The changing EPM space

I was surprised by the announcement that Oracle was acquiring Primavera, one of the large players in the enterprise project management (EPM) space. I went to see if AMR had some comment, and sure enough they did. Apparently it wasn’t a surprise to them.

I use the term EPM, but analysts like AMR like to use the fancier term, project portfolio management (PPM); I wonder if using the word ‘portfolio’ makes it sound better to financial buyers. This latest development is particularly interesting to me because it is in the project space that my company operates.

Oracle’s acquisition of Primavera will deepen its vertical presence in industries where it already has a presence (e.g. defense), and will expand Oracle’s horizontal profile where it doesn’t have major presence (e.g. engineering, construction). Microsoft has had EPM products for a few years, Office Project Server and Portfolio Server, but has done little with it; at the recent World Partner Congress there was only one session.

EPM is currently a niche market, like product lifecycle management (PLM). Oracle bought a major PLM vendor, Agile, some time ago, but that hasn’t raised PLM to a broader level. So I doubt that Primavera’s purchase will change much in the EPM market either. 

It will be interesting though whether this will change Microsoft’s activity and approach to the market. Microsoft probably hasn’t worried about a major competitor. It has been making the link between Project and Portfolio Server tighter with SharePoint has part of an corporate portal strategy. Conversely, now that Oracle has a project management tool, will it use it against Microsoft? Microsoft’s Office Project software is the de facto standard in project management and has no competitors. Oracle is the only company big enough to develop a competitor, using Primavera. With the recent announcement of the Beehive, Oracle also has a portal product it could integrate with Primavera.

Frank Scavo points out that “project-based organizations are relatively under-served by enterprise system vendors today” and so this may be an opportunity for Oracle.

Another question is whether Oracle plans to link Primavera with its PLM software acquired via Agile. Our experience in project industries is that the combination of the two would be quite a powerful product. However, Vinnie reminds us that this kind of integration is “going to take years of sustained investments for Oracle to make these vertically complete”. AMR also notes that “Oracle will have difficulty rationalizing the significant overlap in functionality between the products, with Oracle Projects, PeopleSoft ESA, and JD Edwards Enterprise One all having varying degrees of PPM ability.”

I do feel sorry (a bit) for Oracle’s sales people, because this is going to bring yet another set of products that they have to learn about – it now includes database, several ERP, middleware, retail, BI, CRM, and PLM.

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