Onyx Names a New CEO

Onyx Software announced today that Janice Anderson has been named the company's new CEO and chairman of its board of directors. The announcement comes five months after Onyx's exiting chief executive, company cofounder Brent Frei, announced he would be stepping aside. (Frei will remain a member of the company's board of directors, according to a company statement, and will play a role in the transition.) Anderson was most recently vice president of the CRM solutions business unit at Lucent Technologies, and had been at AT&T prior to the Lucent spinoff. "After a five-month search," says Laura Preslan, a research director at AMR Research, "...Anderson's appointment as CEO is a shot in the arm." Sheryl Kingstone, CRM strategies program manager at The Yankee Group, agrees: "They've been looking for leadership for a while, [and] what they really needed was someone with operational expertise, someone who can grow the business." In one of her first public interviews following the announcement, Anderson told destinationCRM.com that her first move will likely be to have conversations with Onyx's existing customers and partners, while developing a sense of "the right set of markets and partners" Onyx should pursue going forward. As part of her plan to "change the growth trajectory" of the company, Anderson says she'll examine two areas: "Where's the growth in the market," and "How are we set up...to execute?" The new CEO's key challenge is that Onyx continues to face an increasingly competitive landscape. According to Kingstone, the eventual impact from Microsoft's CRM offering is still to come, other start-ups are nibbling at Onyx's heels, and Siebel Systems and others have entered the midmarket, further complicating Onyx's future. "They're getting squeezed from both sides," she says. "Competition from Microsoft CRM is a major concern," Preslan says. Onyx "must continue to hammer its industry verticalization message as a key point of differentiation vis-a-vis Microsoft," she says. Anderson acknowledged Onyx's existing depth in the government, healthcare, and financial services sectors, but declined to name any specific markets the company plans to target in the future. Kingstone says the company's attention should center on its core competency. "Their technology is very strong--they just have to make that more well-known," she says. Onyx remains "a small independent player," Kingstone says. "They've turned their financials around, but they still have a long way to go." For one thing, she says, "the viability question is still out there," referring to skittishness among some prospects regarding Onyx's future as a going concern. Anderson rebuts any notion that the company's financials are unsteady. "I conducted my due diligence in that regard" before taking the post, she says, noting that an accounting background makes her "financially literate." She also says that "the company's been EBITDA profitable for a number of quarters," and that her role will be to continue to improve the trajectory. (In the quarter ended March 31, the company reported an operating loss of $413,000, on revenue of $14.2 million. Anderson attributes the loss in part to costs related to excess facilities.) Kingstone says that Anderson will have a lot on her plate. For example, Kingstone says, "How are you going to compete against Salesforce.com and the 'lower [TCO] argument?" To answer that question, she says, the company "needs someone who understands their role for execution." Anderson says her experience will be a factor in pursuit of that goal, saying she'll build on her "background in combining strategic and operational [expertise] in order to execute." Shares in Onyx Software, which briefly moved higher on the news of Anderson's appointment, drifted back to even on lower-than-average volume by midday. Related Articles: Onyx Eyes Profitability and Looks for a New CEO http://www.destinationcrm.com/articles/default.asp?ArticleID=3760 Onyx Buys Into Business Process Management http://www.destinationcrm.com/articles/default.asp?ArticleID=4002
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