Oracle CRM On Demand Software Review
Oracle CRM Business Intelligence (BI)
Oracle CRM On Demand has made immense strides in improving business intelligence capabilities recently. For several years, the focus was on building out the core product to be competitive in the market, and only recently have the reports caught up. Oracle’s core business in ERP systems assumes that the customer has an IT team that can develop code and customize the applications, including development of reports. With the push to get the Oracle CRM On Demand product to market quickly, the base assumption remained that IT staff could develop reports when they were needs. For most On Demand customers, that assumption does not hold true and users are left with no good way to get data out of the system.
The current version of Oracle CRM On Demand offers a library of standard reports, dashboards, and a custom report writer. Clearly the emphasis has been on the dashboards as a reporting tool as Oracle CRM On Demand allows for liberal use of dashboards throughout the system. For any dashboard to display data, it must first have a report that runs and supplies the needed information. Thus, if you need 30 dashboards, plan on 30 reports to feed them information. This is how Oracle CRM On Demand has addressed a deficiency in security for reports.
The reports are adequate starting points for most data needs and the report writer tool allows you to create reports for standard data fields. We have heard of a wide range of approaches to custom reporting, ranging from separate reporting databases with hard coded reports written by IT staff to exports to Excel for further formatting and manipulation. Be sure to check for alignment between the standard reporting feature set and your needs as there is a cost to have custom reports written when your needs are more complex.
Customization and Integration
Perhaps the single biggest disadvantage of the Oracle On Demand product set is its limitation on customization. The product can handle a maximum of three custom objects, though many industry analysts had expected this restriction to be removed some time ago. What this may indicate is that the Oracle is struggling to change the infrastructure to accommodate greater degrees of customization to the core CRM. Since the product was architected from the start to be offered in a multi-tenant architecture, it must be reverse engineered to handle greater customization needs and make the client code base independent. Since Oracle tends to pursue only larger clients with potential for use of its full ERP suite, this limit on customization can be a major limitation to future flexibility that is demanded from organizations with more complex sales processes.
We do not expect major changes in Oracle’s approach to customization – they want the CRM to drive sales of ERP and if you adhere to the Oracle Way for both systems there is no need to change the system. To that end, Oracle On Demand has extensive and robust integration capabilities – provided the integration is with Oracle’s on-premise software assets such as its ERP system. This approach is quite predictable from the Oracle strategists of Mr. Ellison on down – make it easy to connect the hosted CRM to the on premise software assets and Oracle is positioned for long annuity revenues.
Data Center Reliability and Security
When Oracle acquired Siebel, Siebel ran on servers from IBM using IBM’s database and technologies for On Demand. After setting up the On Demand product to run on Oracle’s database, new On Demand customers were implemented in a new data center in Austin and older clients were migrated into the new data center and database gradually. It is a multi-tenant hosting environment and also houses the handful of Oracle CRM On Demand clients who are willing to pay for isolated tenancy environments.
As one would expect from a firm with Oracle’s depth of pockets, its data center is on par with the best facilities in the world. As a practical matter, all SaaS CRM providers seem to understand that an insecure or weak data center could put them out of business, so they all operate from top tier facilities whether they are company owned or in leading co-location centers. Based on our research, the facilities are really effectively commoditized at this stage in the SaaS CRM industry. Oracle rests on its reputation as one of the leading technology companies in the world. Certainly, there is strength in working with Oracle, although other firms are actually audited to rigorous standards that may be quite valuable in this age of regulation and technology risk. It is unknown whether Oracle possesses SAS 70 certification on its facility or compliance with internationally recognized security and reliability standards such as ISO, NIST or FIPS standards.
Global organizations should be aware that downtime is scheduled regularly for the dedicated and multi-tenant versions of the product. This is excluded from uptime under service level agreements (SLAs) and may prove inconvenient to some customers. Moreover, Oracle CRM On Demand is managed for the most part as a single product instance, so upgrades and updates are imposed on all customers at the same time. This is much the same model as Salesforce.com applies to its clients, although we are aware that Aplicor provides SLAs that do not exclude downtime and that allows flexibility for updates to be done on the client’s schedule.