The Future of CRM

I attended one of Oracle’s ‘Ask the Experts’ seminars on CRM strategy last week, not some thing we often have the time to do, but worth doing for an insight into what makes Oracle tick, and more importantly to meet some real people, many of whom at this particular event were not existing Oracle customers.

The first speaker was a research VP from Gartner, he offered some interesting feedback from their research, most of which should cheer up those of us in the business of configuring CRM apps. Generally speaking they have found there are still plenty of sizable organisations who have still to invest in a CRM solution providing a Single Customer View (the holy grail of CRM).
Their headline statement ‘CRM is back in a big way’ underlines this, however he went on to say that the majority of current projects are upgrades or reviews adding additional functionality or enhancing existing capabilities.

Marketing, sales and customer service are top of the list of areas perceived most likely to benefit from CRM investment, but it’s clear that there are still reservations amongst top level management about the tangible benefits of this investment, and how to measure this. Thankfully, on average Analytics is rated third priority across all three of these areas, usually behind increasing customer satisfaction and improving cross selling opportunities. So more good news for those of us in the analytics business.

However, the flip side to all this optimism is that Gartner predict that by 2009 50% of new investment in this area will be in SaaS, or Software as a Service, also very interesting was the observation that some projects may be delayed until 2008, as purchasers wait for the current round of new releases to settle down and prove themselves.

Next up was Oracle’s Sales Consulting Director who had a huge number of slides in his presentation explaining Oracle’s current CRM strategy, I got the impression from questions asked by the floor, that this is what prospective purchasers, and some who bought Oracle CRM products pre the Siebel merger, were really interested in. The huge amount of information delivered was quite overwhelming as they tried to encompass JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and Siebel users to make all feel welcome, without making existing Oracle customers feel they might now have a second tier product. In practice the future is Oracle Fusion, a suite of middleware apps to link together all the products now in the Oracle stable, this should allow relatively seem less integration of for example analytics, with any of the CRM/ERP apps offered, with Oracle undertaking to develop these apps in parallel and not force upgrades or conversions on any customer, for Siebel the future 8.1 and 8.2 releases are said to be in the pipeline already.
As reassurance for Siebel users Oracle are using Siebel internally now, with Siebel Contact Centre underpinning the Oracle support team.

Next, a very nice lady from Irish Life, Ireland’s biggest life assurance company, gave an interesting presentation on their experiences implementing Siebel, originally a very customised version 6, and currently an upgrade to 7.8, which will now be around 90% vanilla Siebel. The message being that they learned their lesson, and some times less really is more.

So finally we got to the demonstration of Siebel 8, unfortunately time was against us and rumbling tums could be heard, new features include Full System Search, Embedded Analytics, Electronic Signature Capture for mobile clients, task based UIs and a plain English rules engine to aid workflow and control data input.
Then there was a stampeed to the buffet!