eRelationship brings commerce capability to CRM: analyst

What makes Pivotal Corp.’s eRelationship 2 such a great customer relationship management (CRM) system, according to one analyst, is that it goes farther than simple CRM.

“I think one of the things that Pivotal does that’s pretty innovative is they’ve kind of gone a little bit beyond CRM and also incorporated e-commerce into their platform,” said Chris Selland, vice-president of CRM research at the Yankee Group in Boston.

Whereas most CRM vendors stay very focused on sales, marketing and customer service, the Vancouver-based Pivotal bridges a gap for mid-sized companies that are growing and want to start exploiting the world of e-commerce. This is because, along with the basics, Pivotal also utilizes e-commerce functionality, Selland said.

“There’s a bit of a schism in the CRM market – you’ve got the traditional guys who primarily build apps for employees, and you’ve got the Web guys who primarily build apps for customers. Pivotal’s kind of built something that works equally well for both,” he said.

Pivotal’s eRelationship, which is designed for business-to-business needs, is split into three hubs: the IntraHub, PartnerHub and CustomerHub. The IntraHub is designed for employees, and it helps them manage customer and partner relationships. The hub lets employees design a personalized intranet portal fitted to their needs, which can be connected both to the corporate intranet and the Internet. The employee hub also automates tasks such as marketing.

The PartnerHub lets partners access the information they need from the company.

The CustomerHub is designed to give companies 24 by 7 capabilities. Through this hub, customers can search a database for solutions to their problems and they can keep track of the progress of any inquiries they have made. They can also browse an on-line product catalogue personalized for their needs.

“We’re focused on business-to-business. We assume you know what type of customer you’re selling to, so once you have a relationship with customers, those customers can be self-serviced on the Internet. They can access an on-line database to solve their own problems and they can report and check their status on anything they have reported. That’s really where the value-add comes from. It makes it a 24 by 7 operation,” said Erik Kaas, products manager at Pivotal.

The system is built on the three-tiered Microsoft Windows DNA (Distributed interNet Applications) architecture. Those tiers include the data layer which runs on SQL Server 7; the business logic layer, where the application server runs; and the presentation tier, through which the user interfaces with the data. Pivotal’s CRM software currently integrates with Great Plains Software Inc. and SAP’s Enterprise Resource Planning systems.

Vancouver-based Chancery Software Ltd., which develops software for educational institutes, uses eRelationship to interact with its customers. Incidents that people often call about are flagged and placed on Chancery’s home page and pushed out to customers through e-mail. Customers visiting the site can view personalized content based on the type of hardware and software they have.

Soon, Chancery plans to use eRelationship to interact not only with the schools, but also parents and students directly. This could dramatically increase the number of inquiries they get, but Chancery is confident that Pivotal’s software can handle the growth, said Chancery’s manager of support technology Devon Boorman.

“They’re providing a lot of really good building blocks and it really gives me the capability to add any features I want. So there’s not really anything lacking that we can’t use eRelationship to start building ourselves,” Boorman said.

But eRelationship does have one shortcoming, according to Yankee Group’s Selland.

“If I were really a dot-com looking for a Web-only solution, I think that’s an area where pivotal still maybe has some catching up to do,” he said.

The IntraHub ( is priced at $1,750 per user, the PartnerHub ( is $250 per user and the CutomerHub ( is $20 per user.

Pivotal can be reached at 1-877-748-6825.