Pivotal Targets MS Office Integration
Pivotal is set to launch version 5.1 of its CRM suite tomorrow, an upgrade the company expects will establish a new standard for the integration of sales, marketing, and service information. "In an ironic twist we're beating Microsoft to market with this," says Bruce Kenny, senior vice president of products at Pivotal.
"This" is a Web services-based integration with Microsoft Office 2003, designed to make the creation of any business document a potential gateway into the entire Pivotal customer database. The standard for such integration is already published, but Kenny says that not even MS CRM currently offers the functionality that Pivotal includes in Pivotal 5.1.
Pivotal's basic email client has been improved, with closer integration with Outlook 2003 (including greater ability to reference and include customer data stored in the Pivotal system at the time an email is created). "You don't have to open up Pivotal to look at [customer data]. In trials we've done, from feedback from customers, this is a huge enhancement to usability of CRM data," Kenny says.
For real estate developer Beazer Homes, currently in the midst of a Pivotal 5.1 implementation, that functionality was crucial. "We get a significant amount of contacts from customers electronically, and we wanted to be able to track that from the very beginning of our usage of the system this summer," says Beazer CIO Jonathan Smoke.
To improve the visibility of other enterprise data, such as supply chain statistics, the SmartPortal system has been expanded to a more open interface, allowing easier third-party data integration. "What we're doing for [customers] is providing them an environment which they can now further personalize and customize," Kenny says.
Pivotal is also targeting disconnected mobile users for productivity gains with an enhanced synchronization system designed to propagate not only data and interface changes, but application patches as well. Administrators are also given greater ability to evaluate and correct any synchronization flaws that develop in the field from a central location.
One potential downside to tight Office 2003 integration is the additional cost-of-ownership--full functionality requires staying current with Microsoft Office, as well as Pivotal. "The additional flexibility of what you can do with the Office 2003 integration is really cool, but a client would have to be ready to upgrade to Office 2003, and have it ready in the enterprise before doing the Pivotal upgrade," says Wendy Close, CRM research director at Gartner.
"We spoke to most of our customers, and they had upgrades to Office 2003 in their plans, yet there wasn't a compelling reason to move," Kenny says. "When we demonstrated this functionality, many said they would accelerate the adoption of 2003."
Another midmarket CRM vendor, however, indicates to Close that most of its customers said they were not ready for the upgrade. Pivotal 5.1 will be a closely watched trial of this technology pairing.