roughly 50% from 2011 with over 1,100 people from JDE customer organizations and a total of over 6,000 attendees. The move back to Vegas certainly helped but the turnout is also a sign of an improving business atmosphere and a renewed interest in investing in IT. Monday at Collaborate always features roadmap sessions for each of the product lines and that is where I spend most of my first day. It was a great way to get an overview of what Oracle is up to in the applications space.

As usual, the best-attended session was Lyle Ekdahl’s overview of the JDE product line. At least 1,000 people came. He was the only presenter that avoided using PowerPoint slides in the usual over-used Oracle format. I didn’t ask what software he was using, but it resembled the user experience of an iPad. Instead of using a clicker to ask for a change he made a broad wave of his arms as if he was swiping across a giant iPad screen. It sounds odd but it was a cool effect.

The presentation format may have changed from past years, but the underlying messages have not. In overly simple terms they were:
• JDE is here to stay, so keep enjoying the ride with us.
• Lots of improvements are here and more are on the way.
• Keep upgrading to newer releases.

This year’s featured factoid was that JDE revenues have grown at double-digit rates in each of the past four quarters, surpassing growth rates of eBusiness Suite and PeopleSoft. The once prevalent paranoia that Oracle management does not care about JDE and wants to phase it out has now been almost completely stamped out.

Another heavily promoted fact was that the introduction of new releases of E1 and World at the same time represented the single biggest day for improvements in many years. To some extent the timing of the releases was just a coincidence but it did reinforce the point that major investment in improvements continues.

Exact details of the announcements are available on the Oracle website. Many were targeted at narrow requirements but the collective impact was very impressive. Perhaps the most interesting one was described with the new word “gameification” which was defined as injecting some of the elements of game-like competition into business practices through software. The idea is to use numerical results to encourage people to compete with each other to improve. I am not sure how radically new the idea is, but the name seems unique.

Ekdahl also provided his usual high-level look at the kinds of enhancements that are coming in future releases. Details were not provided but the areas of focus on enhancements will be:

• Further improving the user interface.
• Increased capability on mobile devices.
• Additional integration with other Oracle software products.
• A tool to help move custom enhancements into new releases

As always there was strong encouragement to upgrade. The innovative web site dedicated to this subject (www.upgradejde.com) was heavily promoted and we strongly encourage our readers to check it out.

Throughout the conference Oracle sent mixed messages about Fusion Applications. I will put together a future posting just on this subject. Oracle seemed to be trying to say that at some unknown point in the future Fusion Applications will be earth shaking but that for now they are in the early stages of rollout in a few hundred controlled customer settings. We are encouraged to both be excited about their potential while not being concerned about their emergence having any negative impact on current offerings.

Ekdahl walked across this tightrope nimbly by saying lots of nice things while not suggesting much beyond watching this space for future developments. Later in the day I went to the Fusion roadmap session and emerged with a similar impression – things are going well so far, great applications are on their way, and your turn to use them will come well before the Sun explodes and melts the earth.

There is so much to report from the best Collaborate conference in years – I will post further reactions soon.

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