Last month it was Salesforce buying customer support solution Assistly. This month it’s Oracle buying RightNow, a more mature, but similarly positioned player. The deal, worth around the $1.5B mark, fills the void that Oracle had in terms of customer-facing engagement tools. While Oracle does have CRM on-demand, this acquisition gives them a cloud-specific customer service module – something they’d been lacking. says Thomas Kurian, EVP of Oracle;

Oracle is moving aggressively to offer customers a full range of Cloud Solutions including salesforce automation, human resources, talent management, social networking, databases and Java as part of the Oracle Public Clou, RightNow’s leading customer service cloud is a very important addition to Oracle’s Public Cloud.

The announcement is interesting given the recent shenanigans that occurred between Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison – I don’t buy the line that this is why Ellison bumped Benioff’s keynote at Oracle’s OpenWorld event, but this does more clearly show the level of competition that now exists between the two players.

The deal is however an admission and act of acceptance of the incredible importance of putting customer-engagement first. In my view, a customer engagement solution is the primary concern of business, thereafter back-office solutions can integrate with this externally facing tool. But key is making sure the solution that your external stakeholders see captures sufficient data to allow deep engagement – Oracle is betting that RightNow will do this for them. Sure RightNow has CRM functionality that will give Oracle a toe-hold in customers that are too small for its other solutions – but it’s the customer facing stuff which is of real import here.

Only a month ago Salesforce announced its acquisition of Assistly, a similar solution to RightNow (although much newer and less fully-featured). Both vendors now have a customer facing play – the question that remains for me is who will be the vendor to acquire arguably the most mature of the cloud-based customer facing solutions, Zendesk.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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