Vendors active in CRM space

Vendor addresses ‘customer info problem’

With an eye on the rapidly growing population of well-heeled Canadians, IBM Canada Ltd. and Toronto-based RPM Technologies Corp. have teamed up to launch a Web-based wealth management and CRM solution for mid- to large-size financial institutions.

The RPM Open Wealth Management Platform is an enterprise-class, Internet-based financial services framework said to consolidate investment order management, portfolio administration and transaction processing on a common, desktop access point.

IBM will participate at the implementation stage, with its Global Services division supplying hardware, software and integration expertise to piggyback RPM’s platform onto a financial institution’s existing IT infrastructure.

– Scott Gardner

IBM, Sun engage in CRM services

IBM Global Services is launching a hosted service for CRM, with an offering intended to help enterprises get a CRM application up and running faster than an in-house deployment.

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, including financial services.

The CRM services will be deployed on IBM Unix servers at various data centres. Enterprises can opt for CRM packages from companies such as Siebel Systems Inc., Peoplesoft Inc., Kana Communications Inc. and SAP AG.

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.

And in another sign of CRM services activity, PwC Consulting and Sun Microsystems Inc. is extending their partnership agreement 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 two companies in October began partnering in CRM data integration through the PwC ACCEL (Architecture for Cross-channel Customer Experience and Loyalty) program. 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.

— Paul Krill,

Web-based vertical services offered

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., Microsoft Corp., Salomon Smith Barney Inc. and Thomson Financial have partnered to create a new company that will offer Internet-based services to the financial industry, the companies announced last fall.

Called i-Deal LLC, the firm will act as a “vertical service provider” to the securities industry, offering a Web-based platform that will automate some of the processes involved in raising capital, issuing stocks, and other Wall Street activities, the companies said in a statement.

Merrill Lynch and Salomon Smith Barney plan to offer the i-Deal system to their clients.

For bankers and investors, the i-Deal platform is designed to let them manage all parts of a deal including monitoring transactions, reviewing prospectuses and conducting online roadshows, the companies said. Pulling together information from numerous sources and offering it on a single platform that can be accessed by all parties should make issuing securities faster and more efficient, the companies said.

— James Niccolai, IDG News Service, San Francisco Bureau

PeopleSoft competes with CRM upgrades

PeopleSoft Inc. is upgrading its CRM software in an effort to match market leader Siebel Systems Inc. on functionality. At a customer event late last year, PeopleSoft executives said an initial CRM upgrade has features tailored for financial services industry users plus support for a third-party tool to integrate the software with Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook e-mail software.

A more substantial upgrade is set to follow in March and will include a mobile version of the applications and features geared toward additional vertical industries, such as insurance, PeopleSoft said. The March release, to be called Version 8.4 of the CRM suite, will also add a module aimed at help desks that need to track software defects.

PeopleSoft has sold its CRM applications to about 125 customers thus far, and Bergquist said roughly 10 companies have gone live with the software at this point.

The Thomson Corp.’s Thomson Financial subsidiary is one user that has PeopleSoft 8 CRM in place. Toronto-based Thomson Financial’s portfolio solutions group, which develops investment management and accounting software, rolled out some of the applications for 160 employees last year in the first phase of a long-term project that eventually could involve 2,000 end users.

Craig Berkson, CIO at the portfolio solutions unit, said PeopleSoft’s Web-based client software significantly reduces desktop support issues because no code needs to be installed on PCs. But Berkson added that there are some functional differences between PeopleSoft 8 CRM and the last release of Vantive’s applications, which he had initially installed at one division.

For example, Berkson said, the PeopleSoft 8 product has less-sophisticated relationship modeling capabilities because it was based on an earlier Vantive release. As a result, he said, users may have to customize the software in order to set up a real-world data model. “That’s not something you’d notice on an initial rollout, but as you get more into (the project), it becomes a lot more important,” Berkson said.

— Craig Stedman, Computerworld online

Siebel ships industry-specific CRM platforms

Having shipped its generic Siebel 7 CRM and e-business platform in November, Siebel Systems Inc. at press time planned to ship 20 versions of the software tailored to specific vertical industries, including insurance and retail banking and brokerage.

The products will feature the company’s new Smart Web Architecture, which provides a thin client Web interface for interacting with the applications.

Alberta Treasury Branches in Edmonton went live with a Siebel 2000 call centre application for the financial industry in July.

The bank wants to roll out the call centre package to its branch offices but is looking to avoid the cost of installing client software on every desktop, said Ken Casey, vice-president of operations. Instead, the company hopes to rely on a central server that offers browser-based access to the application for remote users.

“We decided the next level of the rollout wouldn’t have the same thick-client technology [as the initial project required],” Casey said last fall. He said he’s also interested in a new bank-teller application that’s supposed to be part of Siebel 7.

— Paul Krill, Info and Marc L. Songini, Computerworld online (US)

Software captures customers, employees views

Bringing financial services organizations closer to their customers and employees is the stated benefit of “experience management” solutions now being sold by Vancouver-based Datawest Solutions Inc. In November, Datawest became the exclusive reseller to Canadian financial services customers of the Customer Experience Management (CEM), Employee Experience Management (EEM) and eSurvey solutions from ResponseTek Networks Corp. The agreement is based on a revenue sharing model for a five-year term.

ResponseTek’s web-based experience management solutions are described as helping financial services organizations first understand customer and employee issues, then deliver continuous service and communication improvements. ResponseTek’s solutions are designed to enhance customer and employee loyalty by integrating their viewpoints into the organization’s