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Oracle Fusion CRM early adopters offer their reviews

A handful of members of Oracle's Early Adopter Program for Fusion CRM relayed their experience with the company's new platform.

SAN FRANCISCO -- After years of rapid growth and the acquisition of the Keurig single-cup brewing system, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters found itself facing a CRM dilemma -- upgrade and standardize on the Siebel CRM system its specialty brewing division used or turn instead to the PeopleSoft system in use by the Keurig division. Or move in another direction altogether.

"The first question was what's the right system. Is it Siebel? Is it PeopleSoft?" said Chris Howe, vice president of sales for the Waterbury, Vt.-based company. "Are we going to buy a new car or are we going to fix the car we have?"

Ultimately, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters elected to "buy a new car," taking part in Oracle's Fusion CRM early adopter program. Howe and other members of the program gave the company's new CRM platform generally positive reviews this week at OpenWorld and expressed optimism for the future of the full suite.

Fusion Applications, a five-year development initiative to combine functionality from the spoils of an acquisition spree that included Siebel, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Hyperion and more, were made generally available earlier this year and became a centerpiece at the conference this week.

Oracle's first Fusion Applications include 100 individual modules as well as full suites for CRM, financials, human capital management, supply chain, project and portfolio management and governance, risk and compliance. They can be deployed on-premises in an Oracle or partner-hosted model or as a Software as a Service (SaaS)-enabled application, all under the same code base.

Oracle beta tested the applications with 400 select customers. A handful of the Fusion CRM application customers offered their feedback on the application.

Green Mountain gets behind the red stack

At Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, with two divisions that often sell to the same customers -- coffee and other beverages from one group and brewing machines from another -- a unified sales platform was a draw for Fusion CRM. So too was enhanced Outlook integration, a revamped user interface and mobility.

"We looked at Fusion in three major buckets: functionality around business needs, the technical platform and our relationship with Oracle and investment there," said Lynne Herbert, director of information systems and technology.

Indeed, other early adopters were also already heavily invested in Oracle technology.

The Church Pension Group, the New York-based pension and benefits organization for the Episcopal Church, is a longtime E-Business Suite (EBS) customer. The organization is running EBS 11i, which is heavily integrated into other applications.

"The move towards open standards is something we see as in the right strategic direction so we can standardize our integration framework," said Martin Hossfeld, vice president of IT operations.

With Church Pension Group running the Oracle Customer Data Hub as well as Fusion Middleware, Hossfeld is hoping he can leverage the common data model in future releases.

"I believe we can leapfrog [to EBS] release 12," he said. "Then I don't have to disrupt my business two times. I can do it once."

For AZZ Inc., a maker of steel rust proofing and electrical products for the electric power industry, interest in Fusion CRM was closely tied to its large Oracle footprint. The Fort Worth, Texas-based company runs EBS, Agile PLM, CRM OnDemand and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), tied together with the service-oriented architecture suite.

"The pillar strategy that Oracle is developing is very enticing," said Kyle Lambert, director of information systems. "Being able to start with CRM and move into additional pillars, like human capital management and financials, and to be able to integrate those into legacy Oracle systems is vital. That allows us to focus a lot of attention on each pillar and get it right."

The embedded analytics in Fusion Applications were also a draw.

"As we started using CRM OnDemand and the analytics, we were able to look at our business differently," Lambert said. "We realized we needed to change the data we were collecting and expand the model being offered by CRM, collect more data and analyze it better. CRM OnDemand did not have that flexibility and adaptability. The custom fields in analytics in Fusion CRM allow us to look at our business differently in a holistic fashion."

The implementations did come with some challenges.

"Since we were uplifting the middleware as well as the apps, the learning curve is a lot steeper than anyone's seen in our organization," Church Pension Board's Hossefeld said, adding a warning to others going through a similar project. "The danger is you get carried away with all the bells and whistles you could be building. You have to be careful to control the scope. "

Of course, as early adopters, each of these customers received a great deal of handholding from Oracle during the process -- one reason many undertook the project in the first place.

Now that the products are generally available, Oracle plans to offer regular upgrades.

"We're going to roll out updates very quickly, probably another dot release by end of this year and another in the summer of next year," said Anthony Lye, senior vice president of CRM OnDemand at Oracle, of the Fusion CRM product.

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