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Oracle to acquire Versatility

Oracle ups the ante in the enterprise resource planning game with a $12 million bet on Versatility, a maker of front-office call center management software.

Oracle is upping the ante in the high stakes enterprise resource planning game with a $12 million bet on Versatility, a maker of front-office call center management software.

Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle acquired Fairfax, Virginia-based Versatility this morning in a cash merger in which Versatility common stockholders will receive $1.50 per share or approximately $12 million in the aggregate. The companies anticipate closing the transaction by the end of the calendar year.

"We really wanted to have a complimentary acquisition," said Peter Dunning, Oracle's vice president of vertical industries. "This acquisition now gives us a 360-degree view of customer facing applications. [It] fits well with our call center and front office offerings."

Oracle and its competitors in the business process management software space, like SAP, PeopleSoft, and Baan, are quickly stretching their systems to become all-purpose business software for corporate clients. The systems traditionally manage most back office functions, automating such tasks as financial accounting, inventory replenishment, and human resource management.

For the past year, as the huge software systems grew to become the entire backbone of corporate computing environments, the vendors began buying, building, or using a combination of the two to expand their systems into the front of the house. Most are starting to handle customer management, sales force automation, and now call centers.

SAP has invested in several companies to help it build such features. And Baan flat-out bought Aurum, one of the leading makers of sales force and customer management software systems.

For its front office products, Oracle has sales force automation, marketing automation, customer care service, e-commerce, and business intelligence systems. Oracle was already set to roll out a call center system at the end of September. Oracle executives said Versatility's products are now to be mixed into the fold to fill out the call center offering with outbound dialing technology, and telemarketing and telesales applications, which Oracle was lacking.

"We have a 120-day plan to integrate the dialer into Oracle's call center and telephony products," said Mark Barrencechea, vice president of front office applications at Oracle. "In the meantime, Versatility will ride on top of the package. For the front office, we now have everything covered. We don't think any other vendor can say that."

But Oracle only has a short window of opportunity to make such statements. Products are becoming available to integrate third-party niche software that covers such territory with existing ERP systems. And Oracle's competitors for the most part have applications under development, tight partnerships, or acquisition plans of their own in the works to make the same claims.

Oracle's plans for the purchase do not end at the help desk. Dunning said Oracle is planning on integrating call center technology wherever it makes sense. Examples he gave include integrating the software with Oracle's financials system for collections, in human resource systems for employee assistance programs, in the manufacturing management software for supply management, and interplant communication.

Customers will be able to take advantage of such offerings by the end of September.