Oracle Updates Sales and Marketing CRM Modules
While it awaits the verdict on whether its bid for PeopleSoft will be allowed to proceed, Oracle's applications division released the latest version of its sales and marketing CRM software.
The modules being upgraded, Oracle Sales, Oracle Marketing, Oracle Partner Relationship Management, and Oracle e-Commerce, either create or expand functionalities across most of the company's selling platform, including compensation management, partner management, and the creation of marketing materials.
According to John Wookey, Oracle's senior vice president of applications development, the new release facilitates a multichannel approach to selling, aiming to align the efforts of different enterprise divisions toward a single goal.
Wookey says the renewed focus on "sell-side CRM" can be ascribed to an economy emerging from an "air pocket"--a time when CRM users were focused on "margin improvement and corporate compliance and customer retention." Now, he says, CRM needs to focus instead on "an enterprise approach to the selling process" to drive revenue.
He also stresses: "We want to make sure that with everything [partners are] doing, you can see the effect that's having on your business," adding that the new "partner landing pad," which now integrates with Oracle iStore, enables partners to "come in and work more effectively with your store."
Along with enterprisewide data connections and the integration of price quoting with incentive compensation, the partner relationship management (PRM) feature is one of the few in the release that Oracle is touting as all-new, as opposed to an upgrade. But, according to Robert Desisto, vice president at Gartner, the PRM module is really little more than a replacement for an earlier version that never caught on. "They'd launched something like this a few years ago, providing CRM to dealers and distributors," he says. Oracle, he says, "took the old code and freshened it up, more tightly linking it with the electronic-commerce functionality."
Still, Desisto calls PRM one of the upgrade's two defining characteristics, the other being in the area of advanced pricing. He also acknowledges that the company has "expanded their capabilities" in a number of areas: "They've actually improved on the marketing side as well," he says, adding that, "a year ago you couldn't really say they were a player there. With 11i.10, they've been able to increase that capability." Furthermore, he says, Oracle is "actually picking up a little momentum on the development side of the product."
As for the alignment of sales and marketing efforts, though, Desisto says that while "it's a very nice message...it's not like that's a particularly new thing in the market." The real issue, he says, is that "the organizations of sales and marketing tend not to collaborate too closely on the process side of things--it remains a challenge to align demand creation with execution on the sales side."
Oracle addresses this chasm with the Audience Workbench feature in the new release, Wookey says: "There was a huge division between sales and marketing organizations. Sales people [traditionally] accused marketing of generating weak leads, [while] marketing thinks sales wastes good leads and fails to generate revenue." The software's new collaborative capability, according to Wookey, will lead to better lead generation, and will allow sales staff to able to coordinate marketing materials themselves.
The traditional separation between the two departments remains an obstacle: Desisto says that despite obvious benefits, only certain circumstances warrant a combined sales and marketing approach. "If the functionality can support your needs in both areas, it makes sense to leverage it from one vendor. What Oracle has done is, they've better integrated the two apps by accessing the same data sets. [But only] very few organizations say, 'I'm going to buy an integrated sales and marketing app'--they just don't have the mindset to do that today," he says.
Desisto contends that Oracle's main draw is its integrated data model, noting that the vendor believes "that it comes back not to what's going on in this release, but the architecture of 11i in general -- having the same data stack, and the customer data, used by all applications." But no matter what a company does, applications alone can't force data integration. "In fact, software can work against you," Desisto says. "The integrated data model may not be practical for some companies."
And while Desisto sees 11i.10 as "a good thing for [Oracle's] installed base," he still says that Oracle Sales and Marketing may not be right for everyone. "For someone who doesn't have an Oracle database, this is obviously not the solution for them," he says. And for those companies that do
rely on an underlying Oracle database, but have no current deployment of Oracle applications, the argument is only marginally more compelling. "There may be a play for a non-app customer to leverage the database and [business intelligence] stuff, but that's not in the sweet spot right now."
Furthermore, Desisto adds, certain Oracle users--those having deployed Oracle Manufacturing, for example, or Oracle Financials--will find their existing applications "more 'leverageable' in sales apps than in marketing apps," though in the marketing arena, "there could be a justification for piggy-backing off [Oracle's] analytics engine."
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