In terms of application software battles, customer relationship management (CRM) software is one of the most hotly contested, especially when it comes to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Usually when it comes to anything involving software, Oracle is usually in the thick of things. But interestingly enough, Oracle seems content to keep its CRM-as-a-service ambitions limited to the high end of the enterprise IT space.
This week, Oracle released its 19th major update to its CRM On Demand environment in the cloud, which now supports a range of mobile computing devices, including the Apple iPhone and iPad and BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion (RIM) and tighter integration with other applications that can be hosted in the cloud alongside Oracle CRM On Demand.
According to Anthony Lye, Oracle senior vice president for CRM, what differentiates Oracle most in this category is that its CRM software in the cloud comes complete with a data warehouse that allows Oracle to layer business intelligence functionality within the CRM environment. That kind of capability, says Lye, is critical for any enterprise that views CRM as an element of an integrated set of extended business processes. Lye adds that version 19 of Oracle CRM On Demand is now especially strong when it comes to integration with Microsoft Outlook, which is frequently the front end that most companies rely on to access those business processes.
So while SAP is fighting it out with Salesforce.com and Microsoft for control over the small-to-medium business market, Lye says Oracle is content to focus its CRM efforts on higher-end enterprise applications that require a lot more functionality from their CRM software.
There's no doubt that CRM applications are critical elements of an extended business process. As more companies start to realize this, many of them are looking for integrated approaches that don't require too much depending on custom coding to integrate disparate components. Whether that means that as time goes on there will be such a thing as distinct applications such as CRM remains to be seen. The one thing that is for certain is that as IT organizations start to think more in terms of business processes that need to be supported instead of applications that need to be managed, the criteria against which all enterprise software is being evaluated is rapidly changing.