Editorial: Sales/Marketing software/ technologies - Publication: B2B

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An unnerving volume of sales and marketing software applications occupy the B2B marketplace. Amongst a plethora titled with a mysterious range of acronyms, many provide effective and pragmatic solutions to problems plaguing today’s businesses,. whether it’s tracking sales leads and calls, improving cohesion between sales and marketing departments or basic proposal drafting tools.

Acronyms like CRM, MRM and ICI are inescapable when observing this tech niche. The (CRM)customer relationship management sector is of key significance. These applications are often packaged as integrated suites of applications that cater for multiple selling channels such as direct, partner and e-commerce based sales. They might also cater to support the entire customer life cycle, involving functions such as sales configuration, incentive compensation and sales analytics.

Key vendor Siebel continues to surpass competitors in selling CRM applications, even in a down economy. Comparing Siebel with its main competitors, market analysts, The Gartner Group estimate that Siebel had $675 million in CRM software revenue in 2002. This compares to PeopleSoft, which sold more than $500 million for all of its enterprise applications. Oracle had $600 million for all of its enterprise applications, and SAP, with $2.2 billion in software revenue overall, the company allocates $450 million of its license revenue to CRM applications.

ICM applications, otherwise known as sales incentive compensation management tools are often components of CRM apps. They take care of things like homegrown or spreadsheet-based commission tracking and reporting for transactionally rewarded sales professionals.

Meanwhile, marketing resource management (MRM) apps focus on processes and capabilities that enhance an enterprise's ability to orchestrate and optimize the use of marketing resources. MRM applications hope to improve an enterprise’s ability to plan, coordinate execution and measure the impact of marketing efforts.

Sales opportunity management systems, allowing users to extend their operations beyond the four walls of enterprise operations have traditionally been popular. Key players in this marketplace include SAP, Oracle, Sieble and Peoplesoft. Prices for such applications have dropped from hundreds of thousands to thousands, and ROI for these apps is also strong.

Clearer communications between sales and marketing departments is another key demand area, a point underscored by industry analysts, the Aberdeen group: According to senior analyst Harry Watkins, "80% of marketing efforts to generate leads are wasted and ignored by sales. Sales spend 25% of their time recreating (often badly) customer-relevant collateral that marketing should have created in the first place. This combination derails efforts on both sides, costing companies millions of dollars annually, while destroying the time and focus needed to collectively and effectively drive sales and revenue."

Dennis Prombrant, head of the sales software analysis area for Aberdeen, says there is a current trend towards hosted software solutions focusing on new applications such as sales investment and sales enhancement, with new products such as Greenway, Whisper wire and Visible Path proliferating.

Prombrant believes larger users are now over there initial adoption of sales and CRM software apps. In turn, he anticipates prices will fall as smaller vendors enter the marketplace and major players reduce prices as a response to the challenge. "Products will also be simpler to use and better automated, with improved customer service, training and support backing the products.

Scott Nelson, VP, Research Area Director, with the Gartner Group agrees there is a current trend away from core market leaders and an increasing influence of smaller "homegrown" manufacturers. " This applies to areas such as Sales Force Automation, which can empower sales and marketing executives with a contact management system. When these apps can aid in redirecting the core volume of customer calls away from a call center and onto a website, that spells measurable savings."

"Today’s applications are generally more process driven, allowing easier automation. These apps are also verticalised by industry, rather than having a generic approach as they did previously .They also provide better usability."

Nelson says the price of these applications has also fallen, ranging from the one to five thousand dollar point, an imperative when catering for today’s budgetary constraints. "Some vendors are offering their applications free of charge, aiming to gather venue from long term maintenance fees."

"Web enabled applications proliferated about three years ago, though some vendors such as Seibel were late to follow. These apps are seemingly cost effective and convenient, but they can present problems for a user’s sales force should they be off line for any reason."

According to Nelson, the problem with these apps occurs when the strategic motive for purchasing them isn’t matched to the structure of a user organization. "Many of these applications are purchased with an eye to providing an improved information pipeline for senior management, yet the application is often not that user friendly for sales representatives to use."

Key CRM vendor, Salesforce.com offers CRM solutions in three editions for companies of differing sizes and levels of complexity. Key clients include Dow Jones Newswire, USA Today, AOL Time Warner, Fujitsu, Garrett Aviation, and Allied Office Products.

Asked about market trends Kaiser Mulla-Feroze Salesforce.com, Director of Product Marketing cited a clear trend in the CRM marketplace toward hosted offerings. ". A number of traditional CRM software companies are jumping onto the hosted CRM bandwagon. However, the point to note is that these companies are doing nothing to solve the underlying complexities of installing, maintaining, and upgrading CRM software.

"The systems continue to be single-tenant and the architecture continues to be client-server (despite a web façade). As a result, the TCO or implementation timeframe is no better than with traditional software."

"Despite having larger budgets, bigger companies are questioning heavy investments in CRM software along with implementation cycles and high costs for consulting upgrades and maintenance." Sean Kearns, SVP of Marketing, Pivotal claims his company is the only CRM vendor that is 100% purpose-built to meet the needs of mid-sized enterprises. "We offer mid-sized enterprises a complete set of sales capabilities including, opportunity management, mobile, and interactive selling capabilities to streamline sales processes across multiple channels. "Today’s mid-sized enterprises are looking for easy ways to get started in CRM with the ability to become a fully customized, highly integrated system as their demands increase," Kearns said. A stream of satisfied users challenge any skepticism towards the sales and marketing tech sector. 7-Eleven, the largest chain in the convenience retail industry recently selected the Oracle E-Business Suite to streamline processes and interaction s with its suppliers."

Completely Internet-based, Oracle's Procurement Suite will enable 7-Eleven to efficiently fulfill purchase orders, request for quotes (RFQs), quotations and receipts, helping to ensure that the company receives the best prices from vendors.

Commenting on purchase of the system, Keith Morrow, CIO and vice president of Information Systems for 7-Eleven said, "7-Eleven has evolved into a massive global enterprise. To keep pace and control costs associated with our ongoing corporate expansion, as well as improve critical supplier relationships, we needed an 'out-of-the-box' solution that required minimal customization and maintenance." Chris Haendiges of Sterling Commerce, a leading provider of business-to-business commerce solutions for companies opted for Pragmatech’s Proposal Express and the Proposal Automation Suite. The applications contain a tracking system, and can significantly enhance the quality, and consistency of business documents among sales teams. "The proposal process can be very time consuming and tedious. Sales people want to do is go out and sell a product, not spend hours writing documents. The Pragmatech apps have improved productivity, and promoted time effectiveness and communications procedures be tween sales and marketing departments." Haendiges said Wolverine World Wide, a global marketer of branded footwear recently selected mySAP Business Suite as the information technology platform to centralize and consolidate its operations across all of its brands. Wolverine World Wide, Inc. will deploy solutions enhance demand planning and forecasting, Internet sales and call center services, and financial reporting and analysis. "We anticipate this system will improve the consistency of information across our global operations. Establishing a common IT platform and adding tightly integrated supply chain management, CRM, and financials capabilities with mySAP Business Suite will allow us to conduct all of our customer transactions, financial reporting, and planning and forecasting over a single system," said Jim Weston, CIO, Wolverine World Wide.

Written by Craig Stephens

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