SAP has set its sights on ramping up its efforts to court the contact center: The business apps behemoth revealed at SAPPHIRE '07 Vienna, its international customer conference, that it picked up Wicom Communications, a privately held provider of IP-contact center and enterprise communications software for an undisclosed amount. The deal, completed on May 7, will allow SAP to arm organizations with the ability to better integrate communications technologies and business systems so that they can more effectively serve their customers, according to the company. The transaction is also expected to help customers streamline the integration of disparate hardware and software components while allowing them to centrally manage and report dispersed resources and processes. Integration planning is under way, also according to SAP.
The Wicom grab signals SAP's interest in bulking up its portfolio in part via M&A activity. At the customer conference the company also announced its intent to acquire MaXware, a privately held provider of identity management software. Just last week SAP announced that its plans to scoop up privately held corporate performance management specialist OutlookSoft.
Wicom, which has more than 200 companies in 18 countries on its client roster, provides inbound and outbound contact center capabilities. Wicom's current solution can be implemented leveraging hosted, on-premise, or hybrid deployment models, and can integrate with SAP CRM and SAP's existing contact center application, SAP Interaction Center.
"The market is moving to a more communications-intensive enablement of business processes, and SAP's acquisition positions us to leverage our leadership in CRM, and our unique understanding of business process to help customers benefit from the transition," said Bob Stutz, senior vice president and general manager of SAP CRM strategy and product, in a statement. "With the addition of Wicom Communications, SAP will offer game-changing communication-enabled business processes to organizations to help improve the customer experience, streamline operations, and lower TCO. At the same, our powerful ecosystem provides customers with the best possible range of choices and options for the deployment and execution of CRM and communications technologies."
While the deal is smart move, it's not a very surprising one, according to Mona Sultan, an analyst on Datamonitor's customer interaction technologies team. "Oracle purchased Telephony@Work last year, so we've already started to see very large CRM companies thinking about purchasing contact center companies," she says. SAP's acquisition is a "very good deal" for both companies, she says, and "it's something that we're going to see occur more and more whereby CRM vendors really strengthen their links with the contact center industry."
Although Wicom has a footprint in other areas like Germany, it is concentrated mainly on Eastern Europe, according to Sultan. So, the only drawback she sees is whether or not Wicom has the capacity to think outside of that region. Overall, though, "with this type of move, whereby the contact center [company] is purchased by a CRM company or even vice versa in some cases, you are able to follow through with the customer's problem, you're able to ensure that any queries are resolved much, much easier," Sultan says. "You've got that environment by which the contact center and the CRM platform are unified."
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