The joint effort will combine Oracle 11i, the database software giant's latest suite of Web-based business management applications, with Cisco's voice-over Internet protocol (IP) capabilities and customer call center software.
Oracle 11i includes customer relationship management (CRM) software, which helps automate and manage a company's sales, marketing and customer services needs.
The companies will jointly market the effort.
"The Internet has changed the way that businesses can communicate with their customers," said James Richardson, a senior vice president for Cisco's Internet communications software group.
By integrating their applications and networking products, Cisco and Redwood City, Calif.-based Oracle are aiming to provide businesses with a single view of the customer through a number of channels including phone, email, Web chat and interactive voice response, he said.
Like other network equipment providers, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco has been trying to augment its networking core with software technology that manages telecommunications networks and organizes customer information. Cisco, Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies have been focusing more on what software applications and features run across their networks, rather than on the nuts and bolts of the network itself, in hopes of tackling new business opportunities like CRM and e-commerce.
Meanwhile, Oracle has been aggressive in its own front-office software battle against market leader Siebel Systems, as well against other software rivals, such as SAP and PeopleSoft. Analysts have projected tremendous growth for the CRM market, which is widely viewed as the next big software land grab.
Two weeks ago, Oracle struck an agreement with Lucent to jointly deliver a CRM and billing software suite targeted at communications service providers. The two companies intend to combine Oracle 11i and Lucent's Kenan Arbor/BP billing product. They say they plan to make a product that provides communications services companies with a view of sales, customer and financial information.
Bill Hills, an industry analyst at the Aberdeen Group, said the Cisco-Oracle partnership addresses an increasingly important need among businesses seeking an easy way to improve their existing customer interaction systems.
"Customers as well as partners and employees are communicating with business organizations in an increasing number of ways because of the Internet, along with wireless data and other wireless devices," Hills said. "To be competitive, businesses have to be responsive to their customers, employees and partners. They have to be able to communicate with them" through all channels.
Hills said a pre-integrated offering such as the one proposed by Oracle and Cisco is attractive to businesses, especially those that do not want to deal with the hassles integration can pose.
AMR Analyst Scott Lundstrom noted that development is still in its early stages and that it is too early to tell whether the two companies will deliver on their promise. But once it's completed, he added, the package could be compelling.
"Customers want to go to one vendor" for their customer call center needs, Lundstrom said. "That's compelling to the customers. The work to integrate the stuff yourself is pretty daunting."
Oracle and Cisco said they expect to unveil the new offering in different phases. The first phase is expected to be available in the second half of this year with additional phases rolled out next year. No pricing was disclosed. Additionally, the Cisco-Oracle CRM product will be available through systems integrator partners, such as KPMG and e-Loyalty.