The 2009 Influential Leaders - The Fast Follower

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Oracle’s senior vice president for CRM,Anthony Lye, is quick to admit he’s a fast follower. He may even be bragging. (With the accent, it’s hard to know for sure.) He has no problem ’fessing up to having peppered  enterprise applications with social capabilities made popular in consumer tools—a serious departure for a software powerhouse.

Chris Carfi, author of the blog The Social Customer Manifesto, says Lye, who served as vice president and general manager of CRM products at Siebel Systems prior to joining Oracle in 2006, simply gets it. “He seems to understand that a lot of these types of capabilities [we use] as individuals in the social context…are now going to be part of the fabric of business,” Carfi says. Not only is Lye in sync with what consumers are doing on the Web, but he’s managed to convince Big Red that enterprises should care.

Lye’s vision for empowering enterprise employees—even salespeople!—with tools popularized on the consumer Web has dictated Oracle’s social CRM roadmap. “[Oracle is] trying to make these social tools available to individuals within large corporations, which have historically been a little bit more reluctant to do so,” Carfi says.

Lye is driving his organization to think about how to utilize these different types of capabilities—social networking, tagging, sharing—“functions that we take for granted in the consumer space,” Carfi says. “[Oracle has] done a good job of seeing what’s working out in the marketplace and trying to figure out how to put a business skin on those tools.” Although social CRM is young, it’s refreshing to see traditional players embracing the new wave.

Speaking of waves, here’s Lye’s evolutionary view of CRM: The first wave was about transactions; the second involved analytics; and the third and current wave is all about social engagements. It’s no longer about CRM users learning from Oracle, it’s about users learning from their consumers. So don’t be surprised to spot Lye scoping some tricked-out social consumer app—before he finds a way to adapt something very similar to an enterprise offering.

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