Kana and IBM Team Up for New Customer Experience Solutions
Mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships helped shape the CRM market last year, and so far 2008 seems to be no different. Keeping with this theme, Kana and IBM have agreed to expand their current global strategic alliance in order to bring to market a customer service solution based on a collaborative services-oriented architecture (SOA), using open technologies from both companies.
Marchai Bruchey, chief marketing officer at Kana, attributes the expanded partnership to an evolution in the customer service field: Solutions now need to bring all the different channels -- including phone, email, chat, Web, and kiosks -- together, leveraging SOA technology. "This partnership with IBM is about seven years in the making," Bruchey explains, citing the initial agreement with IBM in 2000. "[Kana and IBM] initially started the partnership around sharing technology and over the years [the partnership with IBM] helped us in [the] go-to-market world. So when we started working with customer service technology and moved toward SOA, we started talking more deeply with IBM about the technology they could bring to bear to help us accelerate and get to market faster."
Jay Ennesser, IBM's vice president of cross-industry alliances, says Kana's SOA adoption and similar client verticals also led to this renewed partnership. "When you look at where Kana has aligned in both financial industries, and telco industries, they're in all the same big accounts that we very much focus on," he says. "With SOA adoption and the continued embedding of our technologies, [the partnership] seems to make sense for us as we move forward."
Judith Hurwitz, president of Massachusetts-based research and consulting firm Hurwitz & Associates, believes this is a good move for both companies. "I think it's very interesting from a synergy perspective," she says. "[Kana is] using IBM's middleware infrastructure as part of their own platform which clearly benefits IBM because they now have another company that is really leveraging their software assets. It gives Kana a strong go-to-market partner [and] it really allows Kana to then take advantage of the IBM sales force, go-to-market force, and take advantage of other partners in the IBM partner ecosystem."
A customer solution both companies plan on collaborating upon includes a new Service Experience Management (SEM) solution, which according to Kana, will enable companies to drive customer loyalty and retention by creating a seamless integration across all channels. The solution will be built upon IBM's SOA Foundation and DB2, along with Kana's customer service capabilities. The hope is that the solution will give customer service executives better control over the entire service experience. Bruchey says the two companies will have a significant competitive advantage when the SEM solution comes out in approximately 12 to 15 months. "It's going to allow us...to get to market faster, to respond to this need for integration across channels through multichannel suite to a new level," she says. "Time-to-market is huge."
While the broad-range SEM solution won't hit the market for at least a year, Ennesser says the two companies in the meantime will focus on delivering to specific verticals. "The nice part with SOA adoption is that you can start to piecemeal applications together sooner rather than later, and bring the value of SEM closer to customers and executives who need those kinds of business processes while other back-end technology is being created for the joint SEM."
The two companies also signed a new original equipment management agreement in a move to try and pool their resources and grab a larger share of the customer service and support market. According to Kana, the company will embed IBM middleware, including WebSphere and DB2, in its next-generation enterprise customer service solutions. With IBM's SOA and "Information on Demand" capabilities, Kana's clients now have the opportunity to share data across multiple applications and across various channels, including contact center, Web, email, chat, kiosk, agent, and branch -- an area Bruchey claims has been underserved. "[The various customer service] channels springing up are siloed across organizations," she explains. "Having a solution that takes advantage of SOA architecture allows for much more seamless integration than we see today."
Hurwitz suggests keeping an eye on more partnerships such as these in the immediate future, as more customers look for software from big-name vendors that will take the stress out of integrating various technologies. "I think one thing that is increasingly clear is that when customers are using very strategic software that runs the business, they don't want to have to knit it together themselves," she explains. "They want to know that there's one major player behind what they're doing. [Customers] will look at an emerging or good-sized company and say either, 'Who's behind you?' or look for some sort of that integrated [technology] stack. That's becoming more and more important to customers -- deal[ing] with someone who has clout in the market."
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