Oracle removes the complexity from CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is often associated with high cost and mind-bending complexity. But Oracle is planning to remove some of the pain associated with CRM, and leverage on its installed base of applications users to rapidly deliver low cost CRM solutions.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  July 3, 2001

CRM offensive|~||~||~|Customer relationship management (CRM) is often associated with high cost and mind-bending complexity. But Oracle is planning to remove some of the pain associated with CRM. The enterprise software player aims to leverage on its installed base of applications users to rapidly deliver low cost CRM solutions. “There is a strong market requirement for CRM,” says Arun Khehar, director, CRM, Oracle Middle East. “[Companies] are looking to target their customers better, retain customers, grow the customer base and identify customers. For this they need CRM.”

Oracle’s local office has formed a focus team to push its ‘CRM in 90 days’ initiative.

The programme is based on a collection of CRM applications and business practice templates. By following the business practice templates companies can deliver CRM solutions, with the minimum of cost, time and complexity. “We’re stopping the complexity of redesigning [sales and marketing] processes and enabling companies to achieve CRM solutions quickly,” says Oracle’s Eva Maria Sjoholm, senior director, EMEA, CRM solutions.

Oracle is also offering to host the applications for the client, while they deploy the necessary environment to support CRM. When the customer’s site is ready, the applications will be transferred to the end user’s site.

The application templates will deliver approximately 70-to-80% of most companies CRM requirements. According to Deepak Mehra, consulting director, Oracle consulting services, Oracle Middle East, the business templates are designed to get organisations up and running with CRM. “70-to-80% is very good,” says Mehra.

Considering “many companies’ CRM processes are not developed. This gives them a flying start,” he adds.

Oracle’s local organisation is clearly targeting its installed based of ERP customers in the region with its CRM portfolio. Up until recently the vast majority of CRM initiatives in the region have been based around call centres, with few organisations looking to add CRM functionality at the business application layer. “CRM to some companies means telephony and call centres, Oracle has taken a different approach, we’re unifying ERP and CRM, and the whole business services stack,” says Mehra.

Oracle isn’t alone in its drive to simplify CRM solutions; both PeopleSoft and NCR have kicked off international campaigns to get customers up and running with some form of CRM app. However, as Bob Chatham, principal analyst at Forrester Research points out, “you could install any one of these packages in 90 days, but how much flexibility are you willing to give up? CRM is important because this is about how you’re going to express your company to your customers and business partners,” Chatham explains.

With many of the best of breed CRM players, such as Siebel Systems and E.piphany, without a direct presence in the region, Oracle has an opportunity to leverage its large regional installed base.

Arguably, the biggest hurdle facing both Oracle, and the other vendors when pushing CRM solutions in the region, is whether the market is ready for the technology. Market pundits and vendors alike have often commented on the need for a competitive environment before the region sees widespread CRM adoption.

IBM has been plugging its range of analytical and operational CRM software to the region’s largest organisations for some time. Big Blue is also leveraging its partnerships with the likes of Siebel, Lagan and Relervous to deliver call centre-based CRM functionality.

“There is a greater degree of education… you tend to see [CRM] more when competition is in place,” says Khaled Sherif, e-business software sales manager, MEA, IBM. For example, “when more international banks are in the region [and they’re] bringing their technology, services and skill with them to compete with the local organisations, then you’re going to see more CRM projects.”

With membership of the WTO pending for many countries in the region and the GATT accords still to take effect, many organisations have had CRM on the backburner. But this is changing as more companies are stepping up to the challenges of greater competition. “Pretty soon everybody is going to have to compete for every piece of business,” says Ayman Abouseif, marketing director Middle East & Africa.

“Many of the big family businesses in the Gulf are now saying ‘so I have this customer with the travel agency, but I also sell cars and home electronics, and other things. I know this customer but I’m not able to take advantage of this relationship outside the business unit.’”||**||

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