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3/16/2011
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Oracle Integrates Crowdsourcing Into CRM

Accept 360's product innovation management app allows companies to capture and share ideas directly within their On Demand customer relationship management software.

Oracle is enabling businesses to add the power of crowdsourcing to their customer relationship management software through a new partnership with Accept, developer of product innovation management applications.

By integrating Accept360 into Oracle CRM On Demand and CRM On Demand for partner relationship management (PRM), enterprises can capture ideas no matter their source, Bryan Plug, CEO of Accept, told InformationWeek. Without the addition of crowdsourcing capabilities, a good idea runs the risk of withering at the source, getting miscommunicated en route to the appropriate department, or being delayed for so long that it becomes worthless, he said. Typically, people have jotted ideas down on Post-It notes, added them to Word documents, or jotted them into Excel columns, said Plug.

"Many of Oracle's customers have large, large, large sales forces. They didn't have an easy capability of capturing an idea that may come through their salesforce, that may come through their support organization, or may come through their customers," Plug told InformationWeek. "Oracle's customers were getting inundated, in a positive way, with lots of ideas. These ideas were being captured everywhere and nowhere."

Using an API, Accept integrated its Ideation module into Oracle's CRM software. Four applets now appear on the home page of Oracle CRM On Demand, under the Ideas tab. These applets allow users to see ideas from various perspectives, including most popular, most recent, and watch lists. These ideas applets are user-configurable, and can show campaigns, accounts, opportunities, and contacts.

Oracle customers can choose to support external- and internal-facing communities, and can prioritize ideas and form private communities to further hone in on crowdsourced concepts, said Plug. Customer-generated ideas automatically link with their CRM profiles, so sales reps and marketing managers can place the ideas in better perspective, understanding each user's point-of-view, organization size, current use, and business challenges, for example.

"The integration of Accept360 into our comprehensive Oracle CRM On Demand and CRM On Demand for PRM platform will add valuable social collaboration-based ideation to provide deeper visibility into market needs and create a single repository of ideas and product requirements," said Steve Fioretti, VP of Oracle CRM strategy and product management, in a statement. "This will allow enterprises to capture and streamline market, customer, and partner feedback on their product needs and wants in context with key CRM objects like campaigns, accounts, and contacts."

Organizations then can measure velocity, or the speed at which other users respond to a particular poster's idea, as well as individual user's online reputations, said Plug. "You've got to have an ability to analyze that idea. You need to prioritize it against your business objectives," he said.

More and more businesses across vertical industries are turning to crowdsourcing, said Plug.

"One of the truisms of business has been get close to your customer: Understand what your markets want, understand what your markets need," he told InformationWeek. "Quite often it takes longer to plan a product than a product lasts in the marketplace. The old ways -- let's take a product to Peoria and see how it does -- takes far too long. It takes weeks and months, and that's static. You get static information that may be relevant at the point in time but you got it six weeks later."

With crowdsourcing, businesses get timely information from a community invested in the product, campaign, or market, said Plug. While respondents often are motivated because they want a particular item to succeed, companies also can add incentives ranging from gift cards and prizes to non-monetary benefits such as status symbols like stars, preferred user rankings, a prominent position on the Web site, stars, or Foursquare-like badges, he noted.

The government, for example, is beginning to embrace crowdsourcing. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is crowdsourcing its challenge to design the eXperimental Crowd-derived Combat-support Vehicle (XC2V), a next-generation combat support vehicle.

New York City also turned to residents and city workers when it sought ideas about how to improve the day-to-day life and business in Manhattan.

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