The 2007 Market Awards: Hall of Fame

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The CRM Hall of Fame comprises CRM champions who satisfy the Influential Leader criteria but who consistently influence employees, customers, partners, and competitors year after year. By that measure alone, Greg Gianforte
, this year's inductee, has earned his place in the pantheon several times over. He's been one of our Influential Leaders in each of the last two years, and as his company, RightNow Technologies, celebrates its 10th anniversary, we welcome him to the CRM Hall of Fame. The Lone Wolf Greg Gianforte and RightNow Technologies have always blazed their own trail up in Bozeman, Mont., far from the glare of Silicon Valley and the rest of the CRM cohort. "Greg's been one of the true leaders and mavericks," says Chris Selland, a former industry analyst and now vice president of business development at SoundBite Communications. "One of the first and strongest proponents of software-as-a-service, he also demonstrated how [SaaS] truly removes boundaries, by building a world-class company in Montana." "RightNow, due to Greg's vision, has proven that the SaaS model is viable in areas outside of simple sales/lead tracking solutions," says Ian Jacobs, senior analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "He has proven that it's possible to offer customers the flexibility to mix and meld on-premise and hosted applications in mission-critical areas." Gianforte is "a real pioneer in the on-demand/SaaS industry," says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at Beagle Research. "Almost before anyone else was thinking about it, Greg trained his efforts and those of his company on service and support and made RightNow a pillar of the on-demand CRM industry." Pillar is an apt word: Gianforte and RightNow have been steadfast. Know many CRM-vendor founders still in charge, a decade later? Ellison? Goodnight? Both Hall of Famers, and rightfully so. The 2006 acquisition of Salesnet changed RightNow forever, as did the introduction earlier this year of RightNow's first industry-specific offering. The future looks bright for Gianforte and his Bozeman baby: His worldview proved right; the explosion of on-demand CRM bears that out. Gianforte, for all his success with technology, has always recognized that the people matter at least as much as processes. "Greg's vision has been on target for a long time," Pombriant says. Selland goes further: "I'd argue they are the leader in applying SaaS concepts to customer service. RightNow's strength has always been focus--on their customers' success, and on the areas they know best." RightNow "truly 'gets' the concept of customer centricity; and that is all down to Greg's vision and fortitude," Jacobs says. The company, he adds, "reflects Greg's 'I'm going to be straight with you' personality"--it's a rare firm that tells its customers what to expect. "That very directly reflects the customer-centric focus that [is] the promise of CRM," he says. "This is a company practicing what it preaches." "Our industry is better off as a result of [Greg's] contributions over the years," says Barton Goldenberg, president of consultancy ISM. Many have told us that Gianforte's rightful place is in the CRM Hall of Fame. Well, the time for that is--if you'll pardon the phrase--right now.
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