• September 25, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Oracle's Latest Branding Initiative

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Oracle's 2005 acquisition of Siebel Systems for $5.85 billion instantly gave Oracle the ability to deliver more sophisticated CRM functionality and more tightly integrated business intelligence and management applications at a time when many of its competitors were struggling to find additional functionality.

Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, said at the time that Siebel CRM would be "the centerpiece of our CRM strategy going forward."

And for many years it was just that, with Oracle choosing to promote Siebel CRM over similar software developed in house and gained during its prolonged and hostile takeover of PeopleSoft in 2004 for $10.3 billion.

Well, the times have certainly changed, and Oracle now has a new CRM strategy that it unveiled in late June. Central to that strategy is Oracle's Customer Experience (CX) Suite, which it calls a complete end-to-end solution for managing the customer life cycle at every interaction point.

"We've been able to pull together a portfolio of best-in-class solutions, and we feel we're in a position to offer our customers a suite of applications driving customer experience," Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM, said at the company's June CX suite launch in New York.

Anchoring the new CX branding initiative is technology Oracle gained during its acquisition of RightNow Technologies last year for $1.5 billion. With RightNow, Oracle gained CRM functionality to manage customer service interactions online, from any device, in social media, or the contact center, and to enhance the customer experience with proactive, highly personalized communications informed by integrated analytics.

Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, sees the RightNow acquisition as a good strategic move for Oracle. "RightNow was a strong player delivering strong ROI for its customers," she says. "It helped Oracle expand its customer base in the mid-market and the cloud. That's something it didn't have in the CRM space."

"Our clear direction is to put our foot firmly down on the gas pedal and accelerate RightNow as a company to take advantage of the huge opportunity we see in front of us," Lye said.

Other pieces in the overall CX solution set include elements from Siebel CRM, Oracle Fusion CRM, Oracle WebCenter, Oracle Knowledge Management, the Oracle Master Data Management Suite, and Oracle Social Network, combined with technology gained during the recent acquisitions of ATG, FatWire Software, Endeca, InQuira, Vitrue, and Collective Intellect.

"There's a real wealth of opportunity that we can create through the combination of these world-class assets," Lye says.

"Each of these products by itself is a fantastic product," he continues. "In combination, we can do things that our customers have been dreaming about and challenged by. We can now solve problems and create relationships in ways that nobody else can."

Daniel Hong, lead analyst for customer interactions at Ovum, doesn't see the suite as a radical shift in thinking at Oracle. "I don't see this as a vast change from Oracle's focus many years ago on helping enterprises improve customer retention and build customer loyalty. I see this as the same vision, but it seems Oracle—as well as the industry in general—has a better understanding of the various elements needed to improve the customer experience," he says. "A few years ago, Oracle didn't have the right puzzle pieces, but now they have a sizable collection of assets from which they've stitched together a comprehensive CX suite."

Lye also maintains that CX is not about replacing CRM but supplementing it. "CX needs to be an integral part of CRM, and CRM needs to be a part of CX," he says. "CRM and CX are very much coupled together.

"The experience and the relationship go hand in hand," he continues. "Customers expect more from a relationship, and it's the experiences that we have that define the relationship. Bad experiences create bad relationships, and good experiences create great relationships."

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