Microsoft Teams up with Onyx to Target Enterprise Vertical
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Microsoft's recent ad campaign indicates that the company is serious about becoming the dominant player in the enterprise platform market. Part of its plan includes targeting specific vertical markets alongside application developers.

"Microsoft is going after a new strategy in terms of its partners," says Judy Andaloro Bijesse, research director, Financial Services Practice, at Boston-based AMR Research. "Before, it was many different partners, and customers were able to pick who they wanted from the different application areas and assemble a solution. Now, Microsoft is clearly focusing on specific target verticals and then forming partnerships that will serve a specific industry."

On the CRM side, the company has deepened its relationship with Bellevue, Wash.-based Onyx Software. Its new multiyear global sales, marketing and technology development initiative will focus first on financial services.

The folks at Onyx couldn't be happier, having suggested a similar plan more than a year ago. "We pitched them a plan about going deep in a few verticals, knowing that's what it was going to take to be more effective in the enterprise level," says Brent Frei, Onyx president and CEO. "Now, thankfully, it's in synch with one of Microsoft's key go-to-market strategies at the high end."

Partner Power

Onyx isn't the only partner in the CRM space, however. Microsoft has partnerships with both Pivotal and Siebel. In fact, Microsoft uses Siebel in its own operations. "I think the relationship with Onyx is important in the sense that it's being geared toward a particular vertical," says Bijesse. "But it's not an exclusive partnership by any stretch of the imagination."

The first of its joint solutions is already complete. Onyx's Investment Management Edition is an Internet-based platform running on Microsoft NT enterprise servers. It includes industry-specific workflows, best practice process maps, and key metrics to assess marketing effectiveness, sales performance and revenue forecasting. A core part of the offering is CRM strategy services from RevenueLab, a consulting firm recently acquired by Onyx. Its DecisionLab and DesignLab programs offer standalone consulting engagements designed to help financial institutions optimize their sales strategy and align it with the rest of their organization.

The two companies currently have 80 joint financial services customers. While neither company would comment on which vertical may be next, Onyx has focused on four primary areas: financial services, managed care, high-tech and telco. According to Frei, the two companies have been making joint sales calls for years. "They've been intensifying over the last 12 months, particularly with a lot of the big banking and telco deals we've been working on together."

The newly aligned Microsoft and Onyx sales forces will focus most of their effort on investment management and retail financial services worldwide. According to Frei, the dual teams have targeted 60 of the biggest brand name accounts.

Last year, Microsoft reorganized its people to move away from its geographically-based model. It currently has 700 to 1,000 people in its financial services practice. "I think this vertical push is crucial," says Bijesse. "To go after the enterprise, you really have to understand the vertical requirements. A manufacturer is very different from a financial services institution, which is different from retail. These are pretty substantial differences."

Team Selling

Obviously Microsoft has gotten the message. "Going in and making a pitch to a bank or insurance agency, we can say we have the best platform in the world," says Bill Hartnett, director of financial services for Microsoft. "They may agree with us 100 percent, but they're looking for information technology solutions that solve problems and 80 percent is the application functionality, so it's incumbent upon us to go to market together."

Onyx has also run into resistance selling its solution. "In very large organizations, Microsoft isn't always the incumbent platform," says Frei. "We needed Microsoft's help in the high-end sales to help overcome the bias against their platform. We, in turn, would overcome and win the application war."

Curiously, just last December, Onyx shipped its Unix Oracle version. However, Frei says that could help the Microsoft-Onyx relationship. "Once we get in the door and show what Onyx can do, it actually provides Microsoft the opportunity to sell into those environments as well," says Frei. "Whereas before, neither of us actually got the opportunity to even have a discussion at those accounts."

That makes one wonder how far the relationship will go. With Microsoft's recent acquisition of Great Plains software, Bijesse says she definitely wouldn't rule out an acquisition of Onyx, or even Pivotal. "It could be many different players. It kind of depends on where they take this strategy, and where it goes in the next six months," she says.

Onyx won't rule it out either. "We would certainly like to work closely with Microsoft," says Frei. "How we do that is pretty open."

People and Promotions

Synchrony Communications, provider of interaction management solutions for Fortune 1000 companies, contact centers, e-retailers and B2B net markets, has promoted Tom Hammergren from executive vice president of products and services, to chief operating officer of marketing, engineering, professional services and operations. Hammergren has worked in the software industry for 17 years. He is the author of two books, Data Warehousing: Building the Corporate Knowledge Base, and Data Warehousing on the Internet: Accessing the Corporate Knowledge Base.

iSKY, a provider of real-time, customer care management software, has appointed Doris Ehlers to senior vice president, client relations. Ehlers has worked the last 10 years at J.D. Powers and Associates where she translated market research into customer change initiatives. During the past two years she has focused on working with corporate and retail teams to ensure the customer handling processes are in place to maximize return on investment.

Support Technologies, which builds and runs enterprise-wide knowledge centers that integrate consulting, technology and contact centers, has promoted Thomas Leahey from CFO to COO. Since Leahey joined the company last July as CFO, Support Technologies has recapitalized its operations by securing a multiyear credit facility and aligning with several partners. Leahey previously worked as executive vice president of finance and treasurer of national retailer Flooring America, formerly the Maxim Group.

Partnerships & Alliances

Quaero, a developer and provider of multichannel CRM services, has partnered with DataMentors, a developer of database marketing products, to leverage DataMentor's data cleansing capabilities with Quaero's CRM solutions. Quaero will offer DataMentors' DMDataFuse software to companies when building their CRM infrastructure to ensure accuracy.

Direct and interactive service company Harte-Hanks, based in San Mateo, Calif., and San Antonio-based E.piphany, a provider of customer interaction software, plan to renew their two-year-old relationship to expand market reach. Harte-Hanks will become an ASP and reseller of E.piphany products and will also develop E.piphany-based, Harte-Hanks branded CRM solutions. E.piphany will offer Harte-Hanks' Trillium Software System as an integrated option with E.piphany's E.5 technology.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Agilera, a full-service ASP, has completed its merger with Menlo Park, Calif.-based Applicast, a vertical industry-focused ASP, in a stock-for-stock transaction. The new company will operate under the Agilera name and is a combination of ASP business, independent software vendor relationships and intellectual capital growth opportunities. Agilera hosts top-tier business software applications, including Siebel, SAP and Broadvision.

Amherst, N.H.-based Pragmatech, a provider of sales effectiveness software, has acquired Salesproductivity, a sales consultancy specializing in the creation and deployment of sales tools, processes and training. The acquisition enables Pragmatech to expand the scope of its offerings to include a wider range of sales effectiveness products and services.

New York-based online advertising network, DoubleClick, has purchased privately held Toronto-based e-mail marketing technology provider FloNetwork in a stock and cash deal. Terms of the deal, expected to close in the second quarter, were not disclosed. DoubleClick says FloNetwork will add more capabilities to its e-mail marketing business. With FloNetwork, DoubleClick says it will be able to deliver more than 550 million messages for more than 200 customers.

San Jose-based Cisco will acquire Active Voice, a Seattle-based provider of unified messaging and computer telephony software solutions. The acquisition supports Cisco's vision to deliver unified communications and a single, end-to-end IP network combining data, voice and video for the corporate enterprise. Under the terms of the agreement, Cisco will pay approximately $266 million in stock for Active Voice's Unity operation comprised of IP-based unified messaging solutions. Cisco will also pay approximately $30 million in stock for Active Voice's circuit-switched PBX voicemail solutions. Cisco says the acquisition of Active Voice's Unity operation represents a step in the advancement of Cisco's Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data.

Dublin, Calif.-based Quintus, a provider of eCRM solutions that manage customer interactions, has entered into an agreement with Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya, a provider of business communications systems, in which Avaya will acquire Quintus' assets for $30 million in cash and assume certain control of Quintus' liabilities up to an additional $30 million. Avaya will incorporate Quintus' eCRM business as a key component of its CRM solutions, such as interactive voice response (IVR), workflow management, intelligent routing and predictive dialing, while also providing product continuity for Quintus eContact customers worldwide. Quintus voluntarily filed petitions in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del. for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Quintus intends to continue business as usual through this process.

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