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Vendors focus on simplifying CRM

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Life may not be easy, but customer relationship management should be. At least that’s the contention of CRM software marketers. This quarter, vendors such as Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft and SAP rolled out new products that focus on simplifying business processes. In addition, Siebel cemented its commitment to the hosted CRM market with its acquisition of UpShot, a hosted CRM provider.

The announcements come on the heels of a welcome statistic: CRM spending is up, according to industry analysts. As a result, CRM vendors are providing new industry- and department-specific products.

"We see CRM spending rebounding from what had been a multiyear slump," said Elizabeth Roche, VP-enterprise applications strategies for research firm META Group. "Even though the days of $100 million spending all at once are over, we’re seeing people investing tactically, and that’s pushing vendors to introduce new offerings."

Siebel’s new strategy

Siebel announced its acquisition soon after it stated a new product strategy that includes Siebel CRM OnDemand, an offering that combines both hosted and on-premises delivery models. This product is designed to allow the company to cater to a wider range of customers and grow with those customers as they mature. At the same time, Siebel promoted Siebel 7.7, the newest version of its enterprise CRM suite, which is expected to ship next spring. It will include customer loyalty management and two-way wireless support.

Also in October, the company made another acquisition designed to expand its industry-specific offerings. Siebel acquired Motiva, a software publisher that designs employee compensation tracking software, for $3 million. The UpShot purchase cost Siebel $70 million.

The most visible by-product of these acquisitions will be Siebel CRM OnDemand, which is expected to be launched by yearend. Initially, Siebel will support the Motiva and UpShot products separately, but company officials said in a statement that they would eventually merge the two.

Competitor Salesforce.com wasted no time announcing its own migration path for current UpShot customers. The program includes data transfer and free training.

The news is significant because a new report released by research firm Aberdeen Group found that 85% of respondents said they would evaluate a hosted product when looking for a new CRM installation. Other analysts agree that hosted products will become more important, especially for those companies that aren’t already entrenched with their own hosted offerings.

PeopleSoft has also boosted its CRM offerings, concentrating on integration and analytics. The company in September announced six new CRM Process Integration packs, programs that help users integrate PeopleSoft CRM with Oracle and SAP back-office systems.

In addition, more than a dozen new features were released for the product, including a customer preference tracking option that will help companies comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s do-not-call legislation. Also, PeopleSoft recently unveiled PeopleSoft Predictive Analytics, designed for use with PeopleSoft CRM.

SAP adds analytics

SAP also made an analytics announcement this quarter.

The company introduced new analytics capabilities for its mySAP CRM program. Enhancements include a real-time analytics option, planning scenarios, marketing optimization and customer lifetime value modules.

META Group’s Roche said users should expect to see more new offerings in the fourth quarter and beyond.

"Vendors know that they need to provide increased choice but also knit everything they have together. There are plenty of organizations that can’t afford or don’t need an enterprise CRM product," Roche said. "CRM vendors realize that this is a missed market, and they’re providing a growth path for the future."

They’re also realizing that without analytics, growth is uncertain, she said. "Vendors have been good about delivering operational CRM, but analytics is part of the solution they need to get a panoramic view of the customer. When everything comes together, the user and its customer benefit."

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