Oracle's innovative Social CRM product joins social networking with true enterprise features such as reliability, security management, and scalability. Given the different skill sets and perspectives required to build consumer and enterprise software, Oracle's ability to combine both into a single package is a significant achievement.
Social CRM narrows the gap between users hungry for sophisticated, easy to use software and IT departments charged with maintaining centralized governance and control. Importantly, the product isn't just a toy or whiz-bang demo; it solves real world business problems based on deep insight into contemporary CRM work flow requirements.
The following diagram shows Social CRM's overall architecture. On the user side, the applications reflect a typical sales cycle; the product handles IT issues by connecting back into enterprise data and the corporate managed infrastructure:
Here's a screen capture showing the Sales Prospector module, which tries to predict future sales based on various data sources:
More interesting than features and functions is just how thoroughly the product design team understands social networking applications from an end-user perspective. The designers obviously use and enjoy social tools themselves.
The following slide presents the "social" vision behind Social CRM:
The product's depth arises from strength in three areas:
- Strong CRM business case and workflow
- Excellent social networking features and capabilities
- Deep enterprise IT integration
The product is appealing precisely because it handles all three areas well. I asked Beagle Research Group's Managing Principal, Denis Pombriant, for his take on Social CRM:
Social CRM is important because it's the first time a vendor has consolidated multiple, social-oriented CRM modules into a single product line. In addition, Oracle is taming the wild beast called social networking and harnessing it to serve a business purpose.
Denis' view is not all sweetness and light, however:
On the other hand, it's a version one product just being rolled out. I expect we'll see refinements and enhancements based on market feedback. It reminds me of that old joke, "What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean." The answer: "A good start."
Paul Greenberg, noted CRM expert and guru, expressed surprise that enormous Oracle is capable of producing innovative, end-user CRM software:
Several years ago, I wouldn't have imagined seeing this kind of thing from Oracle.
Oracle’s collaboration vision underscores the growing importance of enterprise 2.0-style communication products. By highlighting Beehive prominently in president Charles Phillip’s keynote, the company adds fuel to the legitimacy of bottom-up, peer-to-peer social networking.
Social CRM achieves a level of polish and completeness only hinted at by Beehive, even though online services such as Flickr and Twitter obviously inspired both products. While Beehive seems to have lost its way, currently appearing as little more than an Outlook plug-in, Social CRM is tight, focused, and on-message.
According to Oracle's Vice President of Product Management for Social CRM, Tara Roberts, her group has been working with Beehive to implement a Social CRM application that exposes Beehive Spaces.
In conversation with members of the Social CRM team (shown at right), it was obvious this group loves what they're doing. I see true passion reflected in the software.
Too often, enterprise software seems little more than boring, lifeless screens cooked up by corporate drones. Social CRM is a happy exception to that sad rule.
[Photo credit: Michael Krigsman (taken with a Blackberry Curve and cleaned up a bit in an image editor). Slides provided by Tara Roberts.]