Oracle Gives Small Businesses Control

Oracle rolled out Version 7.6 of its Small Business Suite, which features better usability and other enhancements to help companies manage online key business functions.

Enhancing its suite for better usability, Oracle Corp. announced today the next iteration of its namesake Small Business Suite software.

A number of enhancements have been added to Oracles SBS 7.6 to help companies manage online key business functions like accounting and finance, sales and service and employee management, Oracle officials said.

The suite includes Sales Force Automation, Customer Support Management, Web Store and Order Management; and Accounting and Payroll modules.

Custom Records, also known as business specific databases, is a key feature with the latest release of SBS. That functionality will allow a business to maintain a database of information unique to its operation. The database can be integrated with the core business information in a company – customer and product lists, for example – to provide a flow of proprietary business information, according to Oracle officials in Redwood Shores, Calif.

A new partner center has been added to the existing customer and vendor centers. It allows businesses to provide to their partners a portal interface where the partners can make changes to their profile, create additional codes to track promotions and retrieve up-to-the-minute information on sales activity.

In response to user feedback, Oracle has also added some new usability features, including a newly designed home page that brings enhanced customization and search capabilities. Likewise, in the case of reassigning leads or changing lead status from active to inactive, for example, a new update capability allows users to change multiple records simultaneously, based on the results of a search.

Oracle SBS is powered by application service provider NetLedger Inc., a company Oracle partnered with last year to provide its online offering for small businesses. Larry Ellison, Oracles chairman and CEO, personally put up the financing to found NetLedger in early 1999 and still owns about half the company.

Evan Goldberg, CEO of NetLedger, in San Mateo, Calif., said the companys growing set of customers provided excellent feedback for moving the Small Business Suite forward.

The release of SBS 7.6 comes as Oracle faces a difficult economic situation. Citing weakness in the Asian market, Oracle told investors last week that it would not meet Wall Streets earnings expectations. Officials expect earnings to come in at 9 cents per share, less than the earlier expectations of 10 cents.

According to Boston-based AMR Research, part of the shortfall can be explained by Oracles overly optimistic expectations about the return of IT spending after the recession.

Oracles initial third-quarter guidance called for sequential improvements this quarter, whereas most software companies forecasted a flat to sequentially down quarter.