Today's new release of Oracle CRM has an interesting new take on how to bring social networking to the enterprise: build it into the applications enterprises already use. This is the sort of risky innovation you expect from start-ups, not from established vendors like Oracle.
There's been a lot of debate and soul-searching among so-called Enterprise 2.0 gurus and vendors about how to bring social networking to the enterprise. Here's an interesting new take from Oracle CRM, launched today: build social networking into the applications enterprises already use.
Anthony Lye (pictured), who as senior VP of CRM at Oracle has spearheaded the reinvention of CRM OnDemand over the past year-and-a-half, told me last week that, "What we're doing in SaaS is now very much on the leading edge of CRM." I'd say that's an understatement — the integration of social networking capabilities into the new release is on the leading edge of what's happening across all enterprise applications.
Interestingly, Lye attributes the progress his unit has made to its on-demand architecture: "Being on-demand gives us access to a much greater range of Internet capabilities." I would be putting words into his mouth if I were to deduce from that comment that on-premise applications can't replicate the full functionality appearing today in Oracle CRM On Demand Release 15. But it does seem to imply that they have a tougher mountain to climb to get there, which has interesting implications for the competitive landscape between SaaS and on-premise applications going forward.
In another break with established practice, Lye has pre-briefed a select band of CRM bloggers on today's announcement, so I'll leave it to them (and to the mainstream tech media) to trawl over the details. I'd just like to highlight a couple of elements that piqued my interest because of the way they use the Web for Enterprise 2.0-style collaboration and networking.
The lead component of Oracle CRM's new social capabilities is a new feature called 'Sticky Notes'. This allows a user to mark any object — for example an account in a given salesperson's portfolio — with a comment and then subscribe to the message stream related to that object. Team members can then follow and participate in the conversation around that object, which is all co-ordinated within new functionality called the 'Message Center'. They don't have to go into the application or call up the account itself. The Sticky Notes conversation stream can also be exposed as a portlet or gadget and embedded in an external home page such as iGoogle or MyYahoo!.
As you can imagine, implementing all of this has meant enabling various forms of Web 2.0 goodness such as RSS feeds, OpenSocial and widget APIs. It's also meant grappling with the security and integration implications of blending intranet and Internet resources. This is the sort of risky innovation you expect from start-ups rather than established enterprise players, so all credit to Oracle for pushing ahead with it. I was also surprised to discover that these new features are all entirely separate from the other Web 2.0 applications that Lye previewed along with Larry Ellison last November, so there's even more yet to come from the Oracle CRM stable.