Oracle CRM in Bloom in 2003

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Oracle Corp. recently took over San Diego for a week for its annual Oracle AppsWorld conference. The software company used the conference to unveil 28 new business flows, a big CRM customer win with 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., a new CRM vice president, and a positive review from a previously critical market research firm. Business Flow Accelerators are the next iteration of Oracle Fast Forward Flows, the prepackaged flows that Oracle introduced two years ago to automate end-to-end, enterprisewide business processes with low-cost, low-risk implementation services. There are 26 new Business Flow Accelerators--18 of which are generic business flows that could apply to most any businesses, while eight are industry specific (e.g., there are flows for government and telecom). These flows are sold for a fixed price, which includes the cost of the software and the implementation. However, if businesses also want that price to include maintenance they will have to purchase the flows under Oracle's new All In One program. For example, a user can purchase just a specific piece of a general ledger application or an entire Business Flow Accelerator under the All In One program and know the price for the software, implementation, and maintenance right up front. Mark Jarvis, Oracle's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, says BFAs will help users lower the total cost of ownership, avoid customization, and reduce implementation costs by 30 percent. Market researcher Gartner Inc. claims that 79 percent of IT budgets are spent on managing systems. Oracle also used the conference to showcase high-profile customers and announce that 1-800-Flowers is implementing Oracle's E-Business Suite around the CRM marketing piece of the application. Enzo Micali, chief technology officer of 1-800-Flowers, says the Westbury, NY--based company needed more robust campaign management features to handle its more than 10 million customers. Micali says that 1-800-Flowers, which uses other Oracle products, including database, ERP, and financial applications, felt very comfortable with Oracle products and with Oracle as a partner. 1-800-Flowers.com comprises a variety of brands and divisions, including 1-800-Flowers, Plough & Hearth, Magic Cabin, Hearth Song, and the Popcorn Factory. The marketing groups within all those brands will be using Oracle CRM. The system, which will help the company segment customers, select target markets, manage email campaigns, and perform campaign analysis, is expected to be up and running in the spring, Micali says. Micali declines to provide any hard return on investment figures, but says that he expects the more substantial ROI will be potential revenue growth and cost cutting in the form of new services. He says the company typically outsources the creation and actual execution of the emails used in the campaigns, and now that will be brought in-house and handled by Oracle Email Center. Oracle also got a boost during AppsWorld as market researcher AMR Research published a report that Oracle's CRM strategy is back on track. According to the report, Oracle has given AMR many reasons to question its viability as a leading CRM vendor over the past two years. AMR has been particularly flummoxed by Oracle's positioning of an integrated suite; having a single sales force for all applications and technologies; the company's inability to prove its technology is on par with CRM market leaders; and Oracle's lack of product marketing leadership, AMR analyst Rod Johnson says. But the software giant has spent the past two years addressing those issues and more, and AMR is now saying that Oracle is "poised to rebound in the second half of 2003." And while AMR says Oracle has room for even more improvement, Johnson says he would not be "surprised if 2003 was the year that Oracle applications returns as a market force." Jeff Henley, Oracle's CFO, echoed that sentiment in his keynote, which kicked off the annual gathering of 10,000 developers, 1,800 partners, and 175 exhibitors. Henley says he expects Oracle's financial health to improve this year. Oracle has already started to see a slowdown in the negative revenue growth that occurred over the past three quarters. Positive revenue growth is expected for Oracle's third fiscal quarter of 2003, which ends February 28, 2003. Henley also named a few anticipated high-growth areas for the company, including outsourcing (Oracle already has more than 300 apps customers that are using it hosting services); continued development of applications based on Linux; more enhancements to its Collaboration Suite, which since it's debut last year has become the company's fastest-selling product; and ways to lower the total cost of ownership. Meanwhile, Oracle named Robb Eklund as vice president of CRM marketing. Eklund was previously the vice president of CRM marketing at enterprise CRM rival PeopleSoft Inc. Eklund reports to Lisa Arthur, vice president of CRM and services marketing.
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