Oracle readies CRM updates

Oracle Corp. plans to release the latest version of its customer relationship management (CRM) applications within the next two months, as part of an ongoing update of its E-Business Suite.

Oracle CRM 11i10, Oracle’s roughly annual applications update, adds new features to the suite’s sales, marketing, partner relationship management and e-commerce modules. Earlier this month, Oracle announced its forthcoming supply-chain management update. Version 10 updates for Oracle’s other E-Business Suite applications, such as financials and human resources management, will be announced in September and released later in the year, according to a company spokesperson.

Oracle’s CRM update aims to more tightly connect sales to other corporate operations, including marketing and partnering activities. A new tool dubbed “audience workbench” allows managers to create up-selling campaigns that use customer data to target specific segments. A new compensation calculator lets salespeople project their commissions to see how their compensation will be affected by selling various product packages or by giving discounts. Enhancements in Oracle’s sales application are aimed at improving managers’ territory alignment planning abilities for both their direct and indirect sales forces.

One customer in the process of deploying version 9 of Oracle’s marketing application said he plans to quickly update to version 10. “The applications are young enough in the CRM modules that every upgrade is a must-have upgrade,” said Rob Bland, vice-president of finance and operations for Harrisonburg, Va., language-learning software maker Fairfield Language Technologies.

Oracle’s CRM functionality still lags behind that of market leader Siebel Systems Inc., particularly in key vertical markets like financial services, but the company is closing the gap, Gartner Inc. said in a May research report. IDC placed Oracle third in the worldwide CRM market in 2003 based on market share, trailing Siebel and SAP AG. Both IDC and Gartner estimate Oracle’s 2003 market share at around five per cent, but the company should be doing better, Gartner said, given Oracle’s size and dominant share of the enterprise database market.

Oracle doesn’t break out its applications revenue by segment, but CRM showed strong growth last year, according to John Wookey, Oracle’s senior vice-president of applications development. Wookey oversees the sales and marketing lines of Oracle’s CRM suite. Oracle’s applications revenue dropped three per cent in its 2004 fiscal year, which ended May 31, but revenue from new licenses grew slightly.

Oracle likes to up-sell its existing customers, and Fairfield Language Technologies is among those expanding its Oracle deployment. The company, best known for its Rosetta Stone software, already uses Oracle’s financial, supply-chain and e-commerce software, and plans to go live on Oracle’s marketing software within the next few weeks.

Fairfield expects most of the return on investment (ROI) for its Oracle standardization to come from its use of the marketing technology, Bland said. He recently previewed Oracle’s version 10 updates, and likes the new version’s advances in usability and customer modeling.

“We’ll give ourselves a few months to stabilize on 9, then upgrade,” he said.

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