CRM suppliers revamp products ahead of Microsoft's debut

Oracle, PeopleSoft and Siebel have updated their software in readiness for Microsoft's launch in 2003.

Oracle, PeopleSoft and Siebel have updated their software in readiness for Microsoft's launch in 2003.

Oracle is bolstering its CRM wares with a proposal-generation product and the Oracle Daily Business Intelligence, a portal-delivered function built into Oracle's applications and designed to provide better access to information.

Oracle Proposals allows users to build and tailor proposals for specific customers or prospective customers. The standalone product, which will be available either separately or as part of Oracle's E-Business Suite, also hooks into the company's quote module.

"Our focus has shifted from the feature-function war to a business flow approach," said John Wookey, senior vice-president of applications at Oracle.

To that end, Oracle's Daily Business Intelligence is designed to tie together a variety of systems, including financials, payroll, CRM, ERP HR, supply chain and inventory to provide employees with up-to-date access to the information residing in all the systems.

"HR data alone is interesting. But HR data connected to financial information connected to manufacturing information, and getting that in front of the right people, is extremely powerful," said Joel Summers, senior vice-president of HRMS at Oracle.

Oracle plans to unveil both capabilities at its Oracle AppsWorld show in January.

Rival vendor PeopleSoft has launched PeopleSoft CRM 8.8, with a focus on easing implementation, use and business processes. The company has also introduced three vertical solutions with CRM 8.8, for high-tech, insurance and energy companies.

Meanwhile, Siebel Systems has teamed up with Comshare to bring budgeting and planning capabilities to its employee relationship management (ERM) suite.

The major CRM players are now gearing themselves up for Microsoft's entry into the market. The software giant will release its CRM suite by the end of the year, according to Holly Holt, senior product manager for MSCRM at Microsoft.

"The goal is to get it out of the door before the holidays. We should be at RTM before the end of December," Holt said, adding that if there were setbacks, Microsoft would ship late rather than put out a product with known problems.

Analysts predict the MSCRM suite will make a significant impact on the market. "Microsoft will change the landscape for CRM packages," said Karen Smith, a research director at Aberdeen Group.

But Smith and other analysts do not expect Microsoft to dominate CRM in the near future, nor do they anticipate that many customers will migrate from other vendors to Microsoft.

"It's not as easy to get people off the systems they're on as some might think," said Giga analyst Erin Kinikin.

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