• December 1, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

The Competitive Threat

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Oracle faces a knotty situation for integrating and supporting its many product lines: Customers are unsure of the future of their CRM implementations and PeopleSoft customers, in particular, are angry. Other vendors, sensing a fat target, have hoisted the Jolly Roger and are seeking to pirate a piece of Oracle's action. So, what's a user to do? SAP, Oracle's largest direct competitor, is one logical choice. "[Enterprise software] is a two-player game now, Oracle and SAP," says Martin Schneider, enterprise software analyst for The 451 Group. The range of SAP and mySAP applications, which covers the needs of large enterprises and smaller concerns, coupled with the company's comparatively stable reputation, may entice prospects to give more weight to SAP's solution set. In addition, SAP has its Safe Passage incentive program for existing PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers to jump ship. So far, at least 29 customers have committed to switching, but that's before considering the fallout from Siebel; Safe Passage was extended to Siebel customers on Oct. 17. Microsoft's CRM 3.0 launch this month also positions the company as a significant threat. As a result of the Siebel acquisition, "Microsoft customers are reexamining their strategy. It's opening up a lot of doors for us," says Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft CRM. Onyx Software, an old hand in CRM, but a relative newcomer to the enterprise space, is another attractive alternative. "Onyx understands where CRM is going, and where it always should have been." In addition, Schneider says Onyx identifies processes and provides a CRM tool set, rather than packaged applications, making its offering more versatile. Onyx has offered $500,000 subsidies for professional services related to switching from an Oracle-owned product to Onyx to sweeten the pot. Even little-guy hosted vendor Salesboom.com is having a go with its "Off Siebel OnDemand CRM Rescue Operation," which promises free data migration to its on-demand service and full credit for the remainder of existing Siebel OnDemand contracts. Some vendors are just focusing on capturing Oracle's support revenue; services vendor Rimini Street was founded to provide half-price Siebel license maintenance. Much talk centers on which particular vendor will capture the enterprise, but there's also the possibility of a return to best-of-breed solutions, made possible by service-oriented architecture. Integration tools like Oracle Fusion middleware and others may be their own worst enemy when a vendor wants to consolidate customers. "A large customer can outsource the contact center to India, use Aprimo or Unica for marketing, and even use Salesforce.com for SFA," Schneider says, adding that in the long run company direction will be just as telling as software solutions. "Product is one level, but position and marketing is another--all of these vendors are doing the same thing, basically." Schneider says talk of customer mutiny is premature. "The real question is, How is Oracle going to position itself against its competitors, and against itself? Rip and replace is a huge undertaking, and unless a competitor--or an Oracle product line--makes it affordable, efficient, and flexible, customers will likely stay where they are."
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