Its 8AM, there's no one in the place, 'cept my baby and me......Okay, wait, wrong thing about 8:00am. Its 8:00am and its March 11 and the embargo on the Oracle new release (number 15) of Siebel CRM on Demand and a bit of their mobile apps is now OH-VER.
So I'm gonna talk about it.
I have to temper this with the fact that I haven't seen any of this in the production environment I have to that would allow me to give it a definitive stamp. But what I HEARD was exciting and if working well, might even vault Oracle to the head of the CRM 2.0 pack. But again, I haven't SEEN it yet so please read on with that caveat in mind.
The big deal is that Siebel CRM on Demand Release 15, officially released today is a dramatic leap forward in the vendors drive toward Social CRM or CRM 2.0 - whichever you'd rather call it (or something else....). It incorporates what I have been talking about for the last two years - the operational (more traditional) CRM functionality with the social functionality - but social functionality that actually has value to business - and the customer. It isn't just there for the sake of coolness which is something that I can't say for others in the realm. This seems to be something the Oracle/Siebel/PeopleSoft CRM cabal at Redwood Shores has really thought through and, if it is all that it seems to be, would have something to be pretty excited about.
What makes this new version so apparently compelling is that it incorporates the social components exceptionally well - and with an eye toward improving the relationships between companies and customers. And, if you absorb the bigger picture into your cortex, it does something that I love - incorporates the customer into the value chain while respecting the customer's personal value chain.
What do I mean? Well, for example, you can collaborate by establishing a "friendship" between internal employees via the use of social profiles along the lines of something like Facebook would do - for example, sales person to sales person. This, as with other social applications, allows you to reveal whatever it is in your profile that you want to reveal to that salesperson buddy you've developed. That means for example, becoming part of the "sticky note social network" that gives all friends tied to it access to updated information. AND, update it once from the source and everyone is updated simultaneously.
But what makes this even more intriguing is that you can "befriend" your contacts at the accounts that you own as a salesperson!! The workflow associated with this social application is so strong that you can trigger actions based on changes to the contact profile. One example used on the conference call last week was if your contact moved to another company, you could be alerted to the change in his profile and the contact could be reassigned based on the delivered alert.
Now, I don't think you can poke that contact, flirt with that contact, throw Britney or sheep at that contact or rate the hotness of the contact, but the business value is potentially huge.
But its not just the social networking that drives this new version of Siebel On Demand. The use of social media and Web 2.0 tools is more extensive than any other major CRM vendor so far, though salesforce.com and SAP are coming up fast as are some smaller vendor like Zoho.
Anthony Lye characterized it as "composite media types are parameterized in the application." To translate, that means you can embed RSS feeds, widgets, and rich media (e.g. YouTube videos) directly into the account page so that appropriate, specific information related to your account is available in context as opposed to the more typical approach that we've seen in the less evolved CRM applications - RSS feeds on the home page of the single sign in user - which is good but not nearly as good as this feature is.
Its funny. Despite the historic weakness of past versions Oracle CRM and the historic strengths of Siebel CRM and of the original Siebel CRM on Demand - Upshot, it was Oracle CRM, not Siebel that was the one of the first to start adding features that were end user, rather than just management, focused. That came with their Oracle CRM sales force automation quoting system - features that, back in 2004, were designed to appeal to the end user. All in all, they are carrying out that good part of their tradition and incorporating that characteristic - end user focus - into applications that have been technically outstanding, feature rich, but not terribly user focused.
Even more interesting is the context sensitivity that seems to be inherently a part of release 15. The widgets a.k.a. desktop gadgets usage can be based on roles, specifically relevant information, and they are authenticated against the CRM system passwords.
Now to add more end user fuel to the Social CRM fire, Oracle is also announcing the release of the Blackberry-compatible Oracle Mobile Sales Assistant. Probably the key to this one is to think about the merger of CRM and a personal information manager (PIM) that can be accessed offline as well as online. Maps can provide you with directions to your clients, salesdude, and salespeople can exchange information with each other. The most frequently viewed and/or most recent items are cached so that they can be seen even when disconnected. There is single click access to account information, customer contact information, appointments. Communication is through email, phone, SMS and IM. In other words, lots of functionality aimed at end users and collaboration on that little device.
All in all this is a breakthrough for Oracle, if it all works as well as it sounds. While I'm going to hold my final judgment until I see it for real, I think that this could be an important step for Social CRM in the vendor world and customers should at least take heed and look at it.
Never in a million years did I think that I would be saying that about Oracle.
But I am.
Also, check out datasheets for the products if you're interested. But remember, datasheets are marketing collateral.