Larry wows 'em in San Francisco, from Takapuna

There's no such thing as CRM says Larry Ellison, whose opinion was beamed from Auckland's North Shore to OracleWorld in San Francisco this morning.

There’s no such thing as CRM says Larry Ellison, whose opinion was beamed from Auckland's North Shore to OracleWorld in San Francisco this morning.

The Oracle chief admitted that statement might make him sound as if he had been hit on the head by the Oracle yacht's boom, but explained that despite many CRM vendors claiming their product offers a 360 degree view of customer interactions, things like accounting and billing are still out of the picture.

"There's a lot of data about customers on the ERP side that should be on the CRM side."

In a half-hour address, followed by questions from San Francisco (but not Auckland), Ellison gave his state-of-the-IT-industry view and said data fragmentation and software integration problems are two of its biggest problems.

"There are too many databases - you [the customers] have bought far too many."

An organisation may be running Siebel, SAP and PeopleSoft and each system will have its own database, "which makes no sense to me”.

He said Oracle's e-business suite was an attempt to remove that need for multiple databases. Similarly, Oracle's application server is an attempt to mitigate the bugbear of software integration.

"The industry treats its customers as if they're computer hobbyists - it's up to you to figure out how to integrate all the different products from different vendors, with no instruction given."

That means hiring expensive consultants and in-house IT staff, a bonanza for services companies, but causing buyers to pay 10 times as much to customise the packages to their needs as they do on the product.

Ellison says a Sony TV is more reliable than a $500 million computer system because Sony TVs are customised, "but a $500 million computer system is unique".

Different customers run different configurations and combinations of applications, from different vendors, and no two run exactly the same combination, he points out.

"Our own customers deploy slightly different combinations and configurations of our products and other vendors' products.

"Who has tested them to make sure they all work together? No-one."

Oracle has cut back its former 100 email databases to one and pared back what were 400 server customer databases, with the result that "our IT budget has dropped by half since we started”.

A final word on the depressed state of the industry: "It feels worse than it really is, because we were rocking and took a huge dip."

He describes the worst excesses of the tech boom as "madness" and gave as an example that fact that at one stage, Ariba was worth more than Daimler-Benz.

In overall terms, most major developments in IT are yet to come, he says.

"This is just the dawn of the information age."

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