The latest Siebel CRM On Demand highlights the software giant's interest in the on-demand market and underscores the strength of the Siebel name.
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When Oracle announced the general availability of Siebel CRM On Demand Release 14 on July 25, it marked the company's first major Siebel Systems software-as-a-service (SaaS) release since completing the purchase of its former adversary in January 2006. The release itself -- the 14th in three and a half years--is particularly noteworthy: It's the first installment to run entirely on Oracle's native infrastructure, and it delivers buckets of integration, usability, customization, and administration features. Apart from the functionality enhancements, however, are signs that the product's branding was set for a facelift -- a facelift that never came about.
Release 14 includes prebuilt integrations to Oracle programs such as Oracle E-Business Suite. Also, process-level integration with Siebel CRM On Demand's workflow capabilities automatically triggers cross-application processes based on changes to information, while data-integration enhancements via Web services enable merge-record operations. In addition, the release draws on technologies such as AJAX and in-line edit to simplify user tasks. Release 14 also includes home-page customization, expanded search-configuration tools, mashup support, industry-specific editions, a built-in virtual call center, embedded analytics, and a prebuilt data warehouse for real-time decision-making.
The latest release represents the first formal announcement of the availability of a new Siebel CRM On Demand product since the April 2006 announcement of version 10. Oracle subsequently rolled out Releases 11, 12, and 13 without any formal press announcements.
With Release 14, however, it appears Oracle was planning to switch to the Oracle brand. In fact, according to an industry insider requesting anonymity, a notice was sent to members of the analyst community stating that Oracle was dropping the Siebel name from the SaaS product. "Then I guess somewhere in the organization, [it was decided to] stick with Siebel, but they didn't send out a subsequent email," the pundit says. "So they are sticking with the traditional Oracle Siebel CRM On Demand nomenclature, and they appear to be planning to stick with that for the foreseeable future." (See "What's in a Name? Oracle's Mixed Message With Siebel CRM On Demand," for more product information.)
It's important to note, however, that Oracle uses "Oracle On Demand" (not "Oracle CRM On Demand") as an umbrella term to describe the company's portfolio of services it delivers in its role as an application service provider (ASP). Some of these offerings include subscription applications (Siebel CRM On Demand) and managed applications (Oracle On Demand for Siebel CRM; PeopleSoft Enterprise On Demand; JD Edwards EnterpriseOne On Demand and JD Edwards World On Demand; Oracle Collaboration Suite On Demand; and Oracle E-Business Suite On Demand).
"The Oracle On Demand infrastructure has a whole host of services...that allow Oracle as an entity to take advantage of its understanding of the application, the database, [and] middleware," says Anthony Lye, Oracle senior vice president, CRM On Demand. "I've never had a customer tell me, 'I don't know which [product] to buy.' Oracle On Demand offers customers a huge benefit from a cost of ownership [perspective] and from an overall initiative and business strategy."
Lye's experience notwithstanding, some headscratching on the part of buyers is to be expected. "They use 'on demand' to describe the ASP model as well as the true SaaS version -- so customers do tend to get a little bit confused," says Rob Bois, a research director at AMR Research. "The more they can distinguish the true SaaS product [Siebel CRM On Demand] from the traditional ASP version [Oracle On Demand for Siebel CRM] would certainly help."
Overall, though, Bois contends that it's good to see Oracle continue to put an emphasis on the on-demand product. "SaaS is driving the future growth of the CRM space," he says. "When you have one of the biggest CRM vendors continuing to push that, it's good for the industry. The customers end up winning in all of this."
Oracle reverts to the Siebel moniker for the newest version of its CRM On Demand product, which features several usability, customization, and integration enhancements.
In addition to a long-rumored change in naming conventions, the software giant's Release 15 weaves social networking into on-demand CRM; also, a new Mobile Sales Assistant is unveiled.
A slew of enhancements mark the 16th update to Oracle's software-as-a-service CRM option, and comparisons to Salesforce.com abound.
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