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Oracle updates CRM, begins integrating apps

The latest release of the Oracle E-Business Suite has better usability and features elements borrowed from Siebel. But who will upgrade?

Oracle yesterday released the new version of its E-Business Suite CRM application and, as with Siebel 8.0 and SAP 2006s, the release focuses heavily on usability and the user interface (UI).

After the failures that plagued the early years of CRM, owing largely to user adoption issues, vendors are now focusing on creating an application that people want to use.

"I don't think you're ever quite there. You always want to make it easier," said Mike Betzer, vice president of CRM strategy. "What we've cracked now is let's stop trying to define a user interface that fits everybody. Let's set up a toolkit that allows them to create a task flow." @36286

The E-Business Suite 12 release also follows through on Oracle's pledge to continue development of its separate product lines brought in house by the Siebel and PeopleSoft acquisitions, even as it brings everything together under the umbrella of Fusion, a "best of" application suite. In fact, the new version of CRM in E-Business Suite 12 offers a bit of a preview of how Oracle's CRM will come together. Oracle has created a standardized application integration footprint so its acquisitions can be more easily integrated with one another and with other applications.

"What we are telling customers is, whether you are on Oracle, PeopleSoft or Siebel, that is what we are moving forward into Fusion," Betzer said. "You look at the UI and it's surprising how much the Siebel and Oracle EBS look the same now. We brought the best of both worlds and said let's try to create a similar user experience. The same is true of analytics."

The question for existing E-Business Suite customers, however, is why upgrade their CRM systems now, when Fusion is down the road and Oracle has repeatedly said that the Siebel application will be the foundation of CRM development efforts going forward. Also, what's the attraction for net new customers to purchase Oracle CRM?

"We put a lot of functionality in this release so people can upgrade now and not wait for Fusion," Betzer said. "Generally, it's the obvious first choice for companies on an Oracle standard [that] want the whole suite. There are some things in Siebel CRM that, although we've added verticalization into the Oracle stack, where verticals are stronger with Siebel."

As for net new customers, Betzer said Oracle is preparing to sign a large order with one big customer and, given the acquisitions, there aren't a lot of businesses out there that don't already have some form of Oracle application.

In addition to a simplified UI, the new release features integrated secure enterprise search designed to operate more like Google for an easier, more familiar experience, Betzer said. It includes out-of-the-box integration with Oracle Contact on Demand, its hosted telephony system, and incorporates best practices learned from Siebel concerning case management and the public sector.

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