Oracle Touts Social Networks For Salespeople - InformationWeek

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Oracle Touts Social Networks For Salespeople

A radical move for the traditional software vendor, but will Willy Loman buy in?

Oracle is taking a significant step outside its comfort zone with software offerings that tap two important Web 2.0 trends: software as a service and social networking. The company's Social CRM services, announced last week, will be delivered via monthly subscription to sales teams and individual salespeople who sign up via the Web.

The first service, Oracle Sales Prospector, is designed to help salespeople identify prospects from their own source data, such as lists provided by colleagues and companies, and external sources, such as Jigsaw.com and other sales-lead databases. Users can apply the service's analytic tools against those prospects to make basic predictions, such as the likelihood a deal will close and how long it will take. Oracle previewed the service at the Enterprise 2.0 conference last week, and it should be available by the end of the summer.

The service works with Oracle's on-premises CRM applications and its Oracle CRM On Demand service, which competes directly with Salesforce.com. Unlike those apps and services, however, the intent of Social CRM isn't to create sales reports for use by company management. "Sales managers really like those apps, but salespeople are indifferent to them on a good day," says Mark Woollen, VP of CRM development at Oracle. Instead of the "top-down hierarchal model" used by those apps, information is shared in Social CRM via an Oracle-built social networking platform, including features familiar to users of the popular social networks Facebook and MySpace, like the ability to create tags and add ratings and commentary to contributions.

Oracle hopes both sales teams and individual salespeople will build networks within Sales Prospector to share information. "It's about realizing, I don't need to go to my manager to leverage tools that make me better at my job," Woollen says.

Oracle Gets Social
Sales Prospector
Incorporates internal and external data sources
Built-in analytics help identify sales prospects
Sales Campaigns
Users create and share HTML e-mail campaigns
Tools help analyze campaigns' effectiveness
Sales Library
Shared content uploaded by network members
Users can rate, tag, and comment on content
Within the next year, Oracle plans to offer a Social CRM service for sharing information on sales and marketing campaigns, and another for creating shareable libraries of sales-related content. Both will have analytic capabilities. The campaign system, for example, will track how often a shared campaign format has been used and its rate of success.

All services will be offered in a multitenant model with standard subscription pricing (which Oracle won't specify). There are no plans to make them available as on-premises licensed software. That's significant, since Oracle has resisted the multitenant SaaS model across its broad portfolio of software offerings, limiting it to Oracle CRM On Demand. The Social CRM offerings demonstrate Oracle's intention to compete head on with Salesforce, not only by matching its SaaS model but by adding unique services. Oracle last month said it's spending an initial $285 million to build a data center in Utah that will deliver software services by 2010.

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But will salespeople want to share information about prospects and campaigns? Woollen says Oracle designed the services to address that issue. With Sales Prospector, users can create social networks that are public, private, or even secret, as well as those that last only a short time, such as the life cycle of a deal. When users join the service, they'll have the option to join social networks that best fit their profiles.

Oracle says it's prepping other business-oriented social networks, in the areas of talent management and supply chain. The success of the Social CRM services rests on salespeople's willingness to create those networks; if they do, it will show how social networking can move beyond consumers to have a significant impact in the business world.

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