RealTime IT News

Can Oracle's CRM Moves Make Waves?

Oracle is adding more moves to its CRM On Demand application, and making some waves in the software-as-a-service sector in the process. SaaS leader Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) is bound to take note.

This week, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) unveiled Release 16 of its CRM On Demand application, which went live in late January.

The upgrade includes five key areas: Oracle's Self-Service E-Billing On Demand, Oracle Sales Library, Oracle CRM On Demand Deal Management, Oracle CRM On Demand Enterprise Disaster Recovery and Oracle AIA integration (for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne customers).

"This will be interesting for Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) because [Salesforce is] moving slowly up the chain and beginning to focus on the enterprise," Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist at SaaS CRM vendor Zoho told InternetNews.com. "Oracle has the enterprise market."

Oracle's interest in SaaS could be spurred by widely held expectations that bigger enterprise players will look more favorably on software-as-a-service, which is cheaper to maintain, to cut cut their maintenance costs.

"We're seeing Oracle gain more enterprise deals than before for CRM on demand from Salesforce, but the challenge is that there are a still a lot of deals that Oracle On Demand is not in," Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Nucleus Research, told InternetNews.com.

That is partly because Oracle is apparently still ambivalent about SaaS. "Oracle has been inconsistent in their SaaS messaging," Jason Mittelstaedt, chief marketing officer of SaaS CRM vendor RightNow Technologies (NASDAQ: RNOW), told InternetNews.com by e-mail. "As recently as late 2008, Larry Ellison was sticking to the view that SaaS is not profitable."

Wettemann agrees. "Oracle doesn't necessarily today have a clear message, so when they go to a customer, they spend time talking about are we selling on demand or on premise," she said.

Salesforce.com declined comment, and Oracle had not responded to requests for an interview by press time.

Oracle CRM On Demand Release 16 lets users customize applications at the user interface, business process and data layers. It also provides more pre-built custom objects than its predecessor, and new features include usability enhancements and improved forecasting and reporting capabilities.

Nothing succeeds like success

At the time, Oracle promised five more features, which it rolled out this week. But RightNow's Mittelstaedt gave the release a shrug. "Oracle is the one playing catch up in on-demand CRM," he said by e-mail. Features are not so important as a good track record, he added.

"The real test should never be who has the longest feature list," Mittelstaedt said. "What really matters is your track record of successful deployments and satisfied customers."

In that case, he should worry – the Oracle On Demand line of business offers 17 applications. It has at least 3.6 million users, had revenues of $557 million in FY 2008. That could be hard to beat.