Oracle's Anthony Lye, senior vice president of the company's customer relationship management software unit, said demand is growing at a rate he hasn't "seen since the bubble times." Lye also argued that social networking is rapidly becoming another dataset for enterprise applications to analyze. When coupled with business analytics from enterprise systems, social networking conversations could differentiate companies.
Lye's chat at Oracle's OpenWorld powwow in San Francisco was notable on a few fronts. For starters, just the demand outlook was surprising. "The CRM business at Oracle is growing significantly in every single region. It's growing at double digit on premise and in triple digits for on demand," said Lye. "In every business people are less and less able to differentiate themselves on product. So you have one of two options: Differentiate on price or relationship."
Lye's point: Companies are trying to differentiate on relationships. Even if you take Lye's take with a big grain of salt it's quite a movement. In a downturn, companies--many of which arguably stink at customer service--are chasing relationships. The larger question for me is whether companies will actually be successful at bolstering their service and mining the data to drive revenue. When you read ratings in almost any category there are a few innovative companies that nail customer service. The rest generally are mediocre at best.
Oracle's big push of late has been to make CRM social. It has launched a few products--Sales Prospector, Sales Campaigns and Sales Library--that look to stand out with one formula: Take data in enterprise systems like inventory levels, daily sales and other items and combine it with conversation both internally and externally about customers.
Lye said Oracle is trying to solve answering the whys behind a sale. Who influenced the sale? Who is in the customers network? And what will that customer need next? For instance, when someone connects with you on LinkedIn or Facebook the one missing element is the "why" behind it. Ever notice how you never know why someone is connecting. Is that person looking for a job? Building up a friend base? Actually looking for a friend?
That why question coupled with enterprise data could be powerful, argues Lye, who quipped the "biggest complement is how unOracle the application is."
Social networking as enterprise toolLye said that social CRM is a complement to traditional systems. He outlined three primary flavors of CRM--transactional, analytical and social. The latter uses conversation and community as its basis for analytics. "I'm trying to take what works in the consumer space and leverage it," said Lye.
There are three kinds of social networks: Consumer, which are networks used for hanging out. Productivity based networks where people are trying to solve a common objective (sales, building tools, engineering). And customer social networks where people are trying to connect with folks that are trying to solve a problem, but cross social boundaries.
Oracle's plan is to take those conversations and add context through enterprise systems. If all goes well, the rank-and-file within a company should be able to manage data better to generate revenue, said Lye.
He outlined how SalesProspector (below) works. The application looks at every sale and examines who made a purchase. That tool also analyzes what a customer purchased and at what velocity. Combine that information with internal conversations or external data (Yahoo News, Google News) and you could find the DNA of a purchase and then find similar customers.
Admittedly, this is a bit pie in the sky and Lye acknowledged that not every company will be interested in using social networking as an enterprise data management tool. But I'd argue that Oracle is on to something. Meanwhile, applications development chief Ed Abbo's talk about social CRM on Monday was also well received. Oracle is almost aiming for an enterprise equivalent of behavioral targeting.
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