Oracle partners can now offer on-demand partner relationship management (PRM) to their customers.
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The Oracle Siebel CRM On Demand Partner Subscription allows customers running Siebel CRM On Demand to link to their own buyers and suppliers by extending the service to them.
That should make it easier and more efficient for suppliers and distributors to share leads, place orders and improve other sales chain functions, according to Oracle executives. Oracle and its partners can sell the additional subscriptions to customers, who can then sell, repackage or give them to their own partners.
The new offering addresses the increase in demand for partner relationship management capabilities among companies that never had to manage channel partners before, according to Anthony Lye, Oracle's senior vice president of customer relationship management (CRM) products.
"A lot of our customers are increasingly selling their products through indirect channels," he said.
CD Group Inc., an Oracle partner in Norcross, Ga., signed on to sell the new service last month and just trained its sales staff last week. Company vice president Don Landrum agreed that it meets customers' needs, but he said the subscription model means lower margins and fewer up-front implementation opportunities.
"It is a model where you have to have a lot of volume to justify doing this," he said. "If you're a small niche partner, it's going to be a challenge."
CD Group will need to make about 25 or 30 Siebel CRM On Demand deals this year, for "a couple of thousand" seats, to be successful, Landrum said. The company will "absolutely" be able to meet that goal, he added.
PRM has long been a buzzword in the indirect sales world, but now it seems to be gaining steam in the market.
"It's new and old at the same time," said William Band, a Forrester Research vice president. "We are seeing renewed interest in that segment of companies that are struggling with the issue of how to manage their indirect sales."
In a recent Forrester survey of 260 companies, partner relationship management came out as the fourth-biggest concern.
"Oracle is trying to take advantage of an area of the market that isn't well-served," Band said.
When suppliers don't extend their CRM systems to partners, they typically use online portals to send leads to partners and take orders from them. But for partners with multiple suppliers, that means they have to use several different portals and then re-enter the information into their own CRM systems.
"It's clearly an inefficient process," said Robert Bois, research director for AMR Research.
Through partner relationship management, distributors can save time performing those functions, and suppliers "can sell more and distribute leads more quickly, so that's a win for them too," Bois said.
Partner relationship management works best in an on-demand or Software as a Service (SaaS) model because "it's just a matter of connecting the dots within the same system," he added. "This is a natural extension of where Software as a Service will go."