IBM and E.piphany join forces

IBM Corp. and E.piphany Inc. announced a new agreement Monday to integrate E.piphany’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions with IBM’s e-business middleware, hardware and services.

As part of the deal, which is tailored to first focus on the telecommunications and financial services markets, E.piphany’s entire suite of CRM applications will be optimized for IBM_s J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) WebSphere Application Server, AIX operating system, and DB2 database software platforms.

The deal is IBM’s way of casting a vote of support to the CRM vendor that has done the most work to support Java 2 Enterprise Edition, said Gareth Herschel, research director at Gartner who has been briefed on the deal.

“By making this announcement, it puts a stake in the ground and says, ‘E.piphany is our partner here,'” he said. “It gives IBM a strong partner on the marketing side of CRM.”

The deal could indicate IBM’s lack of confidence in its current high-profile CRM partner Siebel Systems, Herschel said.

Siebel is strong in call center and field sales channel applications rather than marketing and analytics, he added.

“It’s a vote of no confidence in Siebel’s current solution. Part of it is Siebel isn’t J2EE. You could either view it as a vote of no confidence in Siebel’s marketing and analytics strategy that IBM has found the need to go looking for another partner or IBM is looking for a strong partner today and Siebel doesn’t have it.”

In addition, IBM may view this partnership as protection from losing out on deals where an enterprise isn’t keen on Siebel’s solutions, Herschel said.

“Siebel has been struggling particularly in business to consumer industries,” he said. “If Siebel gets knocked out of the deal then IBM risks getting knocked out of the deal.”

However, Rob Saultz, vice president of CRM solutions at IBM, said the move was part of the company’s strategy to partner with the best-of-breed software companies.

“This is not in any way, shape or form a lack of confidence in Siebel,” Saultz said. “We’re focusing on [financial services and telecommunications] marketplaces and looking to gain some traction there with a solution which includes E.piphany for our solution maps.”

For E.piphany, which has been struggling to boost revenue, the deal means a much needed boost of credibility, Herschel added.

“The real concern [about E.piphany] has been will they be a serious player, do they actually have a future here or are they a lame duck?” he said. “People will look at this relationship and say they do have a future.”

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