Oracle rolls out new CRM for midmarket

The midmarket customer relationship management market continues to heat up, Oracle Corp. expected to announce a new online CRM solution Monday designed to automate all front-office customer transactions for companies with up to 500 employees.

The announcement from NetLedger -- maker of the Oracle Small Business Suite -- comes on the cusp of Microsoft Corp.'s eagerly anticipated entrance into the mid-market with its new CRM offering expected to be released late this year.

NetLedger's NetCRM offering will allow businesses to sell and track products and service sales with integrated order processing capabilities while integrating purchasing histories to create tailored campaigns.

This ability to take orders within the CRM system will set the product apart from others on the market, said Zach Nelson, president and COO of NetLedger in San Mateo, Calif.

"With our product you can generate the sales order [and] you can put business logic around it. You manage a history of the sales order as well. You know when a warranty is up because you have a history of what a customer has purchased."

In addition, NetCRM will support end-to-end marketing campaign management -- from system-provided templates to e-mail campaign creation and distribution to results measurement. It also will feature knowledge management technology for customer self-service to allow customers to search an online knowledge base and find answers to questions without having to call customer support.

For sales partners, NetCRM will support partner relationship functionality that allows selling partners to view their leads and track orders.

NetCRM includes server-to-server integration capabilities with XML and can be configured to allow for single sign-on authentication to enhance the user's experience. Customization capabilities are designed to make the package completely extensible to specific business needs and allow businesses to define their own data records with complex relationships between each other and between existing records and transactions.

The new application service builds on the CRM functionality found in NetLedger'sflagship Oracle Small Business Suite, an application service that integrates front-office and back-office application functionality and enables companies to run their entire enterprise on a single, hosted software service.

NetCRM -- slated to be available in October -- will put Oracle in a head-to-head battle with Microsoft, which plans to leverage the installed base of subsidiary Great Plains' back-office systems when it rolls out its new mid-market CRM offering.

"[Microsoft] is talking about CRM plus ERP [enterprise resource planning]," Nelson said. "They're talking about CRM plus accounting. This is the Version 8 release of that strategy. In a year, integration between your accounting package and your CRM package will not be a 'nice to have' it will be a 'must have.'"

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