Oracle Reinvigorates Mobile and Social CRM Offerings

SAN FRANCISCO, October 13, 2009 — Oracle executives may not be overly fond of "cloud" talk these days — as Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison's recent Churchill Club speech ("cloud" excerpt here, full video here) made clear — but they didn't really have much choice in the matter during Tropical Storm Tuesday -- otherwise known as Day 3 of Oracle OpenWorld 2009. Despite having to brave San Francisco's high winds and heavy rain, attendees flooded into the morning keynote delivered by Thomas Kurian, Oracle's executive vice president of product development. The keynote centered around the vendor's application layer and demonstrated the power of combining applications via Oracle's Application Integration Architecture to solve unique business needs. 

[Editors' Note: Other coverage of Oracle OpenWorld '09 can be found here and here, and blogposts about the event can be found here.]

Kurian was joined onstage by executives from various Oracle customers — Ingersoll Rand, Qualcomm, Office Depot — to demonstrate how a new approach to integration could transform business processes. Ingersoll Rand, for example, has integrated Oracle's E-Business Supply Chain Management, Hyperion Planning, and Siebel CRM. The integration allows for batch reporting on transactions, customers, and inventory, but also for ad hoc query -- which Kurian said is a new and powerful value-add. 

In a later media briefing, press and analysts hurried to ask Kurian about a missing piece in his keynote presentation -- Oracle Fusion Apps. In July, Larry Ellison had promised that Oracle Fusion Applications would be available as software-as-a-service, multitenant offerings, in addition to previously announced on-premises versions. Kurian, however, deflected questions on the topic of Fusion Apps, saying to pay close attention to Ellison's keynote address on Wednesday. 

Kurian referred to Oracle CRM On Demand not only as Oracle's fastest-growing software-as-a-service application, but the company's fastest-growing application — period. Anthony Lye, Oracle's senior vice president of CRM, shared what CRM users can look forward to upcoming releases, including:

  • enhanced vertical functionality;
  • the incorporation of partner relationship management (PRM) capabilities; and
  • a future integration of Siebel with Microsoft and IBM Lotus Notes that will allow users to engage in CRM work within their email interfaces.

Oracle OpenWorld has also seen several smaller CRM-related announcements, including:

Integration of Oracle CRM On Demand and InQuira's Web Self-Service Applications: The September announcement of a partnership between Oracle and Web self-service player InQuira promised integration into CRM, and this week marks the debut of those efforts. The result, according to a joint statement from the two companies, promises to help boost multichannel customer interactions. According to Oracle and InQuira, the integration will enable customers to use self-service mechanisms and then move seamlessly into live-agent assisted service or chat.

In a guest blogpost for destinationCRMblog.com at the time of the partnership announcement, Denis Pombriant, Beagle Research Group founder and managing principal, wrote: "The new Oracle/InQuira integration takes a customer who has a service issue from a self-service modality to an interaction with a live agent while preserving the thread of the interaction. Not only will this mean an end to 'Can you give me your account number again?' but hopefully we'll see faster, more-accurate service as well."

The InQuira Web Self-Service application can be delivered via three delivery models: on-demand, on-premises, or in a hybrid fashion.

Oracle Mobile Sales Assistant 2.0 for BlackBerry: With Mobile Sales Assistant, Oracle continues hammering out its "work anywhere" technology, promising to help sales reps close deals more quickly while on the road. The key functionality of Mobile Sales Assistant 2.0 involves logging emails and calls back into Oracle CRM On Demand. According to Oracle, enhanced data-caching wil make more information available on BlackBerry devices. In addition, the new version is compatible with more BlackBerry devices -- Tour, 8900, and Storm -- and supports 12 languages.

Oracle Social CRM Applications (Release 3): At last year's OpenWorld, CRM attendees might have heard a relatively new phrase tossed around the Moscone Center -- social CRM. With add-ons to CRM On Demand focusing on collaboration, social networking, and the concept of "people like me," the Oracle CRM team introduced Oracle CRM Sales Library On Demand, Oracle CRM Sales Campaigns On Demand, and Oracle Sales Prospector On Demand. Today, Oracle has unveiled the third iteration of these Oracle Social CRM Applications. 

One new feature highlighted by Oracle executives is support for Microsoft Word within Sales Library, a collaborative and educational resource for salespeople looking for sales materials. Sales Library incorporates social sharing, rating, and tagging capabilities that enable sales reps to engage peers for help in creating sales presentations. 

Release 3 also features new capabilities for the Sales Campaigns On Demand module. With Campaigns, salespeople work mostly around templates -- editing them with input from their network of choice or creating new materials. The Campaigns module also includes real-time analytics capabilities to identify the campaigns voted the best, or those viewed or opened most often. 

Oracle's Social CRM Strategy: In addition to relaying details about upcoming versions of Siebel and CRM On Demand, Lye discussed Oracle's overarching vision for social CRM, much of which involves relationship hierarchies and mapping, as well as social analysis. Lye continually referred back to the concept of knowing "who the customer looks like." 

In a "Social CRM Product Unplugged" session today, Lye emphasized once again how little social CRM has to do with communities. "Creating communities and dumping customers in them has no context," he said. Companies, he added, can't just go to Twitter because that's where customers are, respond to tweets, and consider that customer service. "Twitter is not a customer service thing," he said. "It's a channel." 

"For social CRM you must have transactional CRM and analytical CRM," Lye said -- a combination that he said boils down to capturing data, analyzing that data, and then finally deriving value by acting upon the analysis. As with everything else related to data, he said, mining and tracking conversations relies on analytics. Furthermore, he added, success in cross-selling and upselling customers is based on figuring out who those customers look like -- a near-impossiblity in the absence of analytics.

Lye cited as an example a company that conducts a search of its name across all kinds of social media — and yet completely misses the relevance of the conversation around its brand. Oracle, he said, avoids that fate and "tunes in to particular stations" when monitoring social activity on the Web involving its name -- channels such as social networks, SMS text messages, emails, and service requirements. Only about 10 percent of the Oracle-related comments and conversations gleaned through these channels are acted upon, he said.

"It can't be just about conversation," Lye emphasized. "It needs to be conversation plus context." 

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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