Oracle continues its no-customising trend

In a move to temper its sagging consulting revenues, Oracle will soon start offering hosted implementations of its software applications, beginning with a 90-day hosted version of its CRM (customer relationship management) software, the company announced Thursday.

The slimmed-down deployment is part of Oracle's "War on Complexity", a philosophy geared to urging enterprise customers to end application customisation and instead mould their business processes to fit Oracle applications.

Oracle has ingrained common business processes into its implementation process to speed deployment, said Jeremy Burton, Oracle senior vice president of products and services market.

The packages include Oracle applications necessary for discrete CRM operations, such as managing a call centre or organising a marketing campaign, and will be offered at fixed prices ranging from $US150,000 to $395,000, Oracle officials said. The database vendor pledged to have the systems up and running in 90 days, which it said will provide customers with a faster return on investment.

Burton acknowledged that the predesigned modules won't meet all of a customer's needs, but argued that it's better to have a system in place in 90 days that offers some return on investment, than to spend months or years building a more complex system that meets every requirement.

"The goal is to get 80 per cent of what the customer needs in the first 90 days, and once you've got what you need, then worry about what you want," Burton said.

"It's only by removing complexity from the business that our customers are going to save money," he said. "Customers ... want software to work out of the box. You've got to change your business."

Enterprises need to change business processes in areas such as human resources and marketing, which are not key business differentiators, he said.

Brett Kennedy, Oracle Australia's director of e-business for CRM applications, said the differentiator of the new consulting model was that it reduced integration problems.

"You look at most CRM systems and they have some view of the customer - in sales, billing or call centres - but the poor organisation has to try to provide some consolidated view of the customer with disconnected, modular software pieces," Kennedy said. "But by using the business flows approach around CRM, Oracle is completing the enterprise application footprint."

Scott Dawes, Oracle Australia's director of e-business, claimed some CRM and ERP competitors had been offering disastrous CRM solutions to business, "failing companies because managers were promised business analysis and business intelligence, but didn't get it," Dawes said.

One analyst called Oracle's offer "coherent and concise". The idea that companies should install CRM in discrete stages isn't new, but makes sense for Oracle in a climate where companies have apparently cut back on large-scale IT purchases, said Katherine Jones, managing director for enterprise applications with US research firm Aberdeen Group.

"Sometimes when the economy is tight it's easier to see the more logical way of doing things," she said.

Although the company initially is focusing on the CRM arena, other applications will be available soon for deployment via a hosted environment, said Larry Ellison, Oracle chairman and chief executive. The company is trying to engineer the implementation process as it has engineered its software, he said.

Two modules, or "Internet business flows" as Oracle calls them, were available from Tuesday - Call to Resolution, which includes software for tracking and managing customer care issues, priced from $US275,000 to $US325,000; and Opportunity to Forecast, for managing and forecasting sales opportunities, priced at $US150,000 to $US395,000. The company will roll out an additional seven flows in the weeks ahead in the US.

Oracle's "CRM in 90 Days" will be available in Australia in the first week of August.

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