What Oracle's "Social Relationship Management" Means
Oracle is seeking to fill the gap between its social offerings and the overall market, which has been advancing at a faster pace. This report analyzes its progress and enables IT leaders to determine how and when Oracle's social offerings should factor into enterprise social strategies.
- Oracle has unveiled plans for its social relationship management strategy. IT leaders pursuing social capabilities in business applications must understand how the timing and road map apply to them.1
- Oracle Social Network is positioned as an infrastructural social collaboration capability to augment business processes and applications. This makes it an important consideration for IT leaders.
- Oracle customers should evaluate its social offerings within the context of potential broad use throughout the enterprise, avoiding the creation of "social silos."
- Customers with established or maturing capabilities from other social providers should continue to evolve those solutions.
- All IT leaders should closely track innovations and market execution of all social software providers and encourage industry acceleration of social standards and practical interoperability.
At Oracle OpenWorld held 30 September 2012 to 5 October 2012, Oracle highlighted progress toward previously announced social capabilities. It also provided an early glimpse of how a set of recent acquisitions will factor into a longer-term product road map. The newly available social capabilities are a good start for Oracle and its customers for filling the gap between its social offerings and the overall market, which has been advancing at a faster pace.
Source: Gartner (December 2012)
Oracle has unveiled plans for its social relationship management strategy. IT leaders pursuing social capabilities in business applications must understand how the timing and road map apply to them.
Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite is slated to include enterprise social network, and social capabilities for selling, marketing, commerce and customer service, within an overarching platform. This platform will integrate with Oracle's business applications, starting with Oracle Fusion Customer Relationship Management. Future plans call for integration with Oracle's Siebel Customer Relationship Management, Oracle's ATG Web Commerce, Oracle RightNow CX Cloud Service and Oracle Taleo Cloud Service. The Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite includes Social Data, Social Network, Social Engagement and Monitoring, and Social Marketing.
The entire Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite is cloud-based. For now, it exists as a series of components, most of which have been acquired over the last 12 months, including Vitrue, Collective Intellect and Involver. There are also some homegrown components like Oracle Social Network and parts of Oracle Fusion Customer Relationship Management.
- Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite offers a social offering from an established supplier, alleviating concerns about vendor stability, which are prevalent when working with many small providers.
- The acquisition of social components was the fastest way for Oracle to play in the social CRM space. The acquired talent, if it can be retained, will be essential for achieving coherence in the offering.
- Positioning social capabilities as an element of software infrastructure, rather than as a stand-alone application, is a promising approach for socially enabling business processes and for provisioning a holistic and rich experience where people are already working, namely in business applications. This creates the opportunity for Oracle to deliver on its stated vision to provide a complete view of constituents, including engagements from both traditional and social channels.
- The overall social and cloud messaging reinforces Oracle's broader customer experience story.
- Having been acquired only within the past 12 months, Vitrue, Collective Intellect and Involver's functional components could not, and do not, complement one another just yet. There is some limited integration among the products, such as between Collective Intellect and Involver with Oracle Social Engagement and Monitoring. The logos are in place, but the vision has not been fully realized.
- At Oracle OpenWorld 2012, Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite components, functionality and road map were introduced. However, the vision and message put forward were unclear and confusing — it was like a three-product demo rather than a cohesive suite. Unclear messaging is often indicative of an offering strategy that is still not firm.
- There is uncertainty about which components of the Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite will take the lead, and what happens to the acquired technology.
- The term "social relationship management" has a ring to it but is also misleading. You need to manage relationships with people (for example, customers, partners, suppliers and employees). Social is a way of managing relationships with those people — and needs to augment how you interact with them. Social relationship management isn't a separate or distinct relationship management strategy — it augments.
- For current Oracle Fusion CRM customers, work with Oracle to use Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite functionality to include social components within Oracle Fusion CRM, such as social customer records, social campaign management and social analytics for marketing.
- For clients currently exploring the social CRM market, continue to look for best-of-breed solutions to hold you over for the next 12 months to 24 months, either from Oracle (for example, the capabilities coming from Oracle's acquisitions of Vitrue, Collective Intellect and Involver) or from other providers. Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite, despite being a promising cross-functional solution, is in the early days of its evolution. Also, it is unclear which components of the Suite will be subject to the greatest development in future.
- IT leaders should ask their Oracle account team to provide a more specific and concrete road map.
Oracle Social Network is positioned as an infrastructural social collaboration capability to augment business processes and applications. This makes it an important consideration for IT leaders.
At Oracle OpenWorld 2012, Oracle provided more detail about the evolution of Oracle Social Network, a component of WebCenter, which was initially previewed in the October 2011 "Oracle Social Network" white paper. Oracle Social Network will enable collaboration using a social metaphor and capabilities, and is intended to operate as infrastructure at the platform layer to enable social collaboration involving content, business processes, business applications, and communications. Oracle also provided some detail on packaging and availability. Key capabilities include:
- "Social objects" as the contextual integration point with business applications and processes. Data and events from business applications or processes are injected onto social object walls that can be more visible, shared with others, commented on and acted upon.
- Activity streams, microblogging, status updates, personal and group profiles, and walls.
- Presence and real-time messaging are core capabilities of Oracle Social Network. Extended real-time capabilities such as Web, voice, and video conferencing, are provided by partners. Web conferencing is provided through partners Cisco WebEx and Avaya, and Internet-based multiperson video is provided through partner Weemo and Hypervoice through partner HarQen.
- A translation capability to translate social content, such as postings and comments, through Oracle's partnership with Lingotek.
- Content can be shared and co-annotated in real time through browser-based rendering of shared content such as documents, presentations and images. However, the content itself remains unchanged.
- Accessible via Web, tablet, mobile and Outlook.
Oracle announced that Oracle Social Network will initially be deployed only in the Oracle Cloud and as a new and integral feature of Oracle Fusion Applications, at no additional charge for existing users of Oracle Fusion Applications. Direct access to Oracle Social Network by other employees (for example, those who are not existing users of Oracle Fusion Applications) will be supported at an additional charge. The integration of Oracle Social Network with Oracle Fusion CRM is available now, and integration is under way for other modules of Oracle Fusion Applications, but timing of availability has not been announced.
Oracle intends to continuously evolve capabilities, and these will be released quarterly into Oracle Cloud. Also, there are plans to sell Oracle Social Network as an independent offering without being bundled with Oracle Fusion Applications.
- Social collaboration as an infrastructure service, rather than positioned as a stand-alone software solution, is a promising approach for bringing social collaboration to where most enterprise work takes place — including business processes, applications, content management and Outlook. Particularly for enterprises with diverse segments of employees that depend heavily on business applications, Oracle's vision and plan for deep integration into business applications are highly appropriate.
- Oracle's decision to develop for the cloud first and to overtly design for mobile is an important new approach. It gives Oracle time to establish an offering in the market with initial capabilities, while continuously evolving and filling in functional gaps.
- Although the offering lacks a real-time content collaboration or co-authoring capability, Oracle Social Network enables collaborative annotation of a rendered document within conversations. Because so much higher-level, nonroutine work is focused on creating and evolving content — such as presentations, proposals, designs and images — this capability enables people to collaborate around content they are working on together.
- A "mute" feature enables users to suppress notification of threads they are no longer interested in, while still having access to those on demand. As with inbound email, activity streams risk overwhelming users with volume.
- Ability to invite external participants into a conversation.
- Oracle intends to integrate Oracle Social Network with current and prior versions of its business applications beyond Oracle Fusion Applications. However, it has not definitively committed to doing so. Integration plans with Siebel should be the priority. Also, Oracle will also need to provide clarity on plans for Oracle Applications Unlimited.
- Content integration is a distant plan. The announced cloud file share and synchronization service, which is expected to be available by the end of 2012, was positioned as a content management capability. This feature will be welcomed, but, on its own, will not be a sufficient content management solution. Oracle will need to enable collaboration around content that resides in Oracle WebCenter as well as in repositories from other providers such as EMC Documentum and Microsoft SharePoint.
- It is not clear whether or how Oracle would enable deployment options other than public cloud. A cloud-only delivery model for Oracle Social Network may be attractive to many enterprises. However, to be useful as a social infrastructure that enables collaboration among business processes, functions and applications, the ultimate solution will require a hybrid approach so that services and content deployed on-premises can be exposed and active in Oracle Social Network.
- Oracle does not have a successful track record with prior forays into the collaboration market (for example, Oracle Beehive and Oracle Collaboration Suite).
- Oracle Fusion Application customers (particularly Oracle Fusion CRM) that do not already have a widely adopted enterprise social network in place, should consider limited, purpose-driven pilots of Oracle Social Network. Avoid "social silos" coming from pilots or grassroots adoption of social networks that you do not intend to evolve toward a broader enterprise solution.
- Customers of Oracle's other business applications (for example, Siebel) must not postpone progress toward an enterprise social strategy while waiting for an all-Oracle solution. Ask Oracle to keep you abreast of its road map details in the context of your application landscape.
- Customers that have an enterprise social network from another provider, and where adoption rates are promising, should continue to evolve their chosen solution. However, they should closely track innovation and market execution of all social software providers, including Oracle.
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1 In preparation for this report, authors reviewed briefing materials provided by Oracle, and attended briefings and Oracle OpenWorld 2012 (see "Oracle Unveils Oracle Social Relationship Management Suite at Oracle OpenWorld").