PeopleSoft rolls out vertical CRM apps

Continuing to exert leverage via its installed base in back-office systems, PeopleSoft Inc. next week will unveil four new vertical CRM (customer relationship management) applications.

The new vertical solutions will be aimed at government agencies as well as the insurance, high-technology, and energy industries. These new solutions are part of PeopleSoft’s continuing effort to deliver differentiated applications from its baseline of CRM code by actually exposing incremental functionality for each industry, said Robb Eklund, vice-president of CRM marketing at PeopleSoft. This allows customers to benefit from new versions of the horizontal PeopleSoft 8.1 suite, Eklund added.

While PeopleSoft has picked “four important verticals,” each one of them is in a different stage of growth, said Denis Pombriant, research director at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. In addition, the company will be facing tough competition from Siebel, which has more than 20 vertical CRM solutions and derives 70 per cent of its revenue from vertical solutions, he said.

“There are some risks involved in vertical market approaches, namely that it requires a larger staff, more domain expertise, and greater investment in terms of development resources to make sure each verticalized product…is positioned, marketed, and sold correctly.”

CRM for Government will be the first application to ship, most likely this summer. PeopleSoft first will be targeting the 900 public-sector agencies out of the 3,600 total where it already has an installed base, Eklund said.

“Many government agencies are looking to set up centralized call centres so they can provide one point of contact…regarding all the services they provide,” he said. “They are also looking for mechanisms to distribute information to their constituents. They tend to be very fragmented by department or service. CRM will provide the ability to deliver that one point of contact to coordinate constituent support across the agency.”

The solution tailored for the energy sector will be focused on energy retailers and distributors, while the insurance offering will be aimed at property and casualty, life, and health insurance companies. The high-technology solution is still being developed.

PeopleSoft may have an initial advantage over Siebel when it approaches its installed base for upselling CRM solutions, said Kelly Spang, senior analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va.

However, PeopleSoft will still be playing catch-up with Siebel because of the sheer number of Siebel’s vertical solutions and its experience, she said.

But PeopleSoft’s approach to its data model – expanding the definitions and the relationships of not only customers but also product attributes – will be attractive to customers, Spang added.

For example, the insurance offering is designed to allow call centre agents to understand the customer portfolio and associated relationships, such as policy beneficiaries and coinsurance, Eklund said.

“We can quite readily understand all the personal relationships you might have,” he said. “We do that through basic configuration. We don’t have to go in and hard code that data model.”