Onyx Shifts Strategy Toward Customer Processes

The addition of analytics and business-process-management capabilities to its CRM apps will appeal to large companies, the vendor says.
Onyx Software Inc. is trying to move up the customer-relationship-management food chain, and it's relying on business-process management and analytics to do it.

The company has embedded business-process-management technology it acquired last year from Visuale Inc. into its core CRM platform, and last week it said it has begun building reporting capabilities from Cognos Inc.'s ReportNet business-intelligence application into its offering, too. This week, the company says it's shifting its strategy from a pure CRM play to helping companies automate and evolve their customer-facing processes.

CEO Janice Anderson says there's a need among larger companies that will help establish Onyx as an enterprise-level software vendor, rather than a small- and midsize-business specialist. "Companies don't want to take on IT changes unless it will help them do things better," Anderson says. "What we figured out is that people need more than just automation of customer interactions."

After years of establishing itself in the SMB market, Onyx's adoption of business-process management and reporting, along with its decision a few years ago to migrate its platform to a services-oriented architecture, has enabled it to target companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue, She says.

Onyx's strategic shift is a wise move that gives the company an advantage over other providers of enterprise CRM apps, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone says. "One of the weaknesses in CRM has been that it hasn't been a business-process engine," she says. "CRM is much better if it follows a business workflow."

Mapping the CRM system to customer-facing processes during deployment--which Onyx's embedded business-process engine does--is likely to increase user adoption of those processes, as well as cut CRM costs. Many users of CRM applications don't use the systems that often, and if CRM data can be automatically integrated into business processes, it will be unnecessary to buy those extra licenses, Kingstone says.

Business-process outsourcer Metron North America Ltd. has invested $700,000 in Onyx software and is looking to tap Onyx's new reporting capabilities to work on its customer-facing processes and, it hopes, double its $300 million in annual revenue. Its deployment of Onyx, which went live in December, is the company's first foray into CRM, VP of finance Robert Williams says. Previously, the company had a lot of piecemeal information on customer relationships that was trapped in its business-unit silos. It also used E-mail to manage the way it assigned sales-related tasks.

Now, Metron has visibility into more sales-related details--what salespeople are selling to which customers, how long sales have been in the pipeline, projected revenue per quarter a customer is expected to generate, etc.--through a single reporting interface, rather than having to look into separate systems used to store data on sales opportunities or customer installations, for instance.

Metron has also seen the first business-process benefits by integrating Onyx with the deployment of a new call-dispatch system. When a call comes into Metron's call center, all the information on that customer is automatically pulled from the CRM system and presented to the call-center agent. That has resulted in a 30% gain in efficiency in the call center.

The ability to automate access to customer data across business units in this fashion is just the first step toward Metron's gaining a better understanding of its customers, Williams says. "I can take these things and start looking at the processes and costs of serving our customers."

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