Customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the most turbulent software markets today. Despite major takeovers, an abundance of partnerships and the emergence of a strong on-demand segment, many organizations are questioning the value, and indeed the basic concept, of CRM because they have gained only mediocre results from their CRM projects. Onyx Software has been selling a stand-alone CRM product for several years, with limited success. That now could change as its new focus on process management and analytics propels it into a market in need of new approaches.
For some years, companies have managed customer relationships through a single CRM application from one of several vendors, such as Onyx, Oracle, RightNow, Siebel and more recently salesforce.com. One case where this has worked well is ASB Bank in New Zealand, which has deployed the Onyx CRM product on every employee's desktop to ensure that all employees use standard processes and receive customer information derived from common data. But enough projects have not delivered such successes that CRM has lost much credibility. Users increasingly are aware that no one application is comprehensive or flexible enough to "manage" all customer relationships, especially when the customer has contact with many departments in the organization. Companies therefore have begun to search for vendors that are able to support more than basic CRM; in response, vendors are pursuing new strategies to retain or attract customers that are reassessing their CRM requirements.
Through acquisition and partnering, Onyx has evolved its core CRM solution to incorporate both business process management and contact management analytics. The suite now consists of three tightly integrated major components: Onyx Customer Management, Onyx Process Management and Onyx Performance Management.
Customer Management, the core CRM solution, has been enhanced to support operations in marketing, sales, support and the contact center. It provides three customizable views: for agents, for customers (so they can execute some degree of self-service) and for partners of the organization. This breadth allows all parties to access a common set of data through views suited to their particular needs. In addition, the product has been enhanced to support users working offline with PDAs, integration with e-mail, two levels of information stores and an in-house-developed computer telephony integration module for the contact center.
Onyx has developed process management capabilities (built on technology purchased from Visuale Inc.) and now has integrated this with its CRM software. Ventana Research sees this as an important development because it frees companies from having to either adapt to the processes built into an application they purchase or make potentially costly and risky changes to the application code so that it conforms to their requirements. Onyx Process Management allows companies to model and build complex, cross-functional processes that they can map back into the CRM data model and use to create business rules and process models. This unique approach should give Onyx an edge on other CRM vendors.
The company has evolved its performance management approach through a partnership with Cognos. Being able to see information about how the business is performing is vital to performance management initiatives. It requires assessing data from multiple sources to produce cross-functional, business-related analytics, a task that has been difficult in the contact center environment because of the diverse and proprietary natures of the systems installed there. Although Cognos has powerful tools that provide this capability, it has not focused on the contact center market; prior to this agreement, companies had to do considerable configuration and customization to use the tools. Onyx and Cognos have been working closely to produce an easy-to-use package that provides a view of customer interactions and in the future also will provide a view of how the processes are performing.
CRM is a crowded market that is undergoing profound changes, not least because the two biggest vendors - Oracle and Siebel - are now one and are working to deliver a new integrated product line. It also is being impacted by the on-demand or software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach. Early entrants such as RightNow and Sage have had some success, but the profile of SaaS has been raised mostly by the success of and market push from salesforce.com and more recently SAP's CRM on demand offerings.
With its latest developments, Onyx has added two missing pieces that could help to undo CRM's bad reputation: process management and analytics. Managing customer relationships is by nature a complex process, since no two interactions are exactly the same. In these circumstances, trying to squeeze all transactions into one set of processes confined within a single application requires a lot of time and resources. Onyx has jumped ahead of other vendors by making it much easier to build processes and then integrate them back into the application. Combined with the powerful new reporting and analytics capabilities provided by Cognos, it now has a suite that is capable of competing with any solution in the market.
Ventana Research sees the very nature of CRM changing over the next 12 to 24 months as organizations reassess their relationship with their customers and the customer process management strategies required to deliver higher levels of both customer satisfaction and revenue. We believe the outcome will be a much more process-driven approach supported by business-based analytics. Because we don't believe one supply model will fit all needs, we recommend that organizations seeking to improve their management of customer relationships should take a serious look at available options, among them the combined Onyx suite.
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2006 Ventana Research