The best CRM suite is...

Summary:What's the best customer relationship management suite? We put six of the top vendors to the test to find out in our no holds barred face-off.


With its massive (and sometimes bewildering) suite of products, Oracle could be said to have a CRM solution for every occasion. Its CRM offerings come in the form of Oracle CRM, CRM On Demand, PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne CRM, Social CRM, CRM Gadgets and, of course, Siebel CRM.

Entering the Oracle fold in 2005, Siebel CRM has since become the company's flagship CRM product. A massively-integrated on-premise solution, Siebel CRM handles everything from sales, marketing and call centres to customer self-service, e-billing and partner relationship management. Built on Siebel database technology, the product can run self-sufficiently or as an integrated part of a complex environment. It works alongside Outlook/Exchange to unify task and calendar management, and can be deployed to a wide range of mobile devices.

Working alongside Siebel CRM in a tag-team relationship is Oracle CRM On Demand. A key SaaS product, CRM On Demand is a hosted, subscription-based service that is designed to integrate tightly with both Oracle CRM and Siebel CRM. With licensing options starting from US$70/month per user, the product is designed to facilitate rapid CRM deployments. CRM On Demand is also an attractive proposition for new CRM customers, and the package features various data integration tools that allow a user to quickly import users, integrate with Outlook and access offline data.

Hosted solutions are often the poor cousins of the on-premise packages, with remote rapid deployment sites siloed off from the main centres of operation. Oracle has circumvented this problem with a custom integration application, which provides a unified user interface and data synchronisation between Siebel CRM and CRM On Demand. Leveraging off existing products in its own range (Fusion MiddleWare), this is an intelligent solution that gets users up and running quickly, and facilitates simpler, more cost-effective future transitions to on-premise installations. For existing customers, there are also CRM On Demand integration tools to connect to both Oracle CRM and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne CRM.

Some features we particularly liked in Oracle's CRM range were Social CRM and CRM Gadgets. Social CRM moves away from the traditional data-intensive approach to CRM and instead focuses on the short-term needs of sales executives. The product delivers forecasting data and customer analyses based on private and publicly-available data which, when measured against executives' quarterly sales targets, gives employees the ability to better direct their efforts and create new sales opportunities. It also quickly puts executives in touch with colleagues, enabling them to follow up on leads and make new contacts.

While this functionality isn't exactly cutting-edge, Oracle has managed to create a product that is intuitive, impressive in its simplicity and delivered across a wide range of mobile devices. It's a powerful tool that enables a sales force to really capitalise on the data available to them, without bogging them down in detail.

Oracle CRM Gadgets takes this a step further. Built on Adobe AIR and available free to existing CRM customers, the gadgets are little desktop widgets that trawl enterprise data for information like Top Deals, Sales Quota and Search. This is a particularly innovative approach from Oracle — the gadgets can be delivered to just about any platform, will be capable of in-house customisation and make solid use of the popularity in social networking tools like RSS readers and Twitter clients.

As business solution architects, Oracle operates in the big end of town, so smaller enterprises may not think of them first when considering a CRM deployment. While there's no doubting that an integrated on-premise solution would require significant financial outlay, the CRM On Demand and Social CRM product offerings make compelling business cases, and should be investigated.

Overall: 4.5/5
Product: Oracle Siebel CRM and Oracle CRM On Demand
Price: Hosted solutions from US$70/user per month
Vendor: Oracle
Phone: 1300 366 386
Interoperability: 3.5/5 — proprietary database, wide range of client and mobile device support
Future-proofing: 5/5 — market leaders and determined to remain as such
ROI: 4/5 — accessible solutions for all business sizes
Service: 4/5 — wide range of enterprise support models available

(Credit: Oracle)

(Credit: Oracle)

(Credit: Oracle)

Topics: SAP, Enterprise Software, Oracle

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