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Oracle updates financial-tracking tool

The database software specialist looks to capitalize on the growing market for tools to help corporations comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other federal accountability rules.

Oracle has updated a software package meant to help corporations comply with U.S. financial-reporting rules, hoping to tap into the growing market for such products.

The second version of Oracle Internal Controls Manager, released on Wednesday, promises to create accurate financial data for companies. It tests and tracks internal controls and systems set up to meet federal regulations.

Oracle, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., said it believes there is a rising demand for such applications as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and similar accountability measures place an increased emphasis on corporations to carefully balance their books.

"You have businesses making these sorts of operations--which once existed solely in the accounting department--part of their everyday operations," said Steve Miranda, a financial applications development executive at Oracle. "Companies want the ability to create real-time disclosures, or to build automatic alerts, so they can find out almost immediately when something seems out of the ordinary."

Various information technology industry watchers have labeled the Sarbanes-Oxley Act as one of the largest potential revenue sources for vendors in many technology markets this year. Boston-based AMR Research released a study that found that U.S. companies could spend more than $2.5 billion to comply with the new regulations.

Miranda said that most of Oracle's customers are interested in adopting such applications and the database specialist has already installed the updated software for 75 of its existing customers.

Many companies have already moved beyond the idea that such tools will serve primarily as a defense mechanism against legislation and have welcomed their use as a valuable business practice, according to Miranda.

"As these companies see what the software can do in terms of meeting compliance objectives, they begin to look at it as more of a corporate performance management tool, as something strategic," he said.

The upgrades in the release include more-powerful tools for process management and risk assessment. It also streamlines audit management and financial project management, and provides more-detailed options for certification management. Miranda said the software has been tailored to work more easily with other Oracle applications, including its enterprise resource planning (ERP) products and database storage software.

At least one research company believes there is growing market for compliance software and that the market for such tools has some long-term viability. In a research note in November, AMR analyst Bill Swanton wrote that since Sarbanes-Oxley has put pressure on businesses to produce their financial reports more quickly and accurately that "automated tools will be an important part of controlling compliance costs."