Oracle's Latest Release Of Their CRM Product

Monday, March 24, 2008 by Mistlee

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Oracle's Latest Release Of Their CRM Product

By Christopher Carfi

For those who follow the enterprise software space, there is some news this week regarding Oracle's latest release of their CRM product. However, there are really two stories here: what Oracle is doing with the CRM product, and how they are engaging with the market.

Touted as being filled with "Web 2.0" goodness, the new release seems to allow consumption of a number of external services via RSS feeds, as well as allowing sales reps to customize their personal start pages within the app or include CRM gadgets in iGoogle or a presumably a Yahoo start page.

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While an interesting technical step forward, the fundamental embrace of true, big-R customer Relationships is still missing. The product, the presentation, the glossy online video demo -- it's not about the Customer -- it's all about how the two fictional sales reps are closing the next deal. I was also quite amused that the crowning glory in the video -- "closing the deal" and the subsequent high-five -- was only able to be accomplished by offering an increased discount to the prospect. Sales VPs everywhere cringe at the thought.

What disappointed in this first look at the Web 2.0-ified version of the software is it's still about the bloody transaction. It's not about the relationship. What's the difference, you ask? Doc Searls lays out the story in this article from Linux Journal last year. Doc:

"Transaction rules the Industrialized world. Here prices are set by those who control the manufacturing, distribution and retail systems. Customers do have an influence on prices, but only in the form of aggregate demand. The rates at which they buy or don't buy something determines what price the 'market' will bear - in a system where 'market' means aggregated demand, manifested in prices paid and quantities sold. Here the whole economic system is viewed mostly through the prism of price, which is seen as the outcome of tug between supply and demand.

Price still matters in the developing world, Sayo said, but relationship matters more. It's a higher context with a higher set of values, many of which are trivialized or made invisible when viewed through the prism of price. Relationship is not reducible to price, even though it may influence price."

The presentation of this app is all about consumption. It's about consuming external services, and even the "social networking" features that are included are about consuming interpersonal capital -- there's not the concept of actually connecting a customer and a sales rep via social networking as far as I can tell (someone please correct me if this is not the case). Instead, the social networking feature is yet another take on the "how can I exploit the social graph to wangle an introduction to a prospect?" (Click the picture to see it expanded.)

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About the Author:
Christopher Carfi, CEO and co-founder of Cerado, looks at sales, marketing, and the business experience from the customer´s point of view. He currently is focused on understanding how emerging social technologies such as blogs, wikis, and social networking are enabling the creation of new types of customer-driven communities. He is the author of the Social Customer Manifesto weblog, and has been occasionally told that he drives and snowboards just a little too quickly.

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