Oracle has been quietly doing building out a set of reusable composite business processes that span multiple Oracle applications, including some of its most recent acquisitions.
The basic idea is fairly simple: Oracle has identified a range of common business processes, such as order to cash, and created a module that customers can deploy on top of several Oracle applications to execute that process. The implications of that approach, however, are profound in the way Oracle will unify a disparate application portfolio going forward.
Instead of thinking about application integration at a lower level, Oracle is suggesting that customers views applications as persistent stores of information that should be integrated at the business-process level.
The underlying technology that enables this approach is Oracle's Application Integration Architecture (AIA) 2.5, which not only supports scripted business processes, but also makes it easier for customers to use Oracle tools to develop their own custom business-process modules that treat Oracle applications as persistent repositories of information.
This is an important distinction because one of the biggest knocks against packaged applications is that they lead companies down a path where everybody has the same "best-in-class" business processes baked into their applications. Ultimately, that means there is no real ability to leverage enterprise software to support an innovative business process.
Oracle's approach is to give customers composite business processes that are commonly used as modules they can buy and reuse, and then use the same underlying technology to create a custom business-process module that will truly differentiate the business.
Obviously, most of the other enterprise software vendors are heading down the same path. But with Oracle, we're seeing the first manifestations of how enterprise software will be built, managed and deployed in the post-enterprise-application age.