Oracle CRM On Demand Takes Aim at Salesforce.com
A slew of enhancements mark the 16th update to Oracle's software-as-a-service CRM option, and comparisons to Salesforce.com abound.
Posted Jan 27, 2009
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Oracle Corp., the enormous enterprise applications and database vendor, has more than merely upgraded its Oracle CRM On Demand product. Never a company to do things small, there are multiple components to this week's announcement. The foundation of the news is Oracle CRM On Demand Release 16, the latest version of the company's post-Siebel software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. Added to the rest of the announcements, the news marks what might be Oracle's strongest bid yet to make big businesses take SaaS seriously.

Release 16 adds prebuilt custom objects and goes heavy on additional capabilities and interactions for those and other database objects. These include real-time reporting, custom fields, external data integration, management of page and related-item layouts, role-based security settings, and list management, according to the company. Objects from other systems can be loaded in via Web services or through the use of import/export utilities. The number of custom objects is no longer limited.

Other features in Release 16 or related to it include:

  • New capabilities for the Partner Relationship Management module, including partner programs, profiles, special pricing, lead pooling, and deal registration;
  • Sales Library, Oracle's social media–based content management application for salespeople;
  • Another delivery option, Single-Tenant Standard Edition, which includes the bulk of Oracle CRM On Demand's functionality but puts customers on Oracle's downtime schedule instead of a custom one;
  • Usability enhancements intended to make navigation faster and less click-intensive, including an expansion of the inline edit function;
  • Improved forecasting and reporting capabilities support unit-based forecasting, companies with quarters that start on days other than the first of the month, or have 13-week quarters;
  • New vertical-industry functionality for the Global Wealth Management, Life Sciences, and Insurance Editions, reducing the need for customization; and
  • Additional multilingual and multicurrency support, including eight new languages (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Thai, and Traditional Chinese).

"Customization, configuration, and extension have been a large part of our drive in Release 16," says Anthony Lye, senior vice president of CRM for Oracle. In particular, he adds, "Sales Library is one of the most anticipated products we've built with the On Demand platform."

Lye also made several comparisons to Salesforce.com, noting the points of departure in functionality, scalability, and pricing. He noted that Oracle has delivered twice as many new-product releases in the past year, and provides "one throat to choke" and a simplified price structure when compared with Salesforce.com. "One of the questions I'm asked regularly is, 'How much does the price go up?' " Lye said. "Feedback from our customers is that they don't want to be nickeled and dimed."

Asked how Oracle could justify claiming the throne as on-demand leader when Salesforce.com has more subscribers, Lye had a ready response. "Our focus isn't on the small business, it's on the Oracle customer base, which is medium and large enterprises.... Our average subscriber has 100 seats per instance, whereas Salesforce.com has 18, 19, or perhaps 20."

"I'm definitely impressed, especially with Sales Library," says Brent Leary, partner with consultancy CRM Essentials. "They get the social media thing at least as well as anybody, and Sales Library is definitely continuing down that path." Added to the other social-media sales tools the company has introduced in recent months, Leary says Sales Library means Oracle "will be more and more entrenched in that area for when customers come to understand the value of social CRM."

Leary, who focuses on small business with CRM Essentials and with his Internet radio show "Technology for Business Sake," says he was unsurprised by Lye's comment regarding Oracle On Demand's core constituency. "Small businesses won't miss this," Leary says. "They will be well served by companies who actually focus on small-business SaaS."

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