CRM vendors ease implementations with packages

Three customer relationship management vendors are shoring up their software to make it easier for customers to integrate e-commerce activities.

In the past, CRM applications focused on salesforce automation and call centre functions, and firms mostly developed their e-commerce channels separately, says Steve Butler, senior analyst at eMarketer Inc. “Today, the name of the game is to integrate all [these functions].”

In the spirit of integration, E.piphany Inc. this week will announce Version 5.5 of its Web-based E.5 software that now ties sales activities to marketing and customer service functions. The new sales component, called E.piphany Sales, is based on technology the San Mateo, Calif., firm obtained when it acquired Moss Software Inc. in a stock-swap deal last month.

E.piphany Sales will let sales personnel access customer information, including real-time analytical data, remotely through a PC, wireless phone or PDA with a Web browser. The package fills a hole in E.piphany’s suite, says Rod Johnson, AMR Research service director. Customers can now purchase E.5 components individually or in packages. Packages start at US$250,000.

Meanwhile, PeopleSoft Inc. for the past few years has been building its CRM stable – with its January 2000 acquisition of salesforce automation software maker Vantive Corp., for example – and next month will release PeopleSoft 8 CRM. PeopleSoft’s retooled CRM suite has a Web-based architecture and includes a customer portal that grabs data from many applications to provide one view of sales, support and billing transactions. Available in June, the cost of PeopleSoft 8 will depend on the implementation.

Another vendor trying to make further inroads into the CRM market is supply chain management vendor i2 Technologies Inc., which last week announced an upgrade to its suite, i2 CRM. With the new release, i2 adds order management and decision support applications for forecasting demand, determining pricing and planning for service needs. I2 declined to disclose pricing for i2 CRM, which is available now.

AMR Research’s Johnson says i2 isn’t yet a legitimate CRM vendor because its product lacks salesforce automation and contact center capabilities. But the company has set itself up to compete in the CRM arena, and Johnson says he expects i2 “will make a more credible entrance in the next three to six months through acquisitions or strategic alliances.”

E.piphany is at PeopleSoft is at i2 is at