As enterprises demand better tools to exploit mounds of customer data locked away in CRM systems, CRM companies are rushing to add analytical capabilities to their applications.
The push for better data is creating a convergence between traditional business intelligence and CRM, as transactional CRM vendors integrate business-intelligence functions through internal product enhancements or via third-party support.
CRM giant Siebel Systems Inc., based in San Mateo, Calif., plans to announce within the next few months adapters that link its CRM applications to business-intelligence products from companies such as SAS and SPSS to provide predictive analytics. The move follows Siebel's October announcement to acquire data analysis software vendor nQuire Software Inc., an effort designed to boost its stable of business-intelligence technologies.
For its part, online CRM vendor Salesforce.com Inc. is expected to announce in December an agreement with MicroStrategy Inc. to provide data mining and analysis to Salesforce.com customers.
A company executive said Salesforce.com will deepen partnerships with business-intelligence vendors early next year to improve data-extraction services.
Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft Inc. in December plans to ship its Customer Behavior Modeling product to complement its CRM platform, PeopleSoft 8. The application uses customer data integrated with behavioural metrics and demographics information to define and select populations of customers and apply data mining to build predictive models and score customers based on relevant criteria.
PeopleSoft 8 itself also features data analysis capabilities, which the company says can detect, for example, which customers are likely to switch to a competitor.
"We believe that analytics are a prerequisite component of any CRM deployment," said Robb Eklund, vice-president of CRM product marketing at PeopleSoft.
The benefit of combining the two functions is not lost on IT executives.
"We have all this great information, but like most people, we can't get it out in an easy manner," said Todd Inlander, CIO of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., in Riverside, Calif. Fleetwood, a maker of recreational vehicles and manufactured homes, is currently working out how to integrate its Siebel-based CRM and business-intelligence systems for business advantage.
Some argue that bolting on analytics to operational CRM may create more work for enterprises. CRM outfit E.piphany Inc. says it has offered business intelligence in its applications from the start.
"The way that the various CRM vendors are attacking the problem of trying to have some degree of analytics is either through partnerships or trying to build their own," said Paul Rodwick, vice-president of market development strategy at E.piphany, in San Mateo, Calif.