Oracle fuses CRM with OpenSocial, BlackBerry

Oracle hopes its customers will combine the company's latest On Demand CRM solution with social networking sites to close more deals. It also announced support for the BlackBerry and iPhone.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

Oracle hopes its customers will combine the company's latest On Demand CRM solution with social networking sites to close more deals. It also announced support for the BlackBerry and iPhone.


CRM On Demand now employs the OpenSocial API to keep its users up-to-date with information from their "friends" on social networking.

Oracle was a founding member of the OpenSocial alliance.

"People are choosing to document their lifestyle and relationships digitally," said Anthony Lye, Oracle's senior VP for On Demand, in Sydney today. "We spent a lot of time defining OpenSocial".

The OpenSocial feature can be configured to update the user's address book automatically with any new information posted on social networking sites, according to an Oracle spokesperson.

The content in release 15 of On Demand accesses "not just a bunch of static content" but information that "changes when people change", Lye said.

He said social networks broaden the reach of sales people by allowing them to see which major decision makers have relationships with people they already know.

"People are starting to do business more and more with people they like," Lye said.

Simon Banks, Oracle's general manager for CRM On Demand Asia Pacific, said that when he was trying to close a deal with a bank, all of the board members were on LinkedIn. He sent an invitation, which they accepted, and the relationship went from there.

Lye agreed there will be some fatigue on the part of decision makers if while using social networking sites they receive multiple invitations. "We're not saying that just by integrating everybody accepts." However, he said that getting to know someone through another trusted person is different from spam, and that there was value in just finding the person.

Apart from accessing information from social networks, users of the On Demand product can also access RSS feeds and widgets for news and blogs — as they would with Web based portals such as iGoogle. Alternatively, they can have leads or top accounts put into a feed on their favourite portal.

Receiving up to date information from the feeds can help salespeople close sales, said Lye.

"CRM in general is a flat, one dimensional thing. What we wanted to do is try and give CRM a pulse," he said, adding that Oracle has tried to "tie the application into the very fabric of the Internet".

The new system also incorporates "Sticky Notes" and a messaging centre to allow the sales force to collaborate on deals.

On Demand Release 15 is very popular with sales people, according to Lye, who said that users were spending 38 to 65 percent of their work time in it, as opposed eight to 10 percent with previous applications.

Rival Sage is also taking its CRM package into the social realm.

Going mobile with BlackBerry, iPhone
Oracle also launched a "Mobile Sales Assistant" for CRM today, which works on the BlackBerry and will soon be available on Apple's iPhone.

"The idea was to build a natural extension of On Demand," Lye said.

If a salesperson finds their meeting is cancelled, the system can mash their sales lead data with a map to see if there are any alternative prospects that need a visit close to their current geographic location — so they don't waste their journey

At the moment, Mobile Sales Assistant is only available on the BlackBerry. "We saw on our analytics an opportunity for the higher end sales professional," Lye said. "When we asked those people what devices they used, BlackBerry was the most dominant by far," he said, but Apple's iPhone was in second place.

There are plans to have a version available for the Apple iPhone, said Lye, but he didn't yet have a release date. Even though [the iPhone] is not yet available in Australia, many people already sport one, Banks said.

"I have one. It's the most beautiful thing we've ever seen," Lye added.

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