Critical Mass for Maps in Business: Oracle eBusiness Gets Google Maps Religion

By Joe Francica

Do not mistake the announcement that Oracle is now offering Google Maps as part of its eBusiness suite of customer relationship management (CRM) applications as just another Google Maps mashup. The news that Oracle is using the Google Maps application programming interface (API) with the Oracle eBusiness Field Service solution is generating as much hype internally as externally. "My email has been flooded with interest," said Guy Waterman, Oracle's senior director for Product Management, referring to how he has received numerous emails from other Oracle product groups wanting to know more.

The announcement explains that Google Maps for Enterprise integration is currently available as a part of Oracle Field Service 11.5.10 software. As with other field service applications, the maps are part of the solution that supports routing and scheduling of field service technicians as they make their daily rounds to customers. "We're putting customers in the context of a geospatial plane," said Waterman. Dispatchers who use the field service application can locate mobile personnel to alert them to changes in scheduling or other reasons to reallocate resources.

There are three things that are important about this announcement.
  1. According to Waterman, you can expect more Oracle applications to use maps as part of the business intelligence dashboard in the future. Customers are seeing the benefits of location technology as another supporting business "chart" to help them interpret information.
  2. Oracle wants to empower mobile professionals. Mapping technology will be essential to the process of supporting this need for logistics and communication.
  3. Google Maps is deployed as a visualization tool in the Oracle eBusiness Field Service application and is not dependent on any part of Oracle Spatial. (Oracle Spatial users can use Google Maps for visualization, however.)
My take
I think bells should be going off everywhere. "Hello, enterprise! You don't have to jump through hoops to see your data on a map anymore!" But then there is the more nuanced interpretation that Oracle, as a company, just got mapping religion. Why it took the company more than ten years to do so since the launch of Oracle Spatial, is just a small matter of market development. This particular development between Oracle and Google was based on a customer requirement.

Given the history of successful of desktop GIS, the technology has obviously made inroads into enterprise applications in the past. However, the fact that Google has stomped its big foot into the mapping business is not lost on those who are outsiders to the geospatial technology sector. Seeing the familiar Google Map with an enterprise application looks revolutionary to them. As an example, read the Tuesday July 31, 2007 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Two articles ("Searching for Clients from Above" by Kevin Delaney and "Mashups' Sew Data Together" by Ben Worthen) in the Marketplace section of the paper focused on using both Google Maps and Microsoft Live Search Maps to support business applications and the ability to create mashups. "Location Intelligence is advancing forward as enterprise and consumer technology mash up together like that from Oracle and Google. We should expect that as these technologies mature and bridge together, we can find more benefits for business users," said Mark Smith, CEO and executive vice president of research at Ventana Research.

Oracle has many applications in its quiver that might leverage the Google Maps API and many of them are going to hit a huge target of potential users who need to consume location-based information. But it took an announcement like this, in which Oracle looks to be doing business with Google, to arouse such a large organization. In fact, I see this announcement as an extremely significant catalyst that will broaden the market development for the integration of enterprise IT solutions with location technology. Waterman said as much, as he listed a number of applications such as marketing, asset management and sales data that can be displayed on a map.

Waterman is in charge of other eBusiness CRM applications, including the Siebel Field Service application, a part of Oracle's Fusion effort. Fusion is a company-wide initiative by Oracle to integrate and develop the best of breed applications from the acquisitions of Siebel and JD Edwards. Customers can expect not only further enhancements to existing software but also an eventual merging of applications with this program. In addition, Waterman believes that CRM is the application with the highest number of users who will consume mobile data, for which location-based information is vitally important. Put it all together and you can see that Oracle intends to expose many more users to maps in its applications. Oracle Spatial, then, becomes the hammer that drives even more analytical functionality should the customer need it.

Waterman indicated that more and more customers are asking for mapping functionality as "[maps are] not a base requirement but a +1 requirement," referring to the fact that mapping technology is a feature that is very high on the list of "extras."

There appears to be not only increased client demand, but also internal demand from Oracle product groups that want to use maps. With the addition of Google Maps, the result is a near perfect storm that could generate huge market awareness for spatially enabled applications at the enterprise level. With Google Maps as a basic mapping interface or with a more robust solution employing Oracle Spatial, the market for location intelligent solutions is about to get a huge boost. And Oracle may be sitting in the middle of it all.

Published Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Written by Joe Francica

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