September 24, 2001, 12:00 AM — Many industry analysts foresee a promising future for service-based CRM
(customer relationship management). According to International Data
Corp. estimates from May 2001, worldwide revenue from CRM outsourcing
will jump from US$32 billion in 2000 to more than $66 billion in 2004.
These astonishing figures suggest succulent profits for CRM service
providers and software vendors. Obviously, your company can benefit
from CRM as a service because it minimizes capital expenditure on new
hardware and software and cuts ongoing IT-support costs dramatically.
Choosing the right service remains an intimidating challenge. For many
companies, it translates into making an almost blind selection based on
marketing demonstrations or other people's testimonies rather than on
direct experience with the product.
But this is about to change, thanks to vendors such as Oracle Corp. and
Salesforce.com Inc., which are making their products available free of
charge as Web-delivered services. Getting started takes just a few
minutes: Point your browser, register, and begin challenging those
applications with your own data and business rules.
We took an in-depth look at Oracle Sales and Oracle Support, the free
SFA (sales-force automation) and customer service components of the
vendor's CRM offering. Both products warrant consideration because they
are a well-designed, although limited-in-scope, entry point to CRM that
can easily expand into a more comprehensive implementation.
Sales and Support, as well as Marketing, are all modules of Oracle's
gigantic E-Business Suite Online suite, which includes integrated
functionality for front-office and back-office applications,
manufacturing, procurement, supply-chain management, BI (business
intelligence), and project management. Oracle offers discrete
implementation of selected modules, which makes it easy for a company
to start with the most-needed functionality and add more later.
In this somewhat complicated scenario, Sales and Support warrant
consideration as being the starting pieces for a more complex, Oracle-
branded jigsaw puzzle of applications. You can count on a well-designed
UI that makes both applications easy to use without requiring much
training. An unlimited number of users can fire up the GUI via their
browsers and access customer data from virtually any location.
Moreover, sales reps can beam contact and opportunity data to their WAP
(Wireless Application Protocol)-compliant devices.
Administrators can flexibly assign users' rights according to their
roles. Depending on which rights they are granted, users can easily
import existing databases such as users, customers, or contacts from
their Web browser.