Onyx Unveils Enterprise CRM 4.0

Unwinding at a cafe in Palo Alto, Calif., after a long sales tour, Onyx CEO Brent Frei couldn't stop talking about his software's strong technical foundation. Three weeks later, Onyx unveiled today its Internet-based Enterprise CRM 4.0 suite, developed specifically to run on a Web services-enabled platform. Onyx claims Enterprise CRM 4.0 can get up-and-running at a fraction of the time and cost of competitors' offerings. Flexibility is the mantra of the moment, and the software is tuned to let channel partners configure applications to meet specific business needs. Moreover, Onyx's CRM software is stripped of many bells and whistles so that initial implementation is a snap. "We make sure our customers have the features, functionality and underlying technology they need to effectively deploy CRM technology without incurring the burden and cost associated with competing, overly complex solutions," said Frei, in a statement. "Onyx Enterprise CRM 4.0 was built with usability, cost-effectiveness and real business value in mind." Seattle-based Onyx touts more than 200 customers, including Eschelon Telecom, Rainbow Technologies and Major League baseball's Seattle Mariners. The most important part about Enterprise CRM 4.0 is its Web-services platform. This means all functionality within the application suite act as a Web service and can be exposed to other enterprise applications and even legacy systems, claims Onyx. Data that's being sent and received is formatted as XML. The web-services platform approach is a key differentiator for Onyx, says Jeff Comport, vice president and research fellow at Gartner. While Onyx admits Web services appeals to only a handful of forward-thinking customers today, Comport says, "Web services is going to build the foundation for a lot of future services... and 4.0 brings forward to the Web platform the balance of the functionality from the historical client-server product." Another upgrade concerns support for Oracle's widely used database. Onyx built a mini-engine directly into the software, called Onyx SQL Generator, that translates XML into vendor-specific SQL code. By supporting Oracle database, Onyx claims to have greatly expanded its market opportunity, especially in areas of financial services, healthcare and high-tech. In addition to the Oracle database, Enterprise CRM 4.0 supports Microsoft SQL server. What's missing, of course, is support for IBM DB2. "We do intend to port to DB2 at some point in the future, although we've not set any specific dates to do so," says Bill Bunker, vice president of marketing at Onyx. Gartner's Comport though, isn't worried about the lack of support of DB2; he's just happy Onyx delivered on Oracle database support. "It's been delayed, so we're pleased to see it finally ship," Comport says, adding, "DB2 support is not as big of a concern in the mid-market, where Onyx is targeted." Lastly, Enterprise CRM 4.0 broadened its functionality with more than 100 tweaks, although Bunker maintains the suite isn't weighted down. Specifically, the suite offers new modules for product and service quality management; document tracking; navigation enhancements; improved search capabilities; and a streamlined view of customer information. Even with the added functionality, the Seattle Mariners were able to upgrade to Enterprise CRM 4.0 in less than four weeks, Onyx claims. In fact, Onyx made today's announcement at a Seattle Mariners' baseball game. A primetime customer, the Seattle Mariners have been reaping returns with Onyx CRM since implementing the product during the 2001 offseason. Last year, star player Ichiro Suzuki's bobble-head dolls flew off the shelves as the Seattle Mariners racked up wins. Riding a grand season, the Seattle Mariners saw this year's season ticket sales spike from 19,740 to 23,608 -- the most in team history. Imagine the customer service headaches, not to mention marketing and sales opportunities, that go along with a cadre of fickle fans responding to sudden success on the baseball diamond. The Seattle Mariners needed a technical solution -- and fast. That's why it brought in Onyx software to manage six revenue streams across multiple departments, spanning sales and marketing to customer service and community relations. "Our fans are the lifeblood of our business," said Chuck Armstrong, president of the Seattle Mariners, in a statement, adding, "Our implementation of Onyx came at a time of huge increases in our season ticket and fan base. The Onyx system has helped us handle that growth and ensure that we're taking good care of our customers." Tom Kaneshige also writes for Line56.com
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