No earth-shattering changes occurred in the latest Forrester Research Wave for Customer Hubs, according to analyst and report author Ray Wang. However, Forrester notes that the market remains in the early-adoption stage for full-blown customer hub solutions. Wang defines the goal of the customer hub segment's goal in that it "operationalizes the acquisition, distribution, and management of customer information for the use in other systems." Wang notes that the market is broadening and organizations -- especially those with high-volume B2C data -- will find that vendors have solutions geared for a company's every need.
"The good news: Solutions have matured and work well in heterogeneous environments," Wang writes. "The down side: Enterprises remain challenged with defining data governance and data quality policies while optimizing systems for an information supply chain." Forrester bases its evaluation upon a product's current offering, its market presence, and the strategy of the vendor producing it. Additionally, the research firm requires that customer hub vendors provide 20 customer references of live deployments. Wang points out that while some solutions are being implemented, a significant number of customer hub purchases remain on the shelf -- either not yet deployed or remaining stagnant as part of a broader product suite.
Wang's report shows Initiate Systems and Siperian leading the vendor pack. "In a virtual dead heat, both best-of-breed vendors widen the gap among their closest competitors by offering improved data stewardship capabilities, richer hierarchy management, stronger industry support, and greater support for third-party tools," he writes. Wang refers to Siperian as "the smartest kid on the block," praising the vendor's expertise in data acquisition, data cleansing, relationship and hierarchy management, event management, reference data management, data stewardship, and architecture. As for Initiate, Wang says that the vendor has delivered the most significant research-and-development gains in the past 18 months and also has the largest number of productive live customers.
IBM, Dun & Bradstreet's Purisma, and Oracle Siebel UCM follow close behind in the Leader zone. Wang notes that IBM's dot on the board has gotten bigger, saying that customer data is a clear strength for the company. Wang also writes that D&B's recent acquisition of Purisma has helped the organization to bridge gaps in its offerings and go to market with a strong, global B2B solution. Additionally, he points out that Purisma scored in the top rankings for satisfaction in the reference surveys.
Wang says there are a lot of alternatives for companies to sort through in the customer hub market: Just behind the leaders on the Wave report are Sun Microsystems with its open-source master data management options, Oracle CDH, Scotland-based VisionWare, SAS Institute's DataFlux, and SAP. "Customer hubs make sure CRM is successful and that's why it is so important to evaluate the [technologies] underlying the CRM processes," he explains. " 'Is the data helping me understand how to cross-sell and upsell? And how do we target our customers?' " He goes on to say that CDI vendors seem to have thought through every customer scenario an organization might face. "At this point in the market I think the technology is ahead of the customer," Wang says.
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