Wires: News and Technology for August 27, 2004

In the news...

Even with CAN-SPAM legislation in place, the United States is the number one "producer" of spam, according to a recent study conducted by Sophos. Researchers at the company scanned all spam messages it received at its global network of "honeypots" over the past month to determine which countries exported the most spam. The top five are the U.S., which exports 42.53 percent of all spam; South Korea (15.42 percent); China and Hong Kong (11.62 percent); Brazil (6.17 percent); and Canada (2.91 percent).

According to the "Customer Service Newsletter 2003-2004 Salary, Incentives and Benchmarking Survey" there has been significant growth in the use of recognition and reward programs to motivate customer service employees. About 70 percent of survey participants say they use recognition programs, compared to only 46 percent one year ago. And 72 percent of these companies say they celebrate Customer Service Week, making it the leading motivation program in use. The 2004 Customer Service Week will be held October 4 through 8.

HDI, a membership association for IT service and support professionals, has partnered with Spherion Corporation, a provider of staffing, recruiting, and workforce solutions. Spherion will integrate HDI Certification training courses, HDI Support Center Certification, and support center best practices into its help desk managed services offerings. Spherion has become an HDI-authorized training partner for its certification training, and will also participate in HDI curriculum development teams to help create standards for help desk personnel and site management for the industry.

Rockwell FirstPoint Contact has announced its third quarter earnings. Sales were $28.5 million compared to $29 million in third quarter 2003. Operating earnings were $1.4 million for the quarter compared to $.5 million for the same quarter in 2003. Sales for the third quarter were strong, with 14,000 product seats sold and shipped to new and existing global customers. During its third quarter, the company launched FirstPoint Enterprise, which extends the capabilities of the Cisco System's CallManager infrastructure.

To strengthen its position in the corporate performance management market, Cognos has announced a cash offer to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding shares of Frango, a Stockholm-based provider of consolidation and financial reporting solutions. According to Rob Ashe, president and CEO of Cognos, the acquisition "will extend our ability to address key priorities in the office of finance, and enhance our distribution channels and solution delivery capability in key regions."

New products...

Siebel Systems is due to release version 7.7 of Siebel Customer Order Management on Monday. It offers upgraded functionality in three main areas: quote and order-life cycle management; product and catalog management; and pricing management. The company says the new release will reduce order cycle times by up to 50 percent; enhance revenue optimization to improve margins by 10 to 15 percent; and increase average order size by between 2 and 5 percent.

According to Sheryl Kingstone, program manager for CRM strategies at The Yankee Group, the new release simplifies implementation concerns somewhat: "They've packaged the application a little more--and eased out the integration a bit." The company, she adds, is "giving more...Siebel users a reason to move away from their home-grown packages and move into the [Siebel] suite, where they might not have in the past."

Also, Siebel unveiled its Global Business Process Outsourcing Alliance Program, which expands Siebel's Global Alliance Program to deliver product, maintenance, and support offerings for its alliance partners in the BPO market. Features of the program include the ability to map expense to value for client engagement models and the ability to apply BPO pricing to all product configurations to accommodate a variety of user types, from entry level call-center personnel to business analysts.

Pilot Software is to announce on Monday the general availability of PilotWeb, its new packaged suite of Web-site performance-measurement software. The package is available primarily as an on-premises application, but also in an on-demand version for ASP-based hosting, according to CEO Jonathan Becher. The launch of the Web package follows the May release of the company's PilotWorks offering, and is intended, Becher says, "to bridge the gap between strategy and execution." Guy Creese, managing principal at Ballardvale Research, says Pilot is taking an unusual approach: "What's interesting is the mix they've put in--putting strategy in with reporting. A lot of Web-analytics companies aren't looking at the problem the way they are. Most packages announce click-through and other stats about Web sites, but it's not always put into the context of, Is this important to the business?"

In a busy week for Cisco Systems the company, with developmental help from Microsoft, launched the Cisco CRM Communications Connector, a software application that provides SMBs with a mechanism that integrates Cisco IP Communications with Microsoft CRM. The technology's features include screen pops, click to dial, call duration tracking, call information capture, and customer record creation. In conjunction with its Communications Connector, Cisco also unveiled its CRM Express Solution Specialization, which allows partners to self-market as having the expertise to integrate Cisco CallManager Express with the Microsoft CRM application.

Cisco also announced its plans to acquire P-Cube, an IP service control solutions provider, for about $200 million in cash and stock options. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of fiscal year 2005, but Cisco expects to record a one-time charge of no more than one cent per share for purchased in-process research and development expenses.

KXEN announced the release of KXEN Companion, a tool designed to help users of SAS Base and SAS Enterprise Miner with data preparation and selecting variables. The solution allows users to find out if a data set contains information, and allows them to highlight variables ranked by their contribution to be included in a model, view correlated variables that contain information, but among which one or more variables should be selected, and use other capabilities. KXEN Companion also assists in the production of efficient coding strategies for hard to code variables such as first names, zip codes, and area codes in phone numbers.

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