Azerity's Big Challenge

Silicon Valley-based Azerity packed the latest version of its flagship ProChannel CRM and PRM software suite with more than a thousand enhancements. The most prominent additions include business analytics, mobile support and inventory services. ProChannel 5, a solution tailored toward high-tech firms of all sizes, boasts a whopping 26 modules that address everything from product catalogs, point-of-sale, contracts, debit management, commissions and inventory. The high-tech sector is ideal for ProChannel because makers of technology products often use a combination of direct sales and channel relationships to get products to market, hence a need for a joint CRM and PRM solution. The key upgrade to ProChannel 5 is its business analytics based on technology from Azerity partner SPSS. "Analytics takes our product to the senior level of an organization, at a time when they're desperately trying to understand what's going on in the business," says Stephen Gould, president and CEO of Azerity. ProChannel 5 is available today; most customers buy half-a-dozen modules, spending nearly $500,000. So far, Azerity customers are pouring praise on the company's latest efforts. "ProChannel 5 lets us extend the benefits of accurate and efficient sales transactions to users across the entire internal and external sales organizations," said Dave Horton, director of e-business for Cypress Semiconductor, in a statement. "Mobile users, channel partners, internal sales and executives are able to work seamlessly together to generate more business and increased profitability." Even Karen Smith, analyst at Aberdeen Group, is bullish on Azerity, claiming the company has done a good job at picking up market share in the high-tech sector by focusing its products, with laser-like precision, on the vertical. Of course, this strategy also has its drawbacks. Folks outside the high-tech industry haven't heard of Azerity, which can hurt the vendor down the road, she says. The four-year-old, 120-employee firm jumped on CRM and high-tech at a bad time. By most accounts, the industry was hit as hard as any in the economic slide. Smith says Azerity faces big challenges in extending its product to more stable markets such as chemical, petrochemical and biotechnology, largely because Azerity understands that it must re-architect products for every new vertical rather than just giving them a face lift. On the upside, Azerity has a sound strategy of targeting mid-market customers -- the fastest growing CRM space. "Azerity isn't offering less functionality, instead just putting a cap on the number of users," Smith says. "Mid-market companies still need all of this functionality. It's a great approach to the mid-market." Gould admits his company's biggest challenge is serving a high-tech market that's been hit especially hard. But he says that technology companies are hoping CRM and PRM software can solve the problems created by massive layoffs. "Organizations are faced with managing a business in diverse conditions, and IT offers the promise of fulfilling the gaps from the attrition that occurred," Gould says, adding, "And this is most definitely showing up on our top line. We're growing." (Azerity is a privately-held company.) As Azerity's ProChannel 5 grows in breadth and depth, as well as the number of market segments, Smith points to yet another challenge -- namely, a swath of modules. ProChannel 5 contains very specific modules, such as stock rotation, returns and price protection, which may overwhelm some people. "They have a product roadmap, but there's so many things on it," Smith says. "They have to make sure that they make it easy for people to buy them." Tom Kaneshige also writes for
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