IBM to make CRM outsourcing call

IBM Global Services on Wednesday plans to launch a hosted service for customer relationship management, with an offering intended to help enterprises get a CRM application up and running faster than an in-house deployment.

In another sign of CRM services activity, PwC Consulting and Sun Microsystems Inc. will announce an extension of their partnership agreement to cross sell and market integrated CRM solutions.

IBM Corp.’s service offering, known as CRM Management Services, is intended to accelerate and reduce the risk of deployment for CRM deployment at mid- to large-size companies. Through the program, IBM will provide CRM services for six industries: consumer packaged goods, financial services, retail, telecommunications, travel and transportation and utilities.

The CRM services will be deployed on IBM Unix servers at various data centres. The company also is working with call centre providers to provide call center functions as part of the offering.

In sampling the service at small engagements, “we’ve been able to shorten the deployment time from anywhere from 10 per cent to 20 per cent,” said Jimmy Augustine, marketing manager for strategic outsourcing at IBM in New York. The use of industry-based templates enables a reduction in deployment times, Augustine said.

“The intention is customers and business executives have expressed a desire in which we will deploy and manage their CRM solutions,” Augustin said.

Enterprises can opt for CRM packages from companies such as Siebel Systems Inc., Peoplesoft Inc., Kana Communications Inc. and SAP AG.

As part of the service, customers will be provided with business intelligence in four key areas: customer behaviour, customer value, contact value and performance of the customer service operator, according to Augustine.

For retail companies, IBM will furnish a CRM template that provides customers with data on buying patterns, to stay in touch with consumer trends. Enterprises also will have recent sales data to manage their inventory and supply chain. For financial services firms, templates focus on helping companies better understand the customer base, to enable cross selling of other services while providing customer service.

For telecommunications vendors that are merging or acquiring other companies, a CRM template is available to consolidate various applications and databases.

Analyst Jocelyn Young, program manager for the CRM services outreach at International Data Corp., in Framingham. Mass., said IBM was following a trend toward managed services.

“I think it’s further validation of the trend toward managed services specific to the CRM market. Basically, what IBM would be doing is they’re taking this end-to-end approach to their entire CRM services portfolio and delivering it through a hosted solution,” Young said.

“They’re starting from a very strong foundation of CRM services already,” Young said.

Meanwhile PwC Consulting and Sun Microsystems, who began partnering in October, in CRM data integration through the PwC ACCEL (Architecture for Cross-channel Customer Experience and Loyalty) program have begun to boost efforts in this initiative.

The two companies will announce plans to cross-sell-, cross-market and cross-train 3,600 consultants on a new, pre-integrated technology, with CRM being the first technology in a series of solutions sets.

The partnership involves Sun’s Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) architecture, hardware and iPlanet software as well as PwC Consulting’s business strategy and integration services.

IBM Canada Co. in Markham, Ont., is at