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Why SOA Is a Good Fit for CRM Solutions

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Online commerce is no longer just for consumer products, but also for direct and indirect goods and services. As a result, new demands are placed on classic customer relationship management (CRM) applications. While most have successfully automated customer-facing interactions (such as order capture, configuration, pricing, and order query), they still rely on external systems to process subsequent steps (such as invoicing, fulfillment, and pick-pack-ship), which are completed in a back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) application. This leads to disjointed business processes and multiple user interfaces, each executing well within the native application (CRM or ERP), and requiring the creation of point-to-point and proprietary integrations and cumbersome custom user interfaces that are difficult to extend and maintain.

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In this article, we focus on interactions between CRM order management (CRM OM) components, such as pricing, booking, invoicing, approvals, and product and customer master data. We also demonstrate how to streamline interactions and flexibly manage customer-driven change through a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process approach that utilize standards-based products, such as Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) and enterprise service bus (ESB).

What Makes CRM OM Demanding?
CRM OM is a mission-critical application that helps increase revenue by turning each customer interaction into an opportunity to sell a solution based on customer needs. CRM OM applications also help nontechnical business users consistently define and enforce selling policies across all customer interaction channels.

Quote-to-cash is a common but complex business process that includes a number of steps: identification and verification of the customer, creating quotes and capturing orders, verifying credit, checking for existing contracts, ensuring inventory and status, determining and providing a quote to the customer, generating an order, provisioning, shipping, invoicing, and applying the payment. As explained in Figure 1, quote-to-cash spans several systems, including CRM, ERP, and supply chain management; involves a number of roles, including call center agents, shipping clerks, order process analysts, and managers; may take minutes or days to complete; and requires oversight by highly trained individuals.

These complex processes - such as selling policies, consistent enforcement, multichannel platform support, and order capture - typically require multiple application touch points and make customer-facing commerce applications one of the most complex to build and maintain.

More Stories By Nishit Rao

Nishit Rao is director of product management for Oracle Fusion Middleware. He is focusing on enhancing and evangelizing the middleware platform to meet the demanding needs of Oracle customers. He has more than 15 years experience in engineering and product management for messaging, Common Object Requesting Broker Architecture, J2EE, integration, and SOA products. He also has experience rolling out middleware solutions as an architect for a large global logistics company. He holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BS in electrical engineering.

More Stories By Murali Varmaraja

Murali Varmaraja is director of order management product strategy at Oracle. He has more than 15 years of experience in the information technology industry, including 8 years of enterprise product management. His experience spans a wide spectrum of technology, including Web, client/server, and multitier and distributed architectures involving Oracle and IBM DB2. He has experience with CRM business processes for the transportation, communications, media, energy, finance, high-tech, and manufacturing industries. He holds an MS degree in computer applications from Sadar Patel University in Gujarat, India, and is currently pursuing an MBA at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University.

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