The Next Frontier

CRM vendor Onyx Software is known best for its high customer satisfaction ratings. According to a recent study by Peerstone Research, for example, 91 percent of Onyx customers would choose Onyx again. Not surprisingly, Onyx uses these satisfaction levels as a competitive differentiator--and plans to use them as one tool in its kit to help achieve the company's two primary goals: be a leader in the CRM market, and be "the" leader in the embedded CRM market, according to CEO Brent Frei. Embedded CRM is CRM software that has been integrated into another application, portal, or dashboard. For example, Onyx's partner Reuters is embedding Onyx CRM in its wealth management application for financial services firms. The dashboard will include components from Onyx, financial planning tools, contact-related news, and portfolio information. These tools are "objects designed around the flow of information," says Shawn Kaplan, Reuter's director of marketing, wealth management. "It's not a linked application just sitting in the background," Kaplan says. "Components of Onyx functionality are integrated into Reuters' desktop and platform. Customers can access Reuters' marketing transaction data and Onyx customer data simultaneously on one desktop." This product is currently being tested and its launch data will be announced in the second quarter of 2003. Onyx is also working with IBM eBusiness on Demand and Metavante on other types of embedded CRM initiatives. An increasing number of vendors are "looking to put CRM or CRM-related components into their offerings," Frei says. "They want to embed a CRM product so it's a part of the workflow--where they need it--and not separate." What makes embedded CRM possible is the underlying technology. Web services is a key element in this approach, Kaplan says. Onyx is architected with XML at the application layer, which one of the reasons the whole system or parts of it can be served up as Web services. This makes it a natural fit to be embedded into another system, Frei says. The benefits of using embedded CRM are many, according to Kaplan. The integrated desktop captures value from existing systems, so companies do not have to rip and replace their current technology. This leads to a fast ROI, he says. Additionally, users can refine their own workflow and have virtually everything they need at their fingertips, which encourages them to embrace CRM. One advantage in that regard is that information input into, say, the Onyx contact management tool, will automatically be inputted or updated in other relevant tools. Using the embedded CRM approach, "companies can buy the right amount of CRM for the right processes," Frei says.
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