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Oracle CRM software review

on demand crm Oracle OnDemand CRM Software Review

Business Intelligence (BI)

Oracle's OnDemand CRM solution has made impressive strides in extending BI capabilities. For several years, Oracle's focus was on building out the core hosted CRM product to be competitive in the market, however, more recently the software giant seems focused on building out the ancillary components such as reporting and analytics. For many customers it seems that as Oracle’s core business is in ERP applications, the software company assumes that each customer has an IT team that can develop code and customize their business applications, including the development of much needed reports. When Oracle pushed the CRM On Demand product to market, it seems there was a base assumption that customer IT staff could develop reports as needed. For most On Demand software customers, that assumption is invalid and users are left with no good means to get data out of the hosted CRM software application.

The CRM OnDemand solution offers a library of basic reports, dashboards, and a primitive ad hoc report writer. Oracle has made the information emphasis on the dashboards and makes liberal use of dashboards throughout the system. An unusual requirement is that for a dashboard to display data, it must first have a corresponding report that produces the source data. Thus, if you require 25 dashboards, anticipate 25 reports to feed them.

The packaged reports are reasonable beginning points for most data needs and the ad hoc report writer tool permits you to create simple custom reports using standard data fields. As the overall reporting and information analysis suite is not strong, we have heard of a wide range of approaches to custom reports, ranging from separate reporting databases with hard coded reports written by programmers to Excel exports for further formatting and analysis. Be sure to check for alignment between the standard reports and your basic informational needs as there is are additional costs to have custom reports written.

System Integration and Software Customization

One of the single biggest drawbacks of the Oracle OnDemand solution may be its limitation on software tailoring and customization. The CRM software solution can accommodate a maximum of three custom objects - an unreasonable constraint for most enterprises. What this may suggest is that the software giant is struggling to change the product architecture in order to support greater degrees of CRM software customization. As the hosted CRM system was originally architected to be delivered in a multi-tenant hosting model, it may have to be reverse engineered to accommodate customers with greater customization needs. Since Oracle tends to pursue larger customers with potential for use of its full back office ERP software suite, the inherit customization limits may pose a major limitation to future flexibility that is demanded from prospects with even moderate sales processes.

We do not expect significant changes in Oracle’s approach to software customization – as the company seems to pursue an approach of wanting the CRM software to drive subsequent sales of ERP software and if you comply to the Oracle Way for both application systems there is little need to modify the front office system. To that end, OnDemand CRM offers extensive and robust system integration options, provided that the integration is with Oracle’s on-premise software products such as its ERP application. This approach is quite predictable from the Oracle executives of CEO Ellison on down – make it simple to connect the on-demand CRM to the on-premise software and Oracle is positioned for both large up front software procurements and continued annuity revenues.

Hosted Delivery Reliability and Security

When Oracle acquired Siebel Systems, the CRM industry leader operated its on-demand CRM software on servers in IBM's data centers. However, noting the clear rift between Oracle and IBM as well as Oracle's desire to recast the Siebel On Demand solution to the Oracle software stack, Oracle moved hosting delivery away from IBM and to a new self managed data center in Austin. The data center is an impressive Tier 4 facility which mainly hosts the multi-tenant customers as well as the handful of CRM On Demand customers willing to pay for isolated tenancy environments.

As one would expect from Oracle, its data center is on par with the best hosting facilities in the world. As a point of reference, all on-demand CRM providers recognize that an insecure or unstable data center can put them out of business, so they all operate from top tier hosting facilities whether they are company owned or in leading co-location data centers. In June 2008, Oracle announced it was investing $285M to build a data center in Utah that would deliver hosted CRM software by 2010. Oracle guards on its well deserved reputation as a leading global technology company. There is strength in working with Oracle, although several other SaaS CRM firms are similarly equipped and audited to rigorous standards that are quite valuable in this age of regulation and technology risk. For U.S. public companies concerned with SOX 404 compliance, Oracle's Austin data center is SAS 70 compliant. However, with its global customer base it's unfortunate that Oracle does comply with more prescriptive information security standards and does not earn a more internationally relevant security and delivery certification such as the ISO 27001.

Global organizations should also be aware that system downtime is scheduled regularly for both the dedicated and multi-tenant software versions. Scheduled downtime is conveniently excluded from the uptime guarantee and service level agreements (SLAs) and may prove inconvenient to international customers. Also, Oracle hosted CRM is largely managed as a single product instance, so upgrades and updates are imposed on all customers at the same time. While this can wreck havoc for customers with software customization and integration, this is much the same model that pushes to its clients.

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