Reporter's Notebook: Oracle AppsWorld

Last week's Oracle AppsWorld in San Diego focused heavily on knowing your customers and translating that knowledge into profits. Much of that centered on the company's introduction of its Customer Data Hub, which is designed to provide a single place for customer data to reside that offers a 360-degree view of customers. Outspoken CEO Larry Ellison's keynote concentrated on how CRM has continually failed to deliver on its promise of that complete customer view: "CRM promised that if you had a 360-degree view of your customers then you would know everything," he said. "Boy, do I want that. That is great. That idea sounds like the Holy Grail of business applications." The only problem, Ellison said, is that your CRM system will only give you a 360-degree view of your customers as long as they don't buy anything. Once that happens, he noted, the information gets scattered into too many back-end systems, and there is no longer a complete view of the information. Unlike other keynotes in which Ellison has lashed out against rivals--including Microsoft--he avoided mentioning competitors, except to note that Salesforce.com chairman Marc Benioff recently told him something interesting: " 'The key to CRM is accounts receivable.' " Ellison spent most of his speech extolling the virtues of how credit card companies that compete against each other have still managed to link together in a system that allows information to be gathered in a central place. That information is personal financial data about each cardholder. Ellison mocked that people are sensitive about giving out medical and personal data that may save their lives in an emergency, but are eager to give out personal information that may help them get free items via online shopping. "Shopping verses the lives of our family," Ellison quipped. "The debate is ongoing." Ellison's speech was laced with sarcastic humor. When a conference attendee congratulated Ellison on his recent wedding, the famous former bachelor joked that he had decided that he was "moving to a single instance," and that that was a move that was "easier and safer." He was not, however, joking when it came to what might happen when the U.S. Department of Justice reviews Oracle's hostile takeover bid for rival CRM provider PeopleSoft. Ellison was curt: "You will need to ask the justice department. I'm not in charge." Ron Wohl, Oracle's vice president of application development, touted in his keynote the company's Customer Data Hub; he used cost as the main point for getting the product. Wohl stressed that the product makes it easy to achieve cost savings and improved information. Sounds simple, but according to Wohl, the complexity of how information systems are deployed today in silos makes it "incredibly expensive and often ineffective to get accurate snapshots of key business indicators." "The results speak for themselves," Wohl said, noting many customers have demonstrated millions of dollars in savings using the Oracle E-Business Suite: "We've talked about progressive automation before. Why do I keep stressing it? Because the payback is so great."
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