CRM Scores Big During Tech Turmoil

Most of the doubting Thomases throwing stones at the CRM industry should have been silenced during the past few weeks as industry leaders including Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft and Pivotal beat Wall street expectations and more enterprises embraced CRM solutions. In addition, Baan came out of nowhere and unveiled a significant CRM offering showing the world that the company with deep and sometimes troubled ERP roots is not down for the count. Despite the hard times many ERP vendors have come upon, the enterprise technology was one of the hottest areas in high tech a few years back and is still a significant part any large company's technology infrastructure. Baan was a major player with name brand cache and its entrance into the CRM applications market is a shot in the arm for the industry as a whole and should not be taken likely. In addition to Baan, a little company called Arcidea announced its official entrance into the CRM arena. The privately held concern's CRM suite includes basic applications for sales force automation, customer service, marketing management, and e-commerce. Out of the gate, Arcidea will focus on five vertical markets--manufacturing, medical supply, energy, financial services, and transportation. Arcidea's and Baan's interest in CRM is legitimate. They are looking to take a part of one the most dynamic and critical area of technology growth going forward. The proof is in the numbers. At a time when most high technology firms are flying under the radar and going through the toughest sales cycle in the industry's history, Siebel, PeopleSoft and Pivotal released encouraging financial statements that exceeded projections. More importantly, however, were the customer wins each vendor touted proving CRM technology is still being embraced by large companies looking for better customer satisfaction and greater efficiency. Just to name a few, Siebel recently signed BMW Financial Services, Credit Suisse First Boston, Kyocera Wireless Corp., and most recently, CountryWide Credit. During a conference call with analysts after its quarterly results, Pivotal President and CEO Bo Manning said he is pleased with the strides the company has made in signing new customers and reducing Pivotal's cost structure. Pivotal signed 70 new customers in quarter including Mircrosoft Corp., Pfizer Health Solutions, Sapient Corp. and others. Plus 86 percent of Pivatol's existing customers made repeat purchases during the period. For its part, PeopleSoft won significant deals in its December quarter including American International Group (AIG), American Red Cross, Bausch & Lomb, Blue Cross of California, Borders Group, Carrefour S.A., Citigroup, British Telecom, Duke Energy, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Lufthansa, Mitsubishi Motors, Nike, Nippon Paper, Quest Diagnostics, Royal Bank of Canada, Sears Canada, Sprint, state of Oklahoma, Sun Microsystems, United Parcel Service, and Verizon Wireless. My bet is as we see implementations getting cheaper and quicker, and companies spending more time during the evaluation phase, more enterprises will realize the value of CRM. We will also see more companies getting into the game, driving competition and better customer service.
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