• November 13, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Sales Configuration Vendors Are Splitting and Tangling

The market for sales configuration applications, encompassing ship-to-order (STO), assemble-to-order (ATO), and engineer-to-order (ETO) products, is in a state of flux, according to research from Gartner. As basic configuration applications become increasingly commoditized, the more advanced vendors are consolidating either with major enterprise vendors or with niche players, creating a two-pronged appearance. Oracle appears to be leading the way with its E-Business Suite, but a number of other vendors are strong considerations as well, according to Gartner's "MarketScope for Sales Configuration, 3Q07." "The sales configuration vendor market has bifurcated between large vendors (such as Oracle, SAP, and Sterling Commerce) and niche players that offer functionality specific to certain configuration challenges, such as ETO calculations or user interfaces that are easy to use for non-IT users," writes Gene Alvarez, the report's author as well as a research vice president at Gartner. "Some of the niche vendors remaining in this market have improved their customer satisfaction by exceeding niche requirement expectations. However, customers are continually conducting regular reviews to determine whether a product's functionality is more advanced than that offered by large vendors." Gartner rated 11 companies (14 offerings in all, including three from Oracle) against four criteria:
  • Overall Viability (high weighting);
  • Customer Experience (high weighting);
  • Geographic Strategy (standard weighting); and
  • Product/Service (standard weighting).
From these, Gartner derived a five-column ranking table, ranging from Strong Negative to Strong Positive. None of the ranked vendors scored a Strong Negative, though five products rated a Caution, the second-worst score. Only Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) landed in the best category. "We rate Oracle Strong Positive because of its sales momentum; rules maintenance environment; ability to support STO, ATO and ETO configurations; use in a large number of vertical industries; and automatic completion of partial configurations," Alvarez writes. The report notes that the Oracle Configurator in EBS is the basis for the company's forthcoming Fusion Middleware configuration tools. Of the two other Oracle products listed (JD Edwards and Siebel), JD Edwards comes out worst, achieving a Caution. It "lacks the flexibility to have different configurations for different geographic locations," nor does it have a true constraint-based configuration engine, Alvarez writes. In addition, it is only sold to users of other JD Edwards applications, and is likely to be replaced outright as Fusion develops. Three products managed a Positive, one level below the top rating:
  • Access Commerce;
  • Cincom; and
  • Sterling Commerce.
Four applications rated a middle-of-the-road Promising:
  • Big Machines;
  • Oracle's Siebel;
  • SAP; and
  • Tacton Systems.
In addition to JD Edwards, four other vendors wound up getting Caution scores:
  • Firepond;
  • Infor;
  • TDCI; and
  • Webcom.
Finally, five vendors were removed from consideration in 2007 because they are no longer selling standalone sales configurators. These are:
  • Click Commerce;
  • Escalate Retail (formerly Blue Martini);
  • Oracle's PeopleSoft;
  • CDC Software (parent company of Pivotal CRM); and
  • Selectica.
"Users who own these standalone sales configurators should take steps to determine whether they should migrate to another solution immediately or if the vendor will be able to support their requirements beyond a 36-month period," Alvarez writes. Related articles: Feature: The Alignment CRM capabilities and business processes enable technology to shine. Viewpoint: Turn Self-Service Inside Out to Cultivate Customer Relationships Automation may not lead to satisfaction. Viewpoint: Self-Help, Not Hindrance How to keep it from becoming one. Diverse Options Are Still Available in SFA SaaS and mobile options continue to grow while buyers can choose from best-of-breed or suite vendors, according to Gartner; SFA will grow more than 13 percent annually through 2010.
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