Onyx Buys Into Business Process Management

Onyx Software announced that it has acquired business process management (BPM) technology from software developer Visuale for $4.0 million in cash, stock, and guaranteed future royalty payments. BPM has become a hotbed, often deployed to establish a rules-based operational structure to an organization. As part of its announcement, Onyx outlined plans to incorporate Visuale's technology -- which has been marketed under the name Visual Enterprise -- into its main product suite, Onyx CRM. Onyx's goal is to allow business users to create and modify business processes and rules using graphical workflow design tools. The intended effect is to reduce the need for--and cost of--IT support. At its core, the goal of BPM is "to automate your business processes to make them easier to change," says Ben Kiker, Onyx's chief marketing officer and the senior vice president of embedded CRM. "I can't think of a better area to apply them to then CRM." Kiker also says that price has been been a major obstacle in organizations' efforts to establish rule-based activities. "Businesses need a more cost-effective way to model those business processes." However, some experts say BPM is more useful in some disciplines than others. "There are certain areas where business process management is valuable," says Chris Selland, vice president of sell-side research at Aberdeen Group. Call center support and overall customer support, for example, rely heavily on it, Selland says, whereas the sales side doesn't nearly as much. "There are areas of the business where the ability to manage structured processes is important," Selland says. Kiker claims the purchase may put Onyx in a class by itself. "We're convinced that...it's going to give us a competitive edge--figuring out a way how to truly model your business processes within CRM." Selland disagrees. "It's good functionality to add -- and they got it relatively inexpensively," he says. "But they haven't leapfrogged the competition." Onyx, Selland says, "still has a ways to go to be on par with the major call center vendors. Onyx doesn't really have depth in telephony -- and this still doesn't necessarily give them a full-fledged call center application." Just a few weeks ago, Onyx announced workflow-related improvements to version 5.0 of its Onyx CRM suite. "What we said at the end of March," Kiker says, "is that we were starting to help make CRM better around molding these business processes. What we developed in 5.0 helps to automate user-centric business processes...and helps non-programmers set those processes up." But, Kiker admits, the processes that 5.0 was capable of handling were the less complicated ones. Once embedded into the CRM suite, he says, the Visuale technology will enable Onyx's software to handle "more complicated business processes, the one that are more time-intensive." Kiker sees the acquisition as a means to shift the primary point of contact within an organization, with "power users replacing programmers," because "the toolset is a graphical environment." That simplified interface will drive down costs, he says. "This will decrease the implementation costs of deploying Onyx. At least half of the cost of implementation is around configuration of business rules -- making the product behave in a way that conforms to [them]. This will speed that process up by about a third, [and]...will allow those customers who are IT-constrained to implement faster." Kiker says the first Onyx CRM product embedded with Visuale technology will be rolled out by the end of the calendar year.
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