• April 9, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

PRM Rides the CRM Tide

Partner relationship management (PRM) is a crucial technology for any business that has indirect sales channels, and a number of software vendors have risen to the challenge of helping companies coordinate with their allies. According to "The Forrester Wave: Partner Relationship Management Tools, Q2 2007," the two strongest swimmers are Oracle and SAP, far outpacing the market for on-premise PRM software in terms of strategy, current offering, and market presence. "Oracle's Siebel CRM and SAP's mySAP CRM are the most complete PRM solutions," writes Bill Band, a senior CRM analyst with Forrester and author of the report. He adds that Oracle has worked to promote the Siebel brand as the most fully featured solution for enterprises and the midmarket, while SAP has been working to fill out its own suite with end-to-end integration and robust PRM support. "The downside for both Oracle's Siebel CRM and SAP's mySAP CRM are lengthy time-to-value, inflexibility for changing business processes, and cost." Forrester also reveals, however, that the field of vendors has several noteworthy, if smaller, competitors providing powerful tools as part of a SaaS suite, or as some manner of specialized PRM tool. "We get a steady stream of inquiries about how to support sales efforts," Band says. "But many CRM vendors don't have PRM, and not all the suite players have it. Companies like Onyx [now part of Consona] and Pivotal [owned by CDC] are conspicuous by their absence." SaaS vendors with notable PRM products include NetSuite, Oracle (with Siebel On Demand) and Salesforce.com. "Each of these vendors supports PRM capabilities as part of the CRM suite offering," the report states. "With more frequent upgrades, lower risk, and lower upfront costs, customer demand for this deployment option shows no signs of slowing down. However, these PRM solutions are more limited in the range of capabilities that they support when compared with the on-premise CRM suite vendors." Companies like BlueRoads, Click Commerce, and Comergent, on the other hand, deal in best-of-breed products that address specific PRM needs and integrate with existing enterprise systems. "Indirect channels can be highly complex and vary significantly in their structure from industry to industry," the report states. "To address these complexities, Click Commerce offers a platform for integrating both supply chain and distribution partners into a complementary 'demand chain ecosystem.' By contrast, upstart BlueRoads, which offers PRM through SaaS deployment only, specializes in partner deal and lead management for large companies with complex, multidimensional channels. Meanwhile, Comergent offers a very strong B2B e-commerce platform and very strong support for multiple inbound order channels with a hosted option." Despite its importance to a multichannel business, Band says it's unlikely that PRM solutions will increase market share much beyond its current 15 percent of the total SFA market. "PRM is not new--as CRM grows, PRM grows," Band says. "SFA is steady. Many B2Bs have the challenge of selling through multiple levels of distribution, and the percentage that do turn to PRM." Related articles: Market Focus: Manufacturing: Money for Future Muscle
Business Problem: Channel managers are struggling to exchange customer info with their partner network. Tech Solution: Partner relationship management tools. You Got Your PRM in My CRM
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