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Oracle beefs up CRM On Demand

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27th Jan 2009
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Oracle is aiming to provide more flexibility to users of its latest CRM On Demand release. But what exactly sets it apart from the competition?

By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

Oracle is ramping up its Software as a Service (SaaS) ambitions with the 16th release of CRM On Demand, claiming to offer customers more flexibility of deployment and maintenance than 'traditional' SaaS vendors such as Salesforce.com.

While the likes of Salesforce.com adhere rigidly to the multi-tenant definition of SaaS, Oracle's version has more options, offering both a multi-tenant and a single tenant option. With the latter approach, customers rent their own hardware and software and can control maintenance upgrades.

"We have customers who are using CRM On Demand while also deploying on premise."

Steve Fearon, vice president, Oracle CRM On Demand

A new option with Release 16 allows single tenant customers to rent their own, non-shared systems, so long as they stick to Oracle's CRM On Demand schedule for maintenance and upgrades. A final option – At Customer - allows customers to run CRM On Demand on systems at their own offices. This option is targeted mainly at customers with stringent data privacy concerns.

One of the major enhancements to the new release is the increase in customisation options, whereby customers can configure as many custom objects as they like as opposed to the three per system that they were limited to before. This has come about through customer demand, according to Steve Fearon, vice president Oracle CRM On Demand. While Oracle offers its own pre-built objects, the company recognises that customers need to have more options to customise them for their specific needs.

Oracle CRM On Demand Release 16 also includes enhancements to usability, allowing users to review information about related products without leaving the page; improved forecasting and reporting and new functionality in the global wealth management, life sciences and insurance editions. It also includes support for eight new languages -Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Thai and Traditional Chinese.

There's also a beefing up of the Partner Relationship Management functionality. PRM On Demand in Release 16 extends the current partner license option to support indirect channel management capabilities. The On Demand solution will include new management features for partner programmes, profiles, special pricing, lead pooling and deal registrations.

There will be more coming in the next month or so as Oracle rolls out more CRM On Demand Release 16 solutions, including SaaS self-service billing, the Sales Library social content management application, price management, enterprise disaster recovery and integration between Oracle CRM On Demand and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne.

Fearon believes the on demand approach is winning more attention among customers of all sizes. "We are seeing more and more large projects coming through, with thousands of users," he says. "It's dififcult to give an average size though. We are still seeing requirements where there are different deployments to meet different needs. For large call centre deployments, it's still likely to be an on premise solution but we are seeing increasing growth of the hybrid model. We have customers who are using CRM On Demand while also deploying on premise."

Customers of CRM On Demand include Siemens. "The Oracle CRM On Demand offering is set to become a mission critical part of our business, says Torsten Becker, corporate program director for CRM at Siemens. "In today's market, we need to optimise every opportunity we have and we believe that in replacing the incumbent SAP solution, we are providing our sales teams with a significant advantage in terms of customer visibility and intelligence, in a cost effective and agile way."

On demand in action

Separately, analyst firm Nucleus Research has published a study of the deployment of Oracle CRM On Demand, using Oracle Application Integration Architecture (AIA) at Rackable Systems, to find a return on investment of 330% with pay back in less than six months. Rackable Systems provides servers and storage devices for enterprise-level data centres, specialising in machines that are relatively easy to service and manage, and are fine-tuned to reduce heat and power consumption to help customers cut operating costs.

"In replacing the incumbent SAP solution, we are providing our sales teams with a significant advantage in terms of customer visibility and intelligence, in a cost effective and agile way."

Torsten Becker, corporate program director for CRM, Siemens

While Rackable had deployed the Oracle E-Business Suite11i to support its business operations, it needed a CRM solution that would offer tight integration between data and workflows. The company selected Oracle CRM On Demand and, using the Oracle AIA, was able link to the E-Business Suite with relative speed and ease. This brought new features, such as easily customised tabs and specialised reporting templates while automating end-to-end customer related processes without manual intervention, allowing the system to automatically convert an opportunity into a customer order.

It has also led to an increase in sales, allowing the Rackable staff to be more efficient at selling with better data availability and the ability to access full customer profiles. The data quality is higher, based on a single master customer record without duplication for a single source of truth and no need for manual verification.

Overall efficiency is up, saving time in monitoring and measuring pipeline activity. Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research, Nucleus Research, adds: "Deploying in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) format has allowed Rackable Systems to increase ROI and see bottom-line business results with Oracle CRM On Demand."

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