IBM, Avaya to integrate CRM tools

IBM Corp. is extending its alliance with longtime partner Avaya Inc. The two companies said they will work together to integrate Avaya’s CRM (customer relationship management) technology with IBM’s middleware and server products.

IBM and Avaya plan to announce the alliance Tuesday at IBM’s PartnerWorld conference in San Francisco. The deal follows a partnership forged in September between Avaya and IBM Global Services, which is developing consulting and implementation services to complement various Avaya products. One product resulting from that alliance, a Lotus Notes-compatible version of Avaya Unified Messenger, is scheduled for release by the end of June.

Whereas IBM’s September agreement with Avaya focused mostly on services, this new alliance is focused on a tighter integration between Avaya’s CRM applications and IBM’s middleware, hardware and e-business infrastructure software, said Rob Saultz, IBM’s vice president of strategy and business development for CRM solutions.

Avaya will work with IBM to port its Avaya Interaction Center application suite for call centers to J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), optimizing it for use with IBM’s eServer hardware, DB2 database software and WebSphere Application Server. The arrangement will make it easier for customers to make Avaya and IBM products work together, Saultz said.

One customer who is working with the two vendors cheered news of the deal and said he looks forward to increased communication between the companies.

“In the past, we’ve had to try to orchestrate things to get them (IBM and Avaya) together. Now it’ll be a bit more of a natural team,” said Doug Pontious, a Sitel Corp. business unit president. Sitel provides outsourced customer service management. Pontious is currently working on a five-year contract to consolidate a large automobile manufacturer’s call centers and update its customer-contact systems infrastructure.

Sitel is working with an IBM services team to migrate the manufacturer’s system from IBM’s aging Corepoint Contact Center to Siebel Systems Inc.’s eAutomotive applications suite. An array of Avaya hardware and software that the company is already using will continue to play a critical role in the system, along with IBM servers and PCs. Sitel is tackling the upgrade piecemeal, gradually replacing old system elements while still fielding the manufacturer’s 25,000 daily customer calls, a process Pontious likens to “changing tires at 75 miles per hour.”

“Integrating the products has been pretty tough, but having IBM doing the development is working out really well,” Pontious said. “Having them working closer together (with Avaya) will hopefully make things faster and easier.”

IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., is at

Avaya, located in Basking Ridge, N.J., is at

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