Verizon Picks ChannelWave Over Siebel

The partner-relationship management (PRM) software sector received a boost this week when Verizon selected ChannelWave Software, after a competitive evaluation with Siebel Systems. The sale shows that best-of-breed PRM vendors can compete successfully with suite vendors in large deals. ChannelWave's Web-based PRM solution helps companies recruit and train channel partners, develop joint marketing and sales plans, forecast sales opportunities, and provide closed-loop lead management. All of this comes at a critical time for Verizon, as the carrier tries to grow sales through the channel, in the wake of an economic downturn that has battered the telecommunications industry particularly hard. ChannelWave though, first had to unseat a powerful incumbent; Verizon's CRM provider is industry leader Siebel, which also has a PRM offering. ChannelWave played up its strengths: speed to market, PRM-only focus and low startup costs. With increasing channel sales and controlling costs fast becoming top priorities, Verizon decided on ChannelWave. "In the case of Verizon, we could get our product to market in at least half the time as Siebel," says Chris Heidelberger, CEO of ChannelWave. Heidelberger claims his firm runs into Siebel in 50 percent of new-business engagements. Some companies have a mandate to standardize on Siebel products, he says, making it hard to compete. Still, "we have a very favorable win rate against them," Heidelberger says. ChannelWave also claims to sell PRM software for around 20 percent of the cost of similar offerings from CRM vendors. Siebel declined to comment. To be sure, it's been a rough week for Siebel. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Siebel's revenue from swap deals -- that is, software given to suppliers in exchange for goods and services -- nearly tripled in an already dismal Q2 earnings posting. Industry watchers claim swap deals are misleading indicators about the demand for Siebel software. Also, the Verizon-ChannelWave deal rebukes speculation that pure-play PRM vendors are doomed unless they expand their portfolios to handle transactions. Earlier this month, PRM vendor Partnerware shuttered
its doors. In a document obtained by Line56, a Partnerware executive wrote, "The timing for introducing a new product was not good, with most IT organizations unwilling to risk purchasing from a startup." And Louis Columbus, senior analyst at AMR Research, added, "Aggressively focusing on enrolling and enabling channel partners was the wrong message at the wrong time in this market... and underscores just how difficult it is for best-of-breed vendors to survive without a deep bench of reference customers to rely on, and a lack of order capture and management expertise." Undaunted, Heidelberger maintains there's a giant opportunity to manage channel relationships. And companies need a technology provider that's focused entirely on this space -- and not transactions. Heidelberger believes integration technology to existing transactional systems and partnerships with ordering vendors makes more sense. "We don't believe it's in our best interest or our customers' best interest for ChannelWave to spend research and development dollars on building a transaction system," he says.
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