Oracle CRM Review

The wing-to-wing integration of the customer data provides an integrated view. Sales users need a more user-friendly and configurable user interface.

What is most valuable?

Integration with Oracle E-Business ERP: Every installation of CRM uses some form of ERP or back office applications. The benefits of integration are often overlooked when making a CRM purchase decision. Integration of CRM with the back office applications, allows for more meaningful and effective usage of the tool. The wing-to-wing integration of applications is one of the most strong features of Oracle CRM.

How has it helped my organization?

As an implementer, I have worked to implement this application for organizations that were new to CRM as well as organizations that have used some other CRM tool before. The Oracle CRM application provides for an effective interaction with the customers, allows capturing vital information of the customers and provides a comprehensive view of the customer to the sales and marketing members.The wing-to-wing integration of the customer data provides an integrated view of the customer to sales and marketing.

What needs improvement?

The application needs improvement in its usability aspects. Non-integrated applications such as Salesforce have been able to be more nimble; they provide more flexibility to adapt and interface with state-of-the-art social applications, mobile technology, and communication tools. Oracle CRM needs to make advancements in this area.

The application also needs to provide a more flexible and configurable user frontend. Sales users need a more user-friendly and easily configurable user interface.

Oracle seems to encourage users to move to other platforms such as the Oracle Cloud applications to compete with Salesforce or other leading CRM products. While that may be a strategic direction to expand into markets where Salesforce is strong, Oracle should improve its hosted applications such as Oracle CRM with more flexible, effective and state-of-the-art enhancements, rather than abandoning them and leading its clientele using the hosted applications to Cloud applications.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used this solution for more than 13 years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Version 12.1.3 seems to be stable now, but is reaching the end of its support cycle. Oracle 12.2 is next. Oracle CRM, in general, is becoming more stable, but each version takes some time to stabilize.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I did not experience any scalability issues, but having said that, the infrastructure aspect needs to keep lock-step with the scale of operations.

How are customer service and technical support?

The level of technical support is fair to good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have used mainly Oracle CRM for a long time.

How was the initial setup?

The setup varies with a particular implementation/customer. Oracle CRM provides core application that is fairly straightforward to configure and use. However, the standard out-of-the-box features do not always fit every client installation. Adapting the application to suit each customer's environment takes time and effort, but this is not unlike adopting any other application.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

  • Plan ahead, i.e., at least for the next five years.
  • Make sure you have your internal processes worked out to conform to the industry standard practices. While each organization may be unique in certain ways, adopting standard off-the-shelf applications means conforming to standard practices. Rather than work towards bending and twisting such applications to the individual organization's requirements, make sure such special steps are really warranted. Are your practices that special so that the standard industry practices do not apply? Or do your internal practices themselves need some review? Changing, or ‘customizing’ as it is called, is expensive in the short run as well as in the long run. Do not ignore ongoing maintenance costs with such efforts. Added to this, is the need to keep up with the dynamic and fast changing technology.
  • Take time to evaluate your shortlisted selections.
  • Do not be influenced by the glitz and show of any product. At the end of the day, customers need to think of how effective the product is in delivering results, i.e., whether it is improving the sales effectiveness or service efficiencies. Product usability is likely to create a good first impression, but you will have to discount the surface level appeal to real day-to-day efficiencies.
  • Do not discount/ignore integration challenges. Disconnected applications will reduce efficiencies and consume valuable IT resource time; it is often not given sufficient importance during the selection process. By all means, choose the best of breed approach, but make sure to allow for sufficient resource time and skills so as to achieve necessary integration for all areas to work together.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

As an implementer, my platform is the Oracle CRM. I have some familiarity with other applications, but my in-depth expertise is with Oracle CRM.

What other advice do I have?

  • Identify one or more key ‘super users’ for leading the implementation or managing the product. These would be your go-to people for expert help.

  • If you need to bring in outside help for the implementation, then do so. This will help in getting you the best help at the time you need it most.

  • Prepare and train your organization for the change.

During the selection process for a CRM product, something that I have witnessed first hand, sufficient attention must be given to how the CRM application integrates with the back end applications. While it is important to consider the capabilities of the CRM applications in its own specialized areas, at some stage in the process the transactional information will have to be passed on to back end or other applications to complete the processing cycle - for Sales it would be Orders, for Service it would be service requests and tasks. At the heart of it all is integration with customer master data. A key aspect here is whether organizations are factoring in the cost of this integration with the other applications in the flow.

I will illustrate my point with the following case scenarios - from ideal to not-so-ideal

Case 1: In this case the selection process evaluates the CRM application for features and capabilities to their specific needs. The selection process includes considerations for integrating the CRM application data with the other applications to complete the end-to-end process flow and for master data, and including the folks in IT in the discussions to identify the integration that will be necessary for a sustainable on-going operation, and factors this cost and time into the overall cost of the CRM application. The estimation is realistic and considers all aspects of the applications involved in the flow. The cost aspects include one-time costs as well as ongoing costs for sustained operations. This would be the ideal scenario.

Case 2: In this case the selection process evaluates the CRM application for features and capabilities to their specific needs, but only with the relevant end users, for eg. with predominant opinion of Sales or Marketing users only. This process does not list out the potential integration with other applications, does not include IT or other team members to evaluate the requirements or effort and leaves these aspects as a post-implementation effort. With such a process only the immediate needs of the CRM application are considered. As it becomes evident later, the need for adding on integration with other applications are brought up and dealt with as and when the need arises, many a time overwhelming the resources of IT or other resources and discovering blind alleys of integration, with incompatible interfaces, ad-hoc methods to back file such requirements, leading to a very messy after-thought for building consistent and efficient business processes. I have witnessed these myself in more than one implementation. Not only have I seen such after-thought Integration of transactional data, I have even worked on efforts to integrate master data, such as customer data, exposing weaknesses of both applications. There was one case where the CRM application was set operational with one-time setup of customer master data from the back-end application with no thought given to ongoing processes for continuous synchronization of data between the two systems - the CRM application and the back end Order fulfillment application with customer master data.

Case 3: This case is just a more extreme variation of Case 2. In this case the selection process evaluates the CRM application on its own, as in Case 2. There is no effort to list out the potential integration or even the need for integration. The administration staff are left to manage the integration with manual maintenance of data on the related applications and doing manual synchronization. This is a very poor use of technology.

Case 4: This case is becoming more and more an attraction to the people in Sales and Marketing areas. In this case the selection process evaluates the CRM application for features and capabilities with an eye on all the third party integration solutions to the core CRM product - the 'app' attraction. The 'app' era has led to third party solutions, the ultimate version of best-of-breed - the core CRM solution for customer and contact data, an app for emailing solutions, an app for data mining, an app for social app integration and so on. The integration aspects of such solutions are considered on an ad-hoc basis with no forethought to process consistencies. With data and processes in such diverse environments it is anyone's guess whose job it is to manage the different flows of data, if that is even possible by the company's IT. One recent case I came across where the company engaged with a third party to manage its diverse applications on the cloud! In conclusion, fully integrated platforms with CRM applications are at the one end of the spectrum of integrated solutions while the CRM cloud applications with third party integrating applications are at the other end. Each organization needs to evaluate which point in the spectrum makes most sense for it, not just in the short run, but in the long run also, before jumping in to settle down on the solution. Making a choice that is short sighted hides the long term cost of use and short changes business objectives while costing the organization in never ending efforts to shuttle data between systems to achieve key business visibility to what is really happening

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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