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Oracle Announces Next Version of CRM On Demand

Release 15 taps social networking and collaboration to pull Siebel CRM On Demand out of a slump.

Oracle is, finally, making waves with the on-demand CRM software it acquired when it bought Siebel Systems for $5.8 billion in January 2006.

Oracle is rolling out the next iteration of its namesakes CRM On Demand software—Release 15—that adds new social networking and collaboration features to the software code. It's also the first inklings of what is to come with Oracle's next generation Fusion Application suite, expected some time this year.

Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison demonstrated this latest version of CRM On Demand at the company's massive OpenWorld user conference in November. The big deal then—and now—is the ability of CRM (customer relationship management) software to pull in social networking and collaboration functionalities through the use of things like object tagging and RSS feeds directly in applications to enable a more collaborative approach to selling.

"How do we enable a sales person to convert a lead to an opportunity? Sales people spend a lot of time campaigning. What we wanted to do is bring predictions into the application and make it more productive," said Anthony Lye, senior vice president of CRM On Demand at Oracle, during Ellison's keynote demonstration. "We built a list of people to generate a campaign against and then used social networking to run the best campaign possible."

Lye said one of the features utilizes object tagging to generate and maintain a library of presentations from colleagues, for example, or from sales and marketing. As users click through the library from their CRM application, it displays the social network developed in building the document library, as well as the meta data associated with each document.

At the same time business intelligence capabilities underlie each presentation in the library, where each page is tagged so that users are drawn to the right content, at the right time. "Each part of the presentation is categorized, tagged and rated," said Lye. "When a user is happy with the presentation, it's just downloaded. [Users] can take advantage of an enormous amount of information that was previously held in e-mail systems or behind the wall of the back office."

Oracle refers to the social networking capabilities in this latest release as "Social CRM." It's a capability officials said should enable users to become more effective and productive in their jobs by leveraging the collective knowledge of crowds. The collaboration in Release 15 is driven mainly by two features—Sticky Notes and Message Center—that allow a "back-and-forth commentary that is up-to-date, consolidated, centralized and easily accessible and viewable through a home page, without having to navigate to specific records," according to Oracle's press release.

Team members can subscribe to Sticky Notes to create a social network that is associated with, for example, opportunities, Oracle officials said. The idea is that affiliated team members are kept up to date simultaneously through the influx of tagged data. Users can also customize CRM On Demand objects using widgets, gadgets and personal portals. Objects—accounts or contacts, for example—can be included within other Web portal applications like iGoogle or MyYahoo to incorporate content or RSS feeds, officials said. The idea is to keep updated on specific information without having to leave the CRM application.

The updates are among the first major pushes from Oracle since Siebel was acquired two years ago—the first upgrade was Release 14, announced last summer. The inattention didn't go unnoticed. In June 2007, analyst firm Gartner reported that it had seen a 75 percent reduction in inquiries for competitive evaluations for Siebel CRM On Demand (now renamed Oracle CRM On Demand). The reason, according to Gartner analyst Robert Desisto: Oracle's negligence of the product as it focused on other high-priority projects.

"Prior to the acquisition of Siebel by Oracle, Oracle CRM On Demand was developing market momentum and becoming a formidable competitive threat to," Desisto wrote in reference to Release 14. "However, since the acquisition, interest in Oracle CRM On Demand had diminished significantly in the market. … Having acquired multiple large installed bases (such as Siebel On Premise, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards), Oracle's focus has been on such programs as Applications Unlimited and Oracle Fusion, rather than growing Oracle CRM On Demand."

But with the 2008 deadline for Fusion Applications looming, and an increasingly frenzied on-demand CRM competitive landscape—in addition to's unprecedented success, SAP and Microsoft have entered the fray with multi-tenant, on demand offers—Oracle is feeling the pressure to produce. The company also has taken a decidedly different approach with this latest release of CRM On Demand, one that Oracle is banking on to differentiate it from the growing crowd of vendors looking to capitalize on the success in the burgeoning software-as-a-service sector.


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