CRM Analysts Jump Ship

When Doug Holden joined KPMG Consulting 10 years ago, there was no CRM. During his tenure, he helped shape the newly emerging industry as a founding member and eventually partner of the firm's original Sales Force Automation Practice.

As the industry continues to evolve and vendors shake out, highly respected analysts and consultants like Holden, the Yankee Group's Chris Selland and Forrester Research's Tom Gormley are looking for and finding new opportunities to influence the future of the industry.

For Holden, one of the most respected CRM gurus, insight has landed him in a role as president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Zamba Solutions. "I got focused on the fact that there wasn't a market-leading solutions company in the CRM space," he says. "I worked a lot with KPMG about how we could try to establish ourselves in that space, and came to the conclusion that the big 5 were not well focused to become dominant in any specific solution area, particularly CRM."

His original plan was to pull together some of the best minds in the CRM industry and build a new company. But after meeting with executives at Zamba, he came to the conclusion that joining forces was the best course of action.

Although not very well known, the company has amassed a client list of Fortune 1000 clients that includes Hertz and General Mills. Focused exclusively on the CRM space, they provide end-to-end solutions and services from strategy all the way through training and support.

As Holden attempts to establish Zamba as the market leader, expect more CRM industry leaders to leave their posts. He says the company has already put together a list of 30 people who expressed interest in joining the venture. "We expect the pipeline of people coming to Zamba over the next 30 to 45 days will be pretty significant," says Holden. However, he says it won't be KPMG people. "I'm not going to recruit people from KPMG. I've seen too many ugly situations over the years, and there are a lot of good CRM people in other organizations."

The big five consulting firms may prove easy pickings for recruitment, as they attempt to reinvent themselves and move away from the partnership model. "I think there's a lot of turmoil in the systems integration space right now, with Ernst & Young sold to Cap Gemini, PricewaterhouseCoopers announcing their intention to be sold to Hewlett-Packard, and KPMG announcing their intention to do an initial public offering," says Holden. "I think that just throws a lot of uncertainty into people's minds and causes them to look around a little more."

Many others are taking advantage of the e-business phenomenon of the last 12 to 18 months, which has attracted both consultants and analysts into new, fast-growth companies. Selland recently left the Yankee Group for a job as vice president of marketing at eSupportNow, Charlestown, Mass. Recruited by a search firm, he says he wasn't really looking to leave Yankee, but thought it was a great opportunity and decided to jump at it.

"I've always enjoyed the startup environment, and the idea of going to one that leveraged my background and interest in CRM was appealing," he says. "I thought it was a great opportunity in an emerging marketplace for CRM services, and decided to make the move."

Selland says there are plenty of ex-analysts out there in marketing roles at various CRM vendors. "It's something that's always happened over the years, as people recognize their preferences and where their talents lie."

A year ago, Gormley left Forrester Research to take a job as vice president of market planning at Natick, Mass.-based Servicesoft Technologies, which was recently acquired by Broadbase. Back then, Gormley says the market was flush with opportunities. "There was a frenzy to get people, so anybody who could talk intelligently about the space was a real find."

And who would be in a better position than an analyst to recognize a good opportunity when they see it? "Analysts are right there talking to hundreds of companies," says Gormley. "We're not only seeing a difference in products and positioning and relative success and failure, but we're meeting the top management of these companies. I don't know a better way to interview a company for potential employment than to have that kind of access."

It's also quite a coup for the vendors lucky enough to nab an analyst. "I think a lot of vendors see the appeal of having someone with a background as an analyst," says Gormley. "This person was an analyst, looking at all the vendors, and they chose to come work at this company."

As reward for their defection to the vendor ranks, ex-analysts are given a new-found opportunity to shape company direction. "Having done the research and spoken at conferences, I brought a lot of credibility. I could bring new ideas, and people would listen," says Gormley. "I sometimes wonder why more of my pals at Forrester haven't left."

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