Oracle buys InQuira to boost Fusion CRM

The knowledge base software will be rolled into Oracle's Fusion CRM application

Oracle is buying knowledge management vendor InQuira in order to improve the capabilities of its Fusion and Siebel CRM (customer relationship management) applications, Oracle announced Thursday.

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close later this year, were not disclosed. Privately held InQuira has more than 85 customers, including Yahoo, 3M, Sprint, and Avis. Its technology is meant to help companies improve the effectiveness of their customer-service operations by helping call center representatives find accurate answers to customer questions, as well as allowing customers to find answers on their own through self-service portals and community forums.

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The company has patented NLP (natural language processing) capabilities that enable it to determine the "true intent" of a customer question, according to its website.

"We expect InQuira to be the centerpiece for Oracle Fusion CRM Service," said Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM, in a statement.

Fusion CRM is part of Oracle's long-gestating Fusion Applications, a next-generation suite designed to include the best features from its various product lines. The long-delayed software is now in what Oracle calls "controlled availability" after six years of development.

Despite the massive in-house engineering effort Oracle undertook to build Fusion Applications, the InQuira purchase suggests that some aspects of the Fusion portfolio will be filled in via acquisition.

Oracle will get a head start with InQuira, since they share many customers and InQuira's software has been integrated with Oracle's CRM On Demand software since 2009.

Inquira has also partnered with SAP and IBM. Business "will continue as usual" for InQuira partners until the deal is completed, and afterward they will benefit from increased investment in the product, Oracle said.

Oracle's move made sense to one observer.

InQuira "is one of the top knowledge management vendors in the business," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "They've been positioning for a sale to Oracle or SAP for the past 24 months."

While knowledge management is "a critical component" of CRM systems, most have "a big gap in this area," Wang added.

It might seem that a vendor such as Oracle, which already had content management and enterprise search capabilities, could build out its own knowledge management system. But the fact is that knowledge management is "a specialized niche," not only in terms of technology but the customer base, Wang said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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