Oracle Revamps Sales-Side CRM Application

Oracle’s new CRM offering does little to address deficiencies in areas where the company trails its competitors

Last week, Oracle Corp. announced a new version of its Sales-Side CRM applications, pegged—like the revamped Supply Chain Management offering it touted earlier this month—to the upcoming 11i.10 release of its Oracle eBusiness suite.

Oracle says that the new 11i.10 versions of its Sales, Marketing, Partner Relationship Management, and e-commerce applications have been enhanced to improve the sales process and automate other processes for better alignment between sales and enterprise objectives. At the same time, however, at least one industry watcher believes that the new 11i.10 Sales-Side applications do little to address Oracle’s present deficiencies in other areas.

According to Ian Jacobs, a principal CRM analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, Oracle has, not surprisingly, taken a more enterprise application-centric view of CRM than most of its competitors. This gives it a competitive advantage in Oracle shops—where its own CRM solutions are most popular—but is a disadvantage in non-Oracle environments. The upshot, Jacobs says, is that the new 11i.10 release could exacerbate that dichotomy.

“Oracle has a significantly lower share of the CRM market than its rivals and this makes it harder for the company’s applications to play well outside of its installed base,” he writes. “Oracle’s focus on CRM as part of overall business processes may make matters worse since greenfield prospects may view Oracle’s CRM as less effective when not coupled with the company’s set of back office applications.”

To a large extent, the new 11i.10 applications make the connections between the applications in Oracle’s CRM stack even more explicit, argues Jacobs, who notes, for example, that the 11i.10 Sales-Side CRM release features new links between Oracle’s incentive management and quoting applications. The benefit, Jacobs notes, is that sales people can view how changes in quotes impact their eventual compensation.

Similarly, Oracle says its new 11i.10 quoting application can help sales people put together more compelling sales quotes by facilitating access to a number of different contract components and by supporting a workflow system that lets them track the approval of custom terms and conditions. Ditto for other 11i.10 enhancements, such as an improved Partner Management application, which now boasts a dashboard interface.

Like many of its competitors, Oracle is attempting to expand the role of CRM, and to that end has embedded a new Sales Coach tool into its main Sales application. Sales Coach is designed to provide guidance “The tool allows sales reps to build their skill sets by example—they can access a library of the preferred corporate selling strategies,” observes Jacobs. “The tool also captures information about every stage of the sales process—this allows sales management teams to better analyze and report on selling effectiveness at the end of a deal and to use that analysis to improve future processes.”

Although Oracle’s new Sales-Side CRM release delivers much in the way of new functionality, Jacobs notes it also takes Oracle pretty far afield from the CRM mainstream. “Oracle’s last two major CRM product pushes have been concentrated on the sales and marketing realms,” he notes. “The company’s next advances should clearly be centered on its customer service and support applications. To consolidate its position in the sales automation category, Oracle should be working on technology to better assist customer service agents in identifying and executing on cross-sell opportunities.”

Similarly, Jacobs says, Oracle should think about acquiring a third-party vendor to flesh out another laggard piece of its CRM stack. “Oracle should also be looking at ways to improve the knowledge management piece of its customer support applications—and in ways of linking such knowledge bases to its commerce applications. Oracle should consider acquisition as a method for rapidly improving its capabilities in this space,” he concludes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.