Oracle goes for the CRM jugular

Oracle tomorrow will unveil an innovative new set of CRM OnDemand applications designed to establish its enterprise 2.0, enterprise SaaS credentials as well as put the boot into Salesforce.com.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

Oracle tomorrow will unveil a new generation of CRM OnDemand applications designed both to propel Oracle to the forefront of CRM innovation and at the same time bring a halt to Salesforce.com's expansion into the enterprise market.

Attendees at SIIA's OnDemand Summit on Friday were given a sneak preview of some of the new applications being unveiled tomorrow at the Oracle OpenWorld conference. Let me tell you frankly, I was seriously impressed. Oracle has evidently done some hard thinking about how Web 2.0 technologies and ideas can be adapted to practical enterprise use. The next time a C-level executive asks you how Web 2.0 affects the enterprise, you'll be able to point to Oracle's new CRM OnDemand applications. They are a powerful demonstration of how Web 2.0 can be applied in an enterprise environment.

Anthony Lye (pictured), senior vice president of Oracle CRM OnDemand, demonstrated three applications:

  • An application that predicts sales opportunities — it mashes up information about orders and territories from internal systems, along with external information such as financials data from Reuters (in a sideswipe at mashups that link to Google Maps, Lye commented: "Sales people will tell you that directions is very much secondary to commissions.") It then evaluates the information and makes recommendations on who the most likely prospects are, what products they're most likely interested in and even who are the best potential references to direct them to from among the existing customer base.
  • A campaign creation and management application — one of the most powerful Web 2.0 aspects of this application is that campaigns can be shared with others — including external partners — without exposing the specific contact details and orders associated with the campaign. This gives it a highly viral nature.
  • A document sharing and rating library application — this allows salespeople to access and share presentations, rfps and other documents in a way that helps them identify the best content for their needs. It has all the usual Web 2.0 goodness, such as tag clouds, rating and comments, and it's searchable down to individual slide or page level. "I just wanted to build a social library, that when salespeople saw it, they just wanted to have it," said Lye. Like the other applications, it can be shared across the firewall with partners and others, but subject to access rights and privileges that protect confidential information.

Other applications will be unveiled tomorrow, making up a suite of mini-applications that, says Lye, were designed from the point of view of what salespeople needed. "Salespeople wanted applications that were consumable but highly tailored to perform a specific task," he said. So the applications are individual but it's possible to cut-and-paste or link information between them. The applications all take advantage of SOA technology to handle functions such as identity management and data integration. They're also designed to be highly viral, which is where the threat to Salesforce.com begins to surface. They'll be released with Google-style extended beta periods and will have a mix of free and paid models. Think of them as an army of insect droids despatched to swarm out into the webosphere and infiltrate the enterprise sales ecosystem. (If you want to read more, Lye's demo was also written up by Oracle's Anshu Sharma — not in an official capacity I should add — and by Converging Network's Mitchell Ashley).

In another indication of a determined squeeze on Salesforce.com, leading partner Xactly has announced it will be unveiling "integration and secure data sharing with single sign-on between [its incentive compensation management product] Xactly Incent and Siebel CRM On Demand." I'm told there will be a number of top Salesforce.com partners showing off their wares at the OpenWorld show this week, reinforcing the credentials of Oracle's revamped CRM OnDemand product range.

So how will Oracle put the boot in to Salesforce.com at OpenWorld tomorrow? Lye previewed some of the language we'll likely hear tomorrow when he spoke of Oracle rejecting what he called the 'SMB SaaS' model: "There's a shift at Oracle away from SMB SaaS. We at Oracle have spent the past 18 months redefining our architectures towards this enterprise SaaS model."

Naturally, some of us may quibble with aspects of Oracle's 'enterprise SaaS' model — more on that tomorrow — but to have Oracle endorsing such a concept is a landmark in itself and one to be welcomed — even if it's not going to go down too well with the folks at One Market (Salesforce.com's headquarters in downtown San Francisco).

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