Marketing automation vendor Eloqua has unveiled an application programming interface (API) for its software that follows the simple object access protocol (SOAP) standard -- a move that, according to one analyst, represents a “significant step up” for the company. The new offering is intended to help integrate sales, marketing, and CRM applications, according to information provided by Eloqua.
“Increasingly, lead management systems need to be tied into the broader CRM systems because they are invariably interfacing with the contact database or the sales database of organizations,” explains Suresh Vittal, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “By delivering this API, what Eloqua does is it tries to become an integral part of the sales-and-marketing process for organizations.”
Steve Woods, chief technology officer of Eloqua -- which just last week was named a Leader in the Marketing Automation category in CRM magazine’s 2008 Market Awards -- says this release addresses the problem that many companies face when marketing and sales are unable to integrate disparate systems. Eloqua's Web services API, he says, will help bring the two groups together, doing away with the traditional method of what he calls merely “handing a fishbowl of business cards over the wall.” With this integration, he says, “marketing and sales can now get on the same page.”
The industry, Woods adds, is headed toward increasing the marketing department's engagement with a system of record --in other words, an openness of data to provide a single version of the truth. It’s become critical for marketers to be able to understand a customer’s history beyond the data level, he says -- extending to the activity level as well. As a result, marketers require access into other systems that reveal any and all of a customer’s interactions with the entire enterprise. That, he says, was essentially the motivation for this release.
SOAP is one of the many protocols available for Web services -- information exchanged between applications via the Internet -- and Woods describes SOAP as a method that is universally understood in terms of integration technology. In fact, he adds, “it’s one of the most modern Web services protocols that allows anything and everything to integrate with it over the Web.” Vittal adds that, on top of SOAP's simplicity, other obvious advantages are that the protocol is:
- platform-independent; and
Vittal does note that some critics believe CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) may operate faster than Web services. Woods debunks this position with evidence that Eloqua has been able to successfully service large enterprise clients such as Nokia and risk management service provider Aon. These companies perform millions -- hundreds of millions -- of transactions per day, he says, so scalability and speed are most definitely a top priority for Eloqua.
With a Web services API, Eloqua will be able to increase its integration with other CRM applications, adding to its existing lineup, which includes Salesforce.com, Oracle CRM On Demand, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Vittal imagines that Eloqua is “moving up the type of companies they attract,” and opening up to an expansive list of vendors such as Sage Software, SAP, and Chordiant. While Woods does acknowledge this opportunity, what’s perhaps more exciting, he says, is the ability to integrate with CRM systems that are perhaps less well-known, or ones that are custom-built, such as ticketing systems in the sports and entertainment vertical.
Regardless of how the list of opportunities expands, Vittal notes, ultimately a Web services API will help reduce the level of effort and time needed to deploy any integration.
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