Customer Hubs Get Hot

Customer data is the gas on which CRM systems run, but keeping this data clean, accessible, and maintained remains one of the most prevalent problems for enterprises today. While many companies attempt to manage customer data through the use of data warehouses, business intelligence applications, or CRM systems alone, Forrester Research asserts that customer data hubs represent a valuable and potentially integral piece of this solution. However, due to the vastly different approaches taken by different hub vendors, customer companies often have difficulty wading through the various solutions. The new report, "The Forrester Wave: Customer Hubs, Q4 2006," provides an analysis of various vendors to help clarify this space. The report finds IBM WebSphere CustomerCenter and Siperian's Hub to be the leading solutions; however, Forrester recommends that companies will do well to invest a solution that best addresses their particular problems and goals.

Ray Wang, principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report, says, "Where customer data integration really used to be an infrastructure play, it's now about a utilization player or making that information more useful for customers or customer applications, so the question is: how do you make it more intelligent for your CRM system?" Forrester sees customer hubs as falling under four different categories of approach: information managers, CRM and enterprise solutions, business intelligence or action frameworks, and trusted data sources.

To rate the various vendors, Forrester evaluated their solutions based on market presence, strategy and current offerings. The report found IBM, Siperian, Initiate, and Oracle-Siebel to be the vendors offering the best balance of customer hub capabilities. IBM's WebSphere Customer Center and Siperian's Hub were found to be the top performers due to best-in-class capabilities and a balanced reference approach. Initiate Systems also garnered leader status for its B2B support, rich data cleansing, and clear strategy. Oracle-Siebel also got high marks for its strong architecture, although Forrester reports that Oracle-Siebel's solutions are best suited to companies in service industries who operate globally. VisionWare, Purisma, Oracle, SAP, and Dun & Bradstreet followed as potentially good choices for enterprises to adopt from.

According to Forrester, because the customer hub space is so rapidly developing, "there is no one bet that is riskier than another at this time." Companies looking to implement customer hub technology should consider their companies' individual strategies and issues to find the fit that is appropriate for their business. Wang advises, "Just because someone is the leader may not necessarily mean they're the best solution for one company. It's really important to take some of the analysis that we've done and just apply those to their situations."

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