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Oracle 11i Goes with the Business Flow

Oracle’s approach to enterprise software differs markedly from that of its competitors, says vice president of CRM marketing Lisa Arthur. Instead of focusing on function-specific applications — sales force automation, for example, or campaign management — the company has organized its software development according to business flows.

“We’ve eliminated the artificial boundaries between supply chain functions, ERP functions — like finance and human resources — and CRM functions, and integrated those processes,” Arthur told CRM Buyer Magazine.

Bite-Size Chunks

However, in these days of tight IT budgets, Arthur said Oracle is well aware that companies are unlikely to make the huge investments of days past in comprehensive enterprise suites. Thus, the firm has broken down large business flows into “bite-sized chunks” that customers can implement as modules.

“If you want to author a marketing campaign, get prospects, turn them into leads, mature them into opportunities, give them price quotes, close the orders and collect the cash, you’ve probably got to spread the process across four different departments in your organization — which probably are running four or five applications, plus manual processes,” she explained.

With the modular nature of E-Business Suite 11i, a company can automate one particular function — accepting orders over the Web, for example — and then add additional applications as necessary.

Database Advantage

Oracle grew up in the database market, so it is no surprise that the company continues to tout its superiority in that arena. “One thing that ships with any application you buy from Oracle,” said Arthur, “is a single customer model.” Underpinning that model is an Oracle database, of course.

The advantage of that approach for prospective customers can be compelling: A single customer database supports better intelligence in tracking such metrics as daily revenue positions and sales figures. “Marketing and sales managers can see their relative position compared to last month or last year,” Arthur noted, “instead of letting it get down to the last week of the quarter before they know if they’ve made their numbers.”

In the procure-to-pay business flow, for example, the starting point is finding the best possible vendor for goods at the best possible cost. However, to leverage negotiations with the vendor, a company must pay for goods in timely fashion — not too early, but right on time. Without the same data underlying both the procurement and accounts-payable applications, potential cost savings will slip through the cracks.

Outsourcing the Headaches

Not every company wants to deal with a big relational database installation, though, or the application server necessary to run Oracle apps. That is why Oracle offers two options for hosting its applications — through Oracle itself or through a certified partner.

“We support open standards like XML and Web services,” Arthur said, “so customers can interface with other applications and start to consolidate information.” Many customers are doing just that — running an ERP suite like SAP in the back office and Oracle CRM in front, or using Oracle ERP modules and integrating them with software from another sales force automation vendor, for instance.

Eventually, however, most enterprises seek to consolidate all customer-related data into a single repository, Arthur contends, and that task can be much easier when the application management is handled by Oracle or an outsourcing partner.

“Our core competence is our software,” she said. “We build it, we implement it, and we can run it for up to 50 percent less than companies can run it themselves. That allows them to focus on their core competence.”

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