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Oracle OpenWorld: Brave new worlds for CRM?

21st Sep 2010
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Oracle's Anthony Lye is doing some long term thinking that challenges some of the fundamental tenets of CRM as we know it...

While the new Fusion applications will probably be seen as the immediate 'next step' for Oracle CRM, longer term thinking is also underway about other technological innovations as well as a rethinking of some of the fundamental tenets of CRM. 

Oracle's senior vice president of CRM Development Anthony Lye detects a shift in what customers are looking for from CRM functionality. "We are seeing a focus on sales performance," he suggests. "Customers want to give their sales people the opportunity and resources to go after more opportunities and grow revenues without additional expense. 
"When you look at an organisation, you can see a typical distribution of sale performance on a graph with people who do well in the upper right hand side and people at the lower end who miss their targets," says Lye. "The guys who make the most money are the ones who have the most sales opportunities, while the ones who don't make money are the ones who have fewer opportunities.  
"So the strategy is simple: what we need to do it take opportunities from the right hand side of the chart and distribute them more evenly across the organisation. If someone in Texas has 100 opportunities, but the rep in Oklahoma has only 10, then if we can take some of the Texas opportunities and redistribute them, you flatten the opportunity curve. 
"But you have to be able to understand where the opportunities are and you can find that through historical analysis and real-time lead distribution. You discover where the opportunities are and then draw sales territories around them. If you can move the distribution curve just a little, then you are able to get greater efficiencies and go after more opportunities. Just a small increase in the sales performance curve will drive a large increase in revenues."
Unifying the pipeline
Lye also detects a yearning for unified revenue pipelines. "We're seeing this particularly in the Cloud," he says, "This is not just about unifying the selling processes, but also integrating them into the marketing pipeline so that you have a single revenue pipeline that moves from leads through to opportunities."
He sees this as an potential competitive differentiator for Oracle in the Cloud. "The main Cloud CRM vendors don't have that best-in-class marketing. They have good sales force automation functionality, but customers then have to go out and find third party products for marketing. In release 18 of CRM On Demand we not only have built-in best-in-class SFA, but also best-in-class marketing so that the VP of sales and the VP of marketing get a single pipeline."
Another possibility being explored is the capability for cross channel CRM. "We used to refer to multi-channel CRM, by which we meant having a consistent customer experience on each channel," explains Lye. "The challenge though is that customers don't sit still, they hop across different channels. They can start an interaction on one channel, but end up on another and it's just infuriating for them when the company doesn't known that. So what we need isn't multi-channel CRM, but cross channel CRM which enables you to be consistent as customers move between channels."
It's an area that calls for some improvement, he concedes. "Siebel has been good at handing some channels, but not all of them," he admits. "Customers have had to buy third party products as well or develop their own systems.  They have had to duplicate client information and that means extra time and resources. What we are focused on at Oracle is a piece of work under development which will allow organisations to deploy cross channel systems."
Flattening the hierarchies
Social networking is also in Oracle's CRM sights, particularly within organisations, something Lye refers to as Social Relationship Management. "Enterprise software was designed to provide hierarchical visibility," he notes. "You work for the VP of sales, so you enter data in a system to give him or her visibility into the sales opportunities. But you can't see what your peers who work for the same VP of sales are doing. 
"There's the potential for an application like Facebook or Twitter to give the visibility. If you're focused on selling to telcos in California, you would be interested in what other sales people who are selling to telcos around the world think and are doing. That level of collaboration needs to be ubiquitous like email. All parts of an organisation will need to be able to be involved in the activity streams to enable collaboration to cross company boundaries."
Oracle is also evaluating how the life time value of customers should be measured. "We've traditionally used dollars and cents to define value, but that needs to be redefined to understand the value of influence and relevance," says Lye. "Social influence is starting to change the way we define the lifetime value of customers. You need now to understand the profile of people inside and outside organisations. You have to measure their influence, not just dollars and cents. It's important to understand where the points of influence are within your organisation."
Much of the thinking of Lye and his team has yet to translate into deliverable product. Some of it might never. But Lye is adamant that despite the spotlight thrown on Fusion this week at Oracle OpenWorld, there's still a need to re-evaluate the CRM agenda and the expectations and needs of customers. Fusion is just another stage in an ongoing journey. 

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