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Better Data Analysis Meets Customers' Demands

When it comes to developing a wish list for functionality in customer-relationship management suites, nothing tops data-analysis tools.

Analytics is the fastest-growing part of its business, says Siebel Systems Inc., which holds about two-thirds of the CRM market. A Gartner survey of 97 business and IT professionals in March found that about 55% are either scoping out a CRM analytics implementation or targeting next year for an analytical CRM deployment.

Consider what Oracle is promising as part of the next iteration of its Daily Business Intelligence software, due out in the next 18 months. The tool will let managers segment business performance by role, geography, and line of business, says Lisa Arthur, VP of CRM product marketing at Oracle. A manager can see a slump in contract renewals, then do something about it by checking which salespeople have clients with contracts up for renewal.

Another reason is that CRM has been pretty weak when it comes to analytical tools. CRM analytics today are really nothing more than report templates, says Rod Johnson, VP of customer-management strategies at AMR Research.

This summer, Siebel plans to introduce analytical functionality within its Siebel 7.5 release. Siebel says it will offer enhanced analytics, which it picked up in the acquisition of software vendor nQuire last year. The enhancements will let executives, sales managers, and marketing coordinators view metrics in real time. The analytics application can pull data from legacy systems and outside data stores.

Business-intelligence software vendors also are extending their reach into the CRM realm. Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion, and SAS Institute market CRM-specific analysis software. Informatica and NCR also market CRM analysis tools, some targeting the telecommunications and retail markets, that run with their data-warehouse products.

Phi Data Corp., a Dutch company that supplies bar-code-based identification systems for inventory management, is hoping better analysis leads directly to higher sales. It recently deployed iBaan CRM. General manager Koos Boer says that by collecting customer data and analyzing past purchases, the company can anticipate which configurations a customer might want. That will let salespeople make a more convincing pitch that it's time to upgrade inventory-management systems.

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