Oracle: A Bumpy BeginningBy John McCormick | Posted 2002-03-18 Print
Dossier: Despite its market power, early QA problems with its customer relationship management software has kept the database giant a minority player in CRM.
There's a lot to be said for Oracle as a customer relationship management vendor. Its core CRM suite is getting better, and the support the company provides is excellent (and doesn't tail off after Oracle closes the sale). But for all its market power, the company isn't the leader in CRM, and bugs in Oracle's early products have kept the company's market share stuck in the single digits.
"You can imagine what we went through during the evaluation—their competitors were very happy to bring up that situation," Mark Sklenar, CIO at Underwriters Laboratories, says of the bug reports that hounded Oracle's early efforts. But he says Underwriters, a product-testing organization, decided to go with Oracle anyway and adds, "I think they have the situation under control."
Oracle, not surprisingly, is adamant that it has conquered its quality problems. "Our early issues are behind us," says Mark Barrenechea, the company's senior vice president of applications development, adding he can go across the customer management suite and tell clients that Oracle has the No. 1 or No. 2 module in each category. "Across the suite, we have 5,000 implementations under way."
Still, some users say certain modules aren't as functional as those offered by other vendors. While Oracle's e-mail management capabilities are generally lauded, for example, its sales module isn't best in class.
"The current version is not comprehensive in terms of the support provided to the field staff," says Underwriters Laboratories' Sklenar. "We certainly wish they were more mature than they are currently. We expressed that concern to Oracle. They sat down with us and showed us what's on the drawing board. So we're reasonably optimistic that they'll be addressing it in fairly short order."
If there are lingering concerns about the quality of certain modules, there are no complaints about Oracle's determination to get CRM right. "Oracle is excellent to work with," says Brad Snook, VP of client relationship management at United Asset Coverage, a provider of telecommunications and data networking maintenance services. When UAC hit hurdles during its implementation, Snook says, Oracle would "knock them down and keep us on schedule."
Huntington Bank in Ohio also is happy with Oracle as a CRM-technology partner. The bank installed its first Oracle CRM package at the end of 1999 and now runs almost the full Oracle CRM library. "They came in under budget and ahead of time," says Jeff Wagner, a former senior VP at the bank. And, he adds, "The software does more than we expected."
These reference checks have all been clients of [company name here]'s. Their willingness to discuss their experience has been confirmed by Baseline.
The executives listed here are all users of Oracle's CRM technology. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.
Oracle Corp. / 500 Oracle Pkwy. Redwood City, CA 94065
(650) 506-7000 / www.oracle.com
Employees: 43,000 (Nov. 30)
Lawrence J. Ellison
Chairman and CEO
Ellison founded the company in 1977 and has been chief executive officer since then. Before starting Oracle, he held various positions at Omex, Ampex and Amdahl.
Jeffrey O. Henley
Executive VP and CFO
Senior vice president of applications development
The driving force behind Oracle's CRM push. Author of a book on Oracle's e-business efforts, he reports directly to Ellison.
Project: Internet business exchange operator Equinix did an out-of-the-box CRM implementation based on Oracle's suite, which included order management, inventory management and financials. The company was able to go live with its implementation in 5-1/2 months.
Global CRM Manager
Project: HP is doing a massive Oracle CRM implementation that initially targets direct sales, tele-sales, contact centers, marketing, and partner integration.
Senior VP, CIO
Project: Gevity HR, the nation's largest HR outsourcing company, used Oracle's CRM system to overhaul and automate its customer service center.
Project: Underwriters Laboratories is using a number of Oracle sales and marketing modules, including Sales Online, Advance Pricing, Mobile Field Services and Customer Intelligence, to improve internal efficiencies and boost customer service.
United Asset Coverage
VP, Client Relationship Management
Project: A provider of integrated telecommunications and data networking maintenance services, United Asset has a full suite of Oracle CRM products.
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