The 2006 Influential Leaders

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Edward Abbo
Senior Vice President of CRM Products, Oracle

The Quiet Man
Most people think of Larry Ellison or Charles Phillips when Oracle is the topic of conversation, but as far as CRM is concerned it's Ed Abbo who is in control. He is proof that it's possible to lead with calmness and self-control, and also that being new to a company doesn't preclude one from influencing it.

Abbo joined Oracle in early 2006, retained from Siebel, for which he served as vice president of technology and CTO. His experience in software design and development, as well as technology strategy, enabled him to make the transition to his new company. Since coming on board Abbo has delivered a road map and integration plan for Fusion, overseen the release of Oracle On Demand 10, among other activities. When Oracle announced it would be building much of its Fusion middleware technology and business strategy around Siebel CRM, Abbo was the natural choice to take the reins for integrating the JD Edwards, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and Siebel product families.

Oracle continues to acquire other companies, and recently sold off sales-effectiveness business OnTarget (formerly owned by Siebel). Whatever may come, Ed Abbo will be at the heart of it, quietly directing Oracle's CRM efforts. --Marshall Lager

Larry Ellison
CEO, Oracle

The Acquirer
And the acquisitions keep on coming.
Larry Ellison completed the purchase of one of his company's biggest competitors last year when he put the finishing touches on the PeopleSoft deal. Apparently not satisfied, Oracle then bought Siebel this year, successfully eliminating one of the company's three largest competitors in the CRM enterprise suite category (the other two are SAP and Amdocs).

Gaining Siebel has moved Oracle to the top of the enterprise space and now positions it in a business standoff with software giant SAP. At the same time, Oracle has announced the first of many Project Fusion releases, including its PeopleSoft Enterprise Release 9 in June. That release married PeopleSoft Enterprise software with Oracle Fusion Middleware.

If the Siebel acquisition didn't influence the CRM market enough, Ellison's company has acquired 12 other organizations since 2005's Leader Awards, including open source providers Innobase and Sleepycat, and supply-chain player Demantra. --Colin Beasty

Greg Gianforte
CEO and Founder, RightNow Technologies

The Steady Hand
Many CRM vendors over the years have suffered through cycles of promising growth to dismal earnings and back again. Then there's RightNow Technologies. During the company's nine-year history, Greg Gianforte, making yet another appearance on our Influential Leaders list, has kept his brainchild on an unwavering growth track: For its second quarter the company, which is continuing its push into the enterprise space, reported its 34th consecutive quarter of revenue growth.

Under Gianforte's watch the company has strengthened its capabilities in service--its core area--with releases like new RightNow Voice applications. The company's biggest product splash this past year was RightNow CRM 7.5 in August 2005. It features about three dozen enhancements that span service, sales, and marketing. The release also introduced RightNow Telesales, intended to make it easier for sales managers to create, execute, and monitor multistage telephone sales campaigns and RightNow SmartGuide, which uses decision-tree logic to provide agents with guided answers.

Gianforte's most noteworthy leadership move, though, came in May with the announced acquisition of on-demand SFA and workflow automation specialist Salesnet, a deal that speeds up RightNow's product plans by more than a year. The buy also presents RightNow with an opportunity to sell into Salesnet's install base of 2,500 customers with broader CRM capabilities beyond Salesnet's SFA muscle. --Coreen Bailor

Sheryl Kingstone
Program Manager for Customer-Centric Strategies, Yankee Group

The Voice of Reason
When Sheryl Kingstone speaks, the CRM market listens. As program manager for Yankee Group's new Customer-Centric Strategies service, Kingstone handles the research and programs that help businesses improve customer loyalty and acquisition. Specifically, she assists Yankee Group clients to make informed decisions regarding their use of technology, business process, and information. Her experience and expertise make her an analytical heavyweight.

Kingstone's opinions for publication are regularly the first sought, and she has provided consulting on CRM investments and strategies to many Fortune 1000 companies. She speaks at numerous industry conferences and seminars yearly, where her comments and opinions always capture industry attention. Kingstone, with more than 15 years of experience in the tech market to her credit, is such a highly regarded, well-known analyst in the CRM market that this year she is our inductee into the Hall of Fame. --Colin Beasty

Zach Nelson
President and CEO, NetSuite

The Driver
NetSuite continues to innovate and does so with flair. Much of that flair comes from Zach Nelson, the on-demand CRM suite provider's corporate face. His presence with the company since 2002 has taken it from dotcom-bust survivor to industry leader, quintupling revenue, doubling the workforce, and reaching SMBs worldwide. Nelson's intelligence and expertise are always at the forefront of NetSuite's presence, as he explains the finer points of the company's initiatives or provides balanced commentary about his competitors.

Nelson and NetSuite have had a busy 2006. They came out swinging in January with a partner program and expansions to the NetFlex SOA platform, enabling NetSuite to develop into new areas. This happened quickly: In March Nelson announced the company's first-ever vertical product, a full suite of applications and processes based on NetSuite's own operations, and targeted, naturally, at the software business. NetSuite next took on SAP in competition for the midmarket, beefing up ERP and business process capabilities. Most recently Nelson has taken NetSuite to the brink of a much-anticipated IPO. It has also resulted in a partnership with CompUSA, the first of its kind, that will make NetSuite's on-demand solutions available through CompUSA's Business Services sales force. --M.L.

Brad Wilson
General Manager, Microsoft Dynamics CRM

The Proselytizer
Brad Wilson may just be the most enthusiastic general manager west of the Mississippi, and as general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, he has reason to be excited. Appointed to his position a year and a half ago, Wilson has already seen great success with the launch of Dynamics 3.0. The system, released last January amidst deafening industry buzz, has lived up to expectations. Within seven months Dynamics has won 7,000 customers and 220,000 users worldwide, and continues to grow rapidly (more than 50,000 users were added in one quarter alone).

Wilson, the voice behind the solution, and the company launched the product worldwide, including to China and Afghanistan, and offer third-party connectors that enable the integration of customer data from disparate databases, such as Oracle and SAP's. Although this integration may seem to be an instance of consorting with the enemy, Wilson is ready to stand up to the competition in the second quarter of next year, when Microsoft is slated to release Titan 4.0 and Dynamics CRM Live, the first on-demand solution from the software giant. With users signing up and product shipping out, it seems certain that in the upcoming year, Wilson will continue his influential leadership. --Jessica Sebor

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