Comergent Tackles Transactions, Integration

Though its headquarters may be nestled in the bedroom community of Redwood City, Comergent Technologies' message is all-business. Today, the company announced that it's shipping Release 6 of its flagship Comergent E-Business System, a Web services-based partner relationship management (PRM) and sell-side software suite. Release 6 touts many new features, including a customer-partner portal, interactive-parts catalogs, offline catalogs, shipment tracking, partner storefronts and price-negotiation capabilities. But the most impressive upgrade is on the integration and deployment front. The company claims Release 6 supports more than 300 application programming interfaces (APIs), as well as a souped-up developers' workbench that reduces software modifications by as much as 70 percent. Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) remains the technology's key selling point. A Release 6 license costs roughly the same as a license from Siebel or SAP. But Comergent claims that the cost ratio of software to services for its software is one-to-one, whereas the cost of services for getting rival software up-and-running can be five times as much as the software license. Low TCO is possible, says Comergent, because its software was built from the ground up on Web services standards. Comergent has endured its share of layoffs and swings in strategic direction. For instance, two years ago Comergent decided to beef up its PRM product offering to handle transactions -- a move that ultimately saved the company, industry watchers say. By building order management, quoting, inventory availability, post-sales management and other transaction-centric tools into its portfolio, Comergent avoided the fates of pure-play content management and PRM software vendors such as Partnerware, which shuttered its doors last week. Analysts singled out Comergent as a bright spot in the otherwise gloomy tech landscape. "Comergent is raising the bar of competitiveness and starting to look like a real enterprise player," says Louis Columbus, senior analyst of sell-side e-commerce at AMR Research. "The holy grail is being able to handle transactions... and Comergent has shown some definite vision here." Last month, Kim Underwood, analyst at Gartner Research, said: "Comergent offers a compelling architecture, which supports many-to-many relationships, and a demand network modeling that emphasizes its commitment to support a distributed e-commerce environment." Columbus claims Comergent is winning customers, thanks in large part to some impressive and consistent engineering feats. Privately held Comergent posted annual sales last month of more than 300 percent growth from the year prior, says CTO Bill York. Blue chip customers include Cisco Systems, Goodyear and DuPont. "We have satisfied, installed customers because the have been able to deploy easily and quickly with lower services costs," York says. But Comergent isn't out of the woods yet. On the heels of the Partnerware news, York and others at Comergent's Silicon Valley headquarters downplayed their company's role in PRM. "It's just one piece that we offer," says Tom Mescall, senior vice president of marketing and product strategy. "We're all about the transaction." Indeed, Comergent is in a market-positioning pinch of sorts, adds Columbus. Despite being a viable company, says Columbus, Comergent's big challenge is proving to the buying community that it'll be around down the road. On the other hand, Siebel, SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft and others are touting their size and stability over smaller rivals. "As publicly held PRM vendors struggle, the whole market segment becomes suspect in users' minds," Columbus says. Tom Kaneshige also writes for Line56.com
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