I’m back from 5 days at Oracle Open World 2009 in San Francisco. CRM On Demand was well represented at this massive event!

This year I ran a session on “CRM On Demand Best Practices” along with tending to our booth in the Exhibit Hall. The hall (actually two of them) was packed with exhibits from hundreds of partners, and even some competitors. We had thousands of attendees come through and many stopped by the “Demogrounds” where Oracle applications were on display.

CRM On Demand Best Practices

My session (definitely the highlight of the show!) featured speakers from two CRM On Demand customers. US Foodservice has recently launched over 6,000 users. Konica Minolta Business Services has been live over 2 years with about 1900 users. 

I asked my contacts at each company to share their stories with an eye toward imparting some practical advice to the audience. I think there are a lot of key best practices that everyone can agree on – such as establishing success measures, involving users in requirements, and articulating an overall CRM strategy.

But when put in terms of a story – with real people, real issues and real consequences – it becomes much more tangible. Based on the questions we received at the end of the session and the comments of folks who came up afterwards, I’d say we struck a chord. People were genuinely interested in what happened, how they managed their implementation, how they tackled some specific challenges.

I suspect the audience was mostly existing customers and partners, but hopefully we hit a few folks who are in the process of deciding on a CRM system and thinking about their implementation. They received some great advice from two customers who’ve been there, and done that.

Partners everywhere!

One of my favorite parts of working the Demogrounds this year was the Partner Pavilion. We invited all of our “Inner Circle” CRM On Demand Partners to put their demos in one area under a huge banner. Very hard to miss.

This arrangement allowed anyone interested in CRM On Demand (our demo booths were a few steps away) to walk up and check out dozens of third-party services which augment our core offering. I got the chance to talk to the Cast Iron rep, a fellow from Ribbit, and the president of Active Prime.

Cast Iron makes a toolset for integrating applications without coding. I really like their product and especially their offering for cloud integration. If you are integrating two SaaS applications, they will host the integration itself “in the cloud.” I’m not sure why they won’t host it for SaaS-to-On Prem integrations, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. I’d like to see more movement toward pushing all the integration bridges out into the cloud.

A sales rep from Ribbit spent some time at my booth telling us about their offering. They had a presence last year at OOW but the product wasn’t out yet. This year they’ve launched their offering which is a voice-to-text service integrated to CRMOD. Imagine your voicemails being automatically converted to text, recorded in CRMOD (associated with the right contact, natch) and a short version IM sent to your mobile device. They are all about integrating voice communications with everything. Services like this wouldn’t have resonated with me before I became a smartphone (iPhone) addict. Now I can totally see how centralizing more of my business apps and functions on that device (wife calls it a security blanket) makes sense. And they’re proving there is a market for it.

I’ve had a long relationship with ActivePrime, back from the Siebel days. I initially advised them on setting up service packages for their Clean CRM product. It is used to do “deep cleaning” and de-duplication of your data. The idea is to run all your data through Clean CRM prior to loading it into CRM OD. They built an integration which makes the whole process seamless. They’ve continued innovating and have become one of our most popular partners. They now have Clean Enter which makes entering any record into CRM OD pass through a fuzzy dupe-check. Very slick. They also seem to really “get” the market. Their offering is SaaS all the way, and at a very attractive per-user-per-month fee.

Of course there were dozens of others, but I don’t have space for all of them. The thing I’ve been really impressed with over the last couple of years is the rapid evolution of our partner space. I like the strategy of identifying the best, most promising partner offerings and really wrapping our arms around them. We don’t have hundreds of partners hocking cheap apps – but we have dozens of partners providing deep functionality in the areas that matter most. Looks like it is paying off.

The Fun Stuff

Of course, OOW wouldn’t be what it is without an “Epic” event like the Customer Appreciation show. Every year they bring in big name acts to entertain our guests and this year was no exception. It was exceptional, however, in that I scored a ticket. Yes, 4 years at OOW and this is my first one.

The line-up was Aerosmith, Roger Daltry, The Wailers, and Three Dog Night. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for all of it, but I did catch the first two playing on different stages and took in the atmosphere. It was, quite literally, a carnival. Big top, Ferris wheel, cotton candy and all.

I also got to catch up with some old friends and rarely-seen co-workers. All-in-all, a thrilling (and exhausting) five days. Can’t wait till next year…

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