Dust off your baseball metaphors because they all apply. Yesterday, team Oracle threw strikes, played small ball, swung for the fences, shut down the opposition and generally stole home in a very satisfying win. We’re talking Open World.
It was a team effort at the Moscone Center in San Francisco where forty-one thousand guests and who knows how many Oracle employees participated in a learning program that revealed new products and services up and down the product line from hardware to software. CRM is my interest and there was plenty to see.
I don’t know how many billion dollars Oracle spends on research and development each year, though the number seven sticks in my brain. And I don’t know how much of it goes into CRM but I am reliably informed that the lion’s share goes into our favorite software.
It shows too. As a result, there is a great deal to talk about and only this small space — and, truthfully, my brain has not finished processing it all — so all I can provide are some highlights.
Parenthetically, it is good for me to see that some of the product directions are based on some of the same market assumptions I have been discussing for the last couple of years. Though we might disagree about the drivers for the market shifts the practical effect is that we’re seeing markets change affecting how companies go to market and that directly drives CRM development. Oracle is developing and has developed products that leverage change to help their customers.
A key point is the Sales Performance Suite, developed in Fusion that is penetrating both Siebel CRM and Oracle CRM On-Demand. The parts make for some interesting discussions. For instance, Fusion has analytics support built in and analytics permeate applications based on the platform. This results in some interesting applications for sales planning, territory planning, predictive analysis and one of my favorites, white space analytics.
In the future that I see, selling will look a lot more like retail, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods do now — established vendors selling into known customer bases and less new ground to cover. Vendors will necessarily need applications that can help them pinpoint how and when to sell upgrades or to make new offers to existing customers. That’s where analytics will shine and it points out the need for better social tools that capture the raw data these analytic engines will use.
That’s Oracle’s vision of sales performance. The goal is to help organizations better ensure adequate opportunity across all sales territories and with better coverage achieve better results overall. On the other side of the coin, new or improved applications designed to help vendors better understand customer lifetime value come with more social media support.
As Anthony Lye explained in one of his team’s presentations, customer lifetime value used to be measured only by the amount of revenue a vendor could expect from a customer.
Now, though, with the addition of better analytics and social tools, customer lifetime value is being extended to include the value of a person’s social network and the likelihood that a person will tell his or her network about a product or service. It’s viral marketing on a grand scale and one term to know is Social Activity Stream.
Other revelations might have been less dramatic but more reassuring. For instance, with regard to Fusion and Fusion applications, more than once I was told that Fusion is positioned as a tool for incremental application improvement not wholesale application replacement, though that’s certainly possible too. This means the brands that Oracle bought several years ago are not slated to disappear under a tsunami of Fusion applications, over time Fusion will be used by each product set to improve it.
One of my favorite ideas is Cross Channel CRM. Simply put, it is what makes it possible to surf the Web, talk to a sales person make a purchase on-line and pick it up at a nearby store. The logistics involved in passing all the data around to the many different channels are significant and a n important direction for Oracle.
Then there’s mobility, which isn’t exactly new but the concept is being enlarged. Oracle expects that sales of hand held devices will exceed conventional computers in the near future and that they — including tablets like the iPad — will become the primary CRM device. Take a minute to let that sink in.
It doesn’t mean the PC industry is in trouble but it does suggest the increased importance of mobility. In a world with high transportation costs, and regular is $3.59 down the street form me right now, every change of location is important and saving transportation costs is a key future direction. For those reasons alone, mobile devices fueled by data and intelligence from headquarters will be important for maintaining a competitive edge. These are some of the same reasons that territory planning and lead optimization and analyzing white space become more important. All help a company’s customer outreach to be more efficient and the return on sales investment has always been important and that won’t change.
Not all of the R&D budget goes directly into building products. I was impressed to hear Anthony Lye’s travel statistics for the last year — 240,000 air miles, 60 cities, 40 countries and more. He is not alone, the rest of the CRM team has similarly impressive numbers, which Lye said are accumulated visiting customers and listening to their needs as a routine part of the product development process. As it should be.
Oracle is not a perfect company but at Open World you get a palpable sense of how important customers are and how driven Oracle people are to deliver products and services that customers need. Customers love it and this is one reason so many of them flock to San Francisco every year. Open World continues today with more announcements and demos.