Oracle outlines plans for RightNow integration

Mark Hurd, Thomas Kurian and others laid out the vision in a live web event

Oracle executives on Tuesday gave a more detailed picture of their plans to integrate technologies gained through October's $1.5 billion acquisition of RightNow, maker of cloud-based software for customer service through the Web, social networks and contact centers.

The RightNow deal, which closed last week, "is a big deal to us, it's core to us," Oracle co-president Mark Hurd said during a webcast event. "It's about delivering superior customer service." Oracle has "a very aggressive plan to invest in RightNow and build a stronger road map than ever before," he added.

Other Oracle executives outlined the company's bid to reinvent the notion of CRM (customer relationship management) software, discussing how RightNow's applications will work as part of a continuum involving Oracle technologies for e-commerce, natural language search, customer segmentation and other areas, many of which it also procured through acquisitions.

"In a very real sense the basic rules of business have changed," said Greg Gianforte, RightNow's founder and CEO. "Globalization has increased customer choice and supply now exceeds demand for most products. This gives consumers power." Products are also becoming commodities faster than ever before, with new features quickly copied by "fast followers," he said.

New features aren't enough, traditional marketing programs are less effective, and social networks can greatly amplify customer complaints as well as positive remarks, Gianforte added. "The only thing left is word of mouth. The only way to do that is deliver great experiences."

But the buying process "doesn't start around customer service," said Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of product development, who oversees Oracle's entire software catalog. "It starts from the time the customer feels the need for a product." There is a series of "touch points" throughout the lifecycle of a product purchase, and Oracle has the technology to reach every one of them, he added.

First off, Oracle's FatWire Web content and software can provide customers with compelling material as they research their buy, while Oracle's Social Network and Siebel Marketing application could bolster targeted marketing efforts, according to Kurian's presentation. Then the vendor's Endeca search technology can help customers find the right product for their needs, with its ATG Commerce product supplying an e-commerce foundation to execute the sale.

Further along the continuum lies Oracle's financials and supply chain software. RightNow's lineup of applications then completes it by covering ongoing product usage, maintenance and recommendation scenarios, according to Oracle.

For example, Oracle plans to integrate RightNow Service with ATG Commerce, Kurian said. "Now if you're an agent, you get an up-to-the-minute view of who the customer is, what they have bought," he said.

Oracle intends to deliver these and other integrations "on a very aggressive schedule," Kurian said, while providing no dates.

He noted that the business-to-business buying experience has different customs than the consumer world. B-to-B customers may research purchases on the Web, but they're also often invited to marketing events or seminars, and get direct sales calls, whereas "in the consumer space, it's largely e-commerce and retail point-of-sale," Kurian said.

Therefore, Oracle intends to integrate RightNow and other technologies with B-to-B customers in mind, he added.

For example, a planned integration between Fusion Sales and RightNow's service software could help a services team understand that a particular customer is negotiating a large deal with sales, and therefore prioritize their support efforts accordingly, Kurian said.

This type of integration is also important given the fact that B-to-B customers will often first call the salesperson who sold them something in order to complain about a problem, not necessarily support, he added.

The RightNow deal was also about Oracle making a major investment in cloud-based software in general, along with the next-generation CRM strategy Kurian outlined.

"Oracle's trying to show where the cloud makes sense in their product portfolio," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "However, clients will determine how they want to consume solutions in the cloud, not the other way around."

Four patterns are emerging in the CRM market regarding cloud computing, Wang added. "Do nothing and sit on the status quo; try to move everything to a new release on your old vendor because you have inertia; consolidate on your existing vendor and then augment with SaaS; [and] do the upgrade on a new vendor, filling in the gaps with SaaS."

Oracle customers in the midmarket and large enterprise categories are looking at the third and fourth options now, Wang said.

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