CRM Vendors Spring Into Action

The CRM industry has caught its own case of spring fever, with three major vendors launching new releases. PeopleSoft, Onyx, and SAP are starting Q2 with updates to several existing applications, and are adding some new products.

As a prelude to the May release of PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 8.9, PeopleSoft has release three new vertical CRM applications: wealth management, higher education, and revenue management. The applications focus on front- to back-end business processes within those areas. "The larger trend is that CRM boundaries are extending, " says Steve Roop, vice president of CRM product marketing for PeopleSoft. "The front office and back office are coming together."

PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM for Wealth Management is designed to help financial institutions increase customer retention and revenue by centralizing information that gives a holistic customer view. Users can view such information as a summary of all of a client's current accounts and related opportunities, a client's relationships by category (household, business, etc.), and clients at risk. "It creates "a consistency of information financial institutions can use to keep service levels consistent across channels," says Jim Gahagan, vice president, financial services industry strategy. "The aggregate data allows them to see total customer value, including wallet share." The Wealth Management product includes four modules: PeopleSoft Client Management, PeopleSoft Sales, PeopleSoft Customer Portfolio Management, and PeopleSoft Strategic Account Planning.

Codeveloped with systems integrator Ciber, PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM for Higher Education will primarily target the more than 700 universities and colleges that PeopleSoft already has on its client roster. The product focuses on all phases of a student life cycle: recruitment, registration, retention, fundraising, and continuing education. Centralized data shows a complete picture of the student relationship, including interactions, transactions, demographics, behavior data, and correspondence. This creates a consistency of information that improves service levels and offers opportunity for real-time data analysis.

Working with SPL Worldgroup, PeopleSoft has released PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM for Revenue Management Solution, which targets four primary markets: banking and capital markets, government, insurance, and utilities. The solution integrates customer care information, and rating, billing, and collections capabilities into one system. "The holy grail is the consolidated bill," Gahagan says. This system is designed to support that option.

PeopleSoft's next major release will be PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 8.9, which will launch in May. "It's the culmination of two years of design and development," Roop says.

The next significant launch for Onyx Software is its Enterprise CRM 5.0, which includes changes to its three audience-specific applications: Onyx Employee Portal, Onyx Customer Portal and Onyx Partner Portal. The upgrades focus on workflow, email management, and user personalization. "There is passive CRM, where companies simply park their data," says Ben Kiker, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Onyx. "And there is active CRM, where users can create, execute, and manage CRM-related business processes. This is active CRM."

The workflow updates give business managers not just IT, but also the ability to create business process flows within the software in a graphical design environment, according to Kiker. It simplifies data entry, because data entered once is updated to all relevant systems; guided workflow options help users like call center agents cross- and upsell.

Changes to the email management tools "tightly couple" corporate email with Onyx, Kiker says. Relevant email is threaded together, linked to the appropriate customer, and stored where it can be accessed by anyone with authorization. The system also manages email queues, which allows users to "give timely and consistent response to email," he says.

New user-personalization tools allow individual users to customize their own desktop. They can sort data, hide fields, and preview customer data before opening entire records, among other tasks. "You have to put power in the hands of business users to make CRM relevant," Kiker says.

SAP's new boost to its CRM system comes in the form of a new version of its NetWeaver integration platform. NetWeaver is a homogenous foundation for SAP's vertical software products, CRM, supplier relationship management, and ERP products.

The integration platform comprises several back-office applications: Mobile Infrastructure, Enterprise Portal, Business Intelligence, Master Data Management, Exchange Infrastructure, Web Application Server, Composite Application Framework and Solution Manager. Until 2003 these applications were sold separately.

NetWeaver 2004 adds new functionality around the business intelligence, portal, and enterprise application integration portions of the product, according to Chris Eldredge, product director analytics for SAP Global Marketing. (In January, at its Oracle AppsWorld conference in San Diego, Oracle released its Customer Data Hub, which offers similar functionality to that of SAP's NetWeaver.)

The new features can be accessed by mySAP CRM 4.0 to provide more analytic capabilities to users. They will be able to design software agents that run in the background, analyzing data from multiple business applications. The results automatically feed back into operational processes, according to Eldredge.

The latest version of the integration platform will also provide mySAP CRM with a new high-speed search engine. That means that users will have an increased ability to more quickly segment customer data. Instead of taking an entire day or overnight to batch-process customer segmentation requests, users will gain access to that information almost instantly time, Eldredge says.

The real-time analytics extensions for mySAP CRM will be released in June, and the high-speed search engine will be available in September, company officials say.

In addition there are now more than 20 user-based roles available in mySAP CRM. These roles address the unique demands of users in various job functions across diverse industries, delivering portal access to all applications, and real-time analytics functions necessary to drive effective customer-facing business processes.

"Basically integration is critical to CRM," say Sheryl Kingstone, senior analyst with the CRM strategy group at the Yankee Group. Kingstone notes that in a recent survey of CRM customer priorities for 2004, integration was a top priority. "To finally achieve the goal of having a single view of the customer, you have to expose data from the back office, and enterprise users are not going to go away from their core budgets to buy more customer-facing software."

Kingstone says the major players are all jumping into the integration fray. "Everyone is going head-to-head, and each has its own way of solving the problem," she says. "Everyone wants to find a way to own the customer data."

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