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Oracle has announced a range of feature updates to its software-as-a-service (SaaS) application lineup as it looks to continue its recent strong momentum and keep pace with rivals.

The Oracle Cloud Applications Release 13, which was announced last week, included major upgrades to supply chain management (SCM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), human capital management (HCM) and customer experience management (CEM) within the CX Cloud Suite. It also updated the user interface across all apps, with a particular focus on being more mobile friendly.

This follows some positive financial results for Oracle as it posted a 66 percent year-on-year growth in cloud revenues for Q4 2016. SaaS revenue alone was up 67 percent year-over-year to $964 million (£742 million), which was boosted by the recent NetSuite acquisition.

Oracle also reported that around two-thirds of its 868 new cloud ERP customers (not including NetSuite, which Oracle acquired last year) were net new to the company, showing its SaaS offerings have some appeal to more modern organisations, as well as its core.

What's in the Oracle Cloud Applications Release 13?

The headline upgrades include more IoT capabilities within the manufacturing apps in SCM Cloud. This includes the ability to ingest sensor data, visualise it and run analytics to improve efficiency and cut down on failures.

Oracle CX Cloud has got a new module called Oracle Engagement Cloud, to help companies respond to customers quicker, including a new social listening capability.

Oracle has added dynamic discounting for cloud ERP, allowing companies to set discounts based on demand.

Finally, Oracle's HCM suite now includes new learning management features such as the ability to share how-to videos, and allow colleagues to give thumbs-up or thumbs-down ratings.

Many of these features will already be taken for granted by users of Salesforce's Marketing Cloud or Workday's HCM, and shows Oracle's need to keep its SaaS line up to modern consumer standards if it is to compete in the new marketplace.

SaaS Competition

Oracle is competing with old rivals like SAP - which is aggressively moving towards being a more SaaS-focused company through acquisitions and its proprietary S/4HANA suite of ERP software - as well as cloud-native vendors like Salesforce and Workday.

Read next: Oracle was transitioning to the cloud "before the word even existed" says CEO Safra Catz

Back in February 2016, senior vice president of cloud at Oracle, Shawn Price told Computerworld UK: "Our strategy is to make sure that we hit the demand curve for the constituents exactly where they want and exactly how they want to consume. Suites win. Consuming the way you want. Remove the friction."

"If you look at it as data as a service, 600 SaaS apps, 40-plus platform offerings, all clustered around infrastructure, with portability between on-premise and the world, and an openness, I think you've got a completely different palette than any other company."

Oracle has already made moves to shift the way its sales team operates, similar to rival Microsoft, by bringing in younger staff to help it sell cloud products  and perhaps to distance itself from the aggressive, long-term licence-agreement sales culture it has thrived on for decades.

Read next: Oracle beefs up cloud sales team with 1,000 EMEA openings

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