The chasm between on-premises and on-demand CRM got a little bit smaller this week, as Oracle released a prebuilt integration between its core on-premises Siebel CRM solution and its Oracle CRM On Demand, adding to an extensive list of product integrations built on its Application Integration Architecture (AIA) and Oracle Fusion Middleware. By productizing the integration, Oracle takes on the responsibility of executing and maintaining the integration in an effort to help companies build a single view of each customer.
According to Anthony Lye, senior vice president of CRM at Oracle, the release is a response to the 100-plus customers who are currently deploying both Siebel CRM and CRM On Demand. The reason for this, Lye explains, is that companies use the on-premises solution as the core product, but then augment or extend the system into other divisions or departments with the on-demand solution. With this integration, companies can connect Oracle products and hopefully span silos to synchronize the entire enterprise. Particularly with this release, Lye adds, “they can combine the ease of deployment of our [software-as-a-service]-based product with the rich functionality of our on-premise product.”
Based on its standard-based AIA framework, Oracle now has more than 20 prepackaged integration offerings, beginning with the Oracle On Demand integration pack for E-Business Suite. Others include:
- Siebel Life Sciences integration pack for Oracle Adverse Event Reporting;
- Siebel integration pack for Oracle Trade Promotion;
- Siebel CRM integration pack for Oracle Order Management.
According to Lye, before the end of the fiscal year, the company will be putting out between 20 and 30 additional prepackaged integrations.
When he first heard about the release, Paul Greenberg, president of consultancy The 56 Group, admits he was relatively unimpressed. “I thought, ‘Eh, okay. Nice. It seems to be going somewhere potentially.' But I wasn’t excited.” What Greenberg says did get him to sit up and take notice was not that Oracle can integrate disparate solutions internally, but that it can go beyond the firewall and connect with organizations externally. “Partner relationship management has been a category that’s been dead for years,” Greenberg says, “It’s been poor.” While execution is obviously key here, he believes that, if it does work, Oracle’s integration will have a chance at revitalizing the category entirely.
This proposition is especially appealing for brand owners communicating with partners that are smaller and perhaps can’t afford big-time installations of Siebel. Lye says that companies will be able to share leads and customer information without having to go through traditional partner portals, which are often much more cumbersome, especially since the systems are not systematically connected. The integration will hopefully enable companies to populate, extract, and manipulate information using the data straight from a central database.
To be clear, Lye says, the solution is not merely creating a blanket copy of everything, accessible to everyone; rather, he explains, “one particular CRM On Demand node can synchronize a subset of its data to [a] Siebel system, [and] another node can synchronize to a different set.” From there, he continues, the business process engine can essentially coordinate between subsidiaries, such that, for instance, a partner selling golf carts can move a particular contact to another partner company selling lawn equipment. “They're getting the basic 360-degree view back to corporate,” Lye says. More important, he adds, “they are giving people a certain level of autonomy in the business system themselves, [aalowing them to] share the relevant business objects.”
“The integration is really something we've productized,” Lye says. “We tend to find that packaging the integrations saves the customers a lot of time and money,” he adds, especially when it comes time for product upgrades. Oftentimes, he says, when versions change within products, integrations no longer work, requiring customers to call the integrator and undergo a second round of efforts. Now, he says, “we make that our problem, and not the customer's problem. We guarantee that as versions change, as functions change, we will connect Oracle product to Oracle product through AIA.”
Greenberg says that while this release is not “world-shaking,” it’s very significant and he considers it “a good step for Oracle.” Several other industry analysts have noted the likelihood that this release is a response to Salesforce.com’s Salesforce to Salesforce platform, which was released last December. In an interview with IT World, Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at CRM consultancy Beagle Research Group, brings up the point that Salesforce to Salesforce also permits companies to tie into outside applications such as Siebel.
Oracle, too, is extending its reach outside of its own solutions. In November of 2007, Oracle unveiled an AIA integration with competitor SAP, to give customers a way to connect the two systems. As SAP versions change, Lye adds, Oracle will maintain the integration there as well. The company lists the following integrations available to Oracle/SAP customers:
- Siebel CRM to SAP;
- Agile PLM to SAP;
- Hyperion to SAP;
- Oracle Utilities to SAP;
- Oracle Communications Billing and Revenue Management to SAP; and
- PeopleSoft HR to SAP.
The company also introduced an AIA Foundation Pack around the same time, which Lye says is the “toolset we use to build the integrations we've productized.” Made available now to customers, the Foundation Pack allows them to “extend the AIA beyond Oracle products and interconnect any legacy product to the architecture.”
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