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IBM Readies Sales-Automation Offerings For Midmarket

With bigger deals drying up, IBM will unveil a package of hardware, software, and services to help midsize companies automate their sales and marketing.

InformationWeek Staff

March 21, 2003

2 Min Read

IBM plans next week to unveil a package of software, hardware, and services that will help midsize businesses automate sales and marketing activities.

In appealing to the midmarket's preference for simplicity, IBM is offering to remotely manage the infrastructure under partner Onyx Software Inc.'s marketing and sales-force automation applications.

The package is the latest offering in IBM's Express product line for midsize businesses. Other products include its WebSphere software platform and related business applications, Tivoli management tools, Lotus groupware, and DB2 databases. For hardware, IBM targets the midmarket with its xSeries Intel server and iSeries OS/400 server.

The latest product includes Onyx software for managing marketing campaigns and automating sales activities such as contact management, note and information sharing, quick proposal and presentation generation, product configurators, calendars, and to-do lists. The software is available on xSeries and iSeries servers, and IBM will monitor the computing infrastructure and attempt to fix problems remotely. Alerts can be sent to notify a customer's technicians of trouble.

Small and midsize businesses have become the target of large IT vendors such as IBM, Oracle, and SAP because of a saturated market among larger companies. With fewer big deals available, these vendors have scaled down their products to target smaller deals. The most formidable competitor in this market is Microsoft.

While IBM is more known for billion-dollar contracts, it has made a credible push in the midmarket, analysts say.

"They're being realistic about it and are going after the high end of the market," says Shawn Willett, an analyst for market researcher Current Analysis. Definitions for midmarket companies vary greatly, ranging from $50 million to $1 billion in sales.

IBM's strengths in attacking the market are its thousands of software and channel partners, and a strong product and services line, Willett says. However, there's no solid evidence that IBM has taken market share away from its biggest target.

"There's no objective measure that they're stealing market share from Microsoft," Willett says. "What they're more likely doing is taking market share from lesser-known players."

Simplicity is a key feature for the midmarket, so IBM's remote service is appealing for companies that still want to have physical control over their data.

"For a lot of people, there's a comfort level of having physical control over their hardware and software," says Gordon Haff, an analyst with high-tech researcher Illuminata. The second key element for success is price. "This is a segment that's very cost sensitive," he says.

In its latest offering, the starting price for Onyx software is $150 per user, per month, an IBM spokesman says. The hardware starts at around $1,000.

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