Social media continues to penetrate the enterprise -- and now, it's making its way into the back office with a joint announcement from on-demand business software solutions provider NetSuite and sales intelligence vendor InsideView. The new InsideView for NetSuite solution is not only the first social intelligence application built natively on NetSuite's SuiteCloud development platform, but also marks InsideView's debut as NetSuite's first premier partner, indicating the two vendors' joint delivery of this go-to-market solution.
On SuiteCloud, InsideView is able to extend its capabilities across the entire suite of applications -- including enterprise resource planning (ERP), CRM, e-commerce, and back-office financial systems, which have typically been ignored in the social media discussion.
"Social media is certainly the buzzword these days, but no one's really quite sure how to apply it or make it applicable to businesses," says Mini Peiris, senior product manager at NetSuite. "[Businesses] don't have the wherewithal to monitor what people are saying about them." This solution, she says, is designed to bring businesses one step closer to actually making something of this social craze.
InsideView for NetSuite automatically aggregates social media mentions and connections by crawling through a variety of subscription- and nonsubscription-based sources including:
- Capital IQ (a Standard & Poor's company);
- Thomson Reuters; and
The application then notifies users of its findings through an integrated alerting system.
Though both companies say the release offers advantages to the sales and marketing departments, the real focus is on the opportunities for back-office applications such as billing, procurement, and recruitment. Nevertheless, Christopher Fletcher, research director at AMR Research, still sees this solution as more beneficial to the CRM side of the business. Customer databases provided by vendors such as Thomson Reuters are "kind of old," Fletcher says, a characterization he applies to any data older than 90 days. InsideView is enabling organizations to monitor -- and update in near-real-time -- activities such as position changes, company changes, and title updates. "We're seeing a lot of increase in social networking in CRM," Fletcher says. "A lot of it is damage control…but now companies are looking to be proactive."
Umberto Milletti, founder and chief executive officer of InsideView -- which was named one of CRM's 2009 Rising Stars in September as part of the 2009 CRM Market Awards -- points to the use of social media channels such as Twitter to monitor the health of client companies and determine the status of accounts receivables. Rumors that a particular company might be having financial difficulties are important, he says: Collections and finance agents need to jump on that knowledge and ensure that any outstanding payments are made. Obtaining this information as it's happening is particularly difficult for people in departments such as accounting, Milletti adds -- they're unlikely to be active users in the first place, he notes, and they rarely have time to scour all the possible venues.
Many existing or past professional relationships may not be realized without the help of social media profiles such as those found on LinkedIn, Milletti says. Mining those relationships will generate new and expanded opportunities to close business deals. "A lot of it is about being more efficient in finding information," he says, "to discover things that would not [otherwise] be visible to you."
As Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM consulting firm Beagle Research Group, sees it, the new offering helps companies acknowledge that there are other channels of information flow between the customer and the vendor. "Everybody needs to be more aggressive with inbound data collection using social media," Pombriant says. A company that disregards customer input by only adopting social media for outbound content (i.e., blogging, twittering) "is basically playing with one arm tied behind [its] back."
NetSuite executives say that the most efficient way to develop this kind of integrated offering was to enlist the help of a partner. "We wouldn't have been able to get to market as effectively doing [what InsideView does] ourselves," Peiris says. "Certainly we cannot add the amount of depth InsideView has been able to build...in this time frame [and] it's not something we're looking to do now."
According to Milletti, InsideView's own benefits in the partnership are threefold:
- As the first premier partner, Milletti says InsideView was able to get a deeper level of attention from NetSuite than the standard experiences the company's had on the AppExchange marketplace operated by NetSuite competitor Salesforce.com. As a result, this partnership became far more strategic: Working closely with NetSuite product mangers, InsideView developed the concept of social ERP and the initiative to bring social intelligence to the back-end users, he says.
- NetSuite makes a point of selectively mapping out its partnerships, evaluating key players under consideration, as opposed to partnering with any vendor in the market. With 2,200 partners in its SuiteCloud Ecosystem and 115 applications available on SuiteApp.com, Peiris plays the quality-over-quantity card in her comparison of NetSuite to Salesforce.com: "We build a solution map. We target key players that we want to give to our customer base," Peiris says. "We've taken a more-targeted approach."
- The fact that all of NetSuite's solutions -- including those beyond CRM -- reside on a single platform gives InsideView access to all manner of potential customers, not merely the ones using CRM. "The platform is end-to-end. The team is end-to-end," Milletti says. "It's one relationship we're able to expand."
Milletti says that the new relationship with NetSuite does not infringe upon existing relationships with other vendors, including the one with Salesforce.com.
Analysts agree that InsideView's partnerships seem to target different market segments and offer different solutions. "NetSuite is more of a back-office, ERP applications vendor," Fletcher notes, adding that its CRM solution is rarely bought as a standalone and typically used to support ERP applications. And yet InsideView itself also competes with contact services such as Thomson Reuters, he says, and any of these services may try to develop a solution or find a partner of its own to utilize this social capability to enhance its own contact base.
The customers in the NetSuite/InsideView partnership are jointly owned, according to the two companies. NetSuite customers sign up with InsideView for the new functionality and support is solution-specific (i.e., support for InsideView's functionality will be handled by InsideView). Each new customer coming to InsideView will be referred to the appropriate CRM or ERP application provider based on individual requirements.
InsideView for NetSuite is available to all NetSuite customers as part of their standard implementations. As NetSuite users get up and running, InsideView will also be giving them access to its enterprise-level, higher-capability application SalesView Pro for the first 30 days. "Working with NetSuite is really a strategic relationship," Milletti says, in the sense that normally customers would have to discover the application on their own out of the clutter of partner applications. In this case, InsideView has the opportunity to feature a Webinar to the entire NetSuite installed base -- educating them as soon as they log into the NetSuite homepage.
Whether in partnership, competition, or "coopetition," vendor arrangements are developing on one common ground, Milletti says. "Everyone understands that bringing social media to users is really critical," he says. "Making [users] productive is really critical, analyzing it for them is really critical, and going beyond traditional old data that's been around for a million years is really critical."
News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.