Oracle Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Reign
By Chuck Schaeffer
With nearly 5 million users and over 5,000 customers in 145 countries using 27 language sets, Oracle makes its claim as the top CRM software provider. Of course that top position claim is also made by rival SAP. However, despite their competing claims they both recognize the days of CRM software mega-purchases are in decline, the enterprise software market is largely saturated and they must advance to new markets and new revenue streams to keep their growth plans alive.
To continue growth and find new competitive differentiation, Oracle is using its Sun acquisition to deliver tightly integrated and optimized hardware and software products as well as continuing to expand its vertical market solutions and its applications business with the long awaited Oracle Fusion Applications—which offer the flexibility to run on-premises, on-demand or both.
When it comes to software as a service CRM, the market has watched Oracle exhibit a near schizophrenic position regarding the validity and opportunity for software as a service (SaaS) in the business software marketplace. In fact even after inheriting the Siebel on Demand solution as part of the 2005 Siebel Systems acquisition, the SaaS product languished with no major upgrades for 18 months. Nonetheless, despite some initial reservations, Oracle has made up lost time, secured market share and advanced their Oracle CRM on Demand solution to earn a competitive leadership position in the cloud marketplace.
Software as a Service CRM Suite
CRM on Demand includes a full CRM suite of sales, marketing and service as well as several ancillary modules and vertical market solutions which bring unique positioning to an increasingly crowded cloud market.
Sales Force Automation
CRM on Demand's sales capabilities are fairly traditional when it comes to account, contact and opportunity management as well as administrative functions such as calendar and task management. Forecasting does deliver somewhat advanced functionality in that multiple simultaneous forecasts can be created using up to four different forecast types across products and services. However, where the sales force automation software delivers unique value is with its sales coaching, closed loop lead management and embedded analytics.
The Sales Process Coach is a simple tool to embed process support and even best practices at the point of execution. At any point in the sales cycle, the application can present relevant information, enforce the collection of salient data, or automatically create activities for a member of the sales team. The coaching tool permits sales managers to improve process consistency, replicate the activities of top performers and deliver virtual sales-stage specific coaching.
Quota management is another effective sales management tool. Sales managers can design quotas with real time performance visibility to keep sales pros focused on their personal goals. Quotas can be defined as monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals and managers can prorate quotas for sales pros joining a plan already in progress. Quota performance visibility includes plan progress to date compared to closed revenue, expected revenue and forecasted revenue.
CRM on Demand uses plug and play gadgets to view important metrics or display always-on data sets. For example, gadgets include search or views of contacts, top accounts, and top deals with visual comparison against sales targets. Users may also create their own gadgets.
Beyond gadgets, the product delivers comparatively strong analytics. Sales intelligence can be interrogated and modeled for expanded insight, or sales staff may benefit from viewing prepackaged analytics such as average sales cycle, win rates, deal size, and other key performance metrics.
Similar to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, CRM On Demand uses Microsoft Outlook or a mobile device as an offline client to accommodate sales staff who are not in the office or without Internet connectivity.
The workflow tool brings real value for sales teams. For example, companies with products or services which include warranties, contracts or subscription renewals may develop a workflow to email a customer 30 days prior to a contract renewal date and create an activity for the sales person to reach out to the customer. Escalations can then be setup so that if the customer renewal is not received by a specified date, additional resources can be applied.
Oracle has diverse social CRM tools but developing a holistic social strategy and equipping its various CRM products with social tools is a slow process. CRM on Demand social CRM capabilities include contact integration with social network streams such as Facebook or LinkedIn through feeds and RSS subscriptions. This is useful for sales pros that want to keep current with the online activities of their prospects. The company has released Fusion social apps as well as apps that run on its enterprise social networking platform. Separate from the CRM On Demand solution, these apps are purpose-built to help salespeople within a company collaborate and close deals based on shared information. For example, Oracle Sales Prospector searches reams of sales-data and purchase-history information to guide sales pros to the most likely prospects for a product or service. It informs salespeople with a graphical view on those potential deals most likely to close within specific time frames, and estimates the likelihood to close, time to close, and the expected revenue. It's an impressive component, but not part of the CRM on Demand suite. Comparatively speaking, the CRM on Demand product lags other SaaS CRM solutions in social media adoption.
Partner Relationship Management (PRM) is a natural extension to SFA for businesses with indirect sales channels. The Partner Portal supports key PRM features such as unique themes and layouts for different partner types, a Solutions repository for content sharing, a tabulation of training and certifications, deal registration and an approval process for special pricing requests.
The co-op or MDF (Marketing Development Funds) financial management permits brand owners to budget and approve funds for partners. Based upon configured business rules, partners may draw down those funds pursuant to automated requests or an approval process. Partners may then submit claims with proof-of-performance to be reimbursed for approved expenditures. Brand owners have the ability to control approvals at each step in the process.
Lead management functionality permits brand owners to route leads to internal sales reps, channel reps or partners. Leads routed to partners can be sent to a named user, an entire partner organization, or a lead pool consisting of multiple partners that claim leads on a first-come, first-served basis. Brand owners can monitor distributed leads for follow-up actions or reassign if no action takes place. Once leads are qualified, partners can convert them to registered deals.
The partner portal also supports delegated user administration. Once a partner is activated, a designated partner resource can create and maintain the other users for that company, offloading the responsibility from the brand owner and avoiding potential bottlenecks for partners bringing new reps on board.
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