IBM Unit to Focus Diverse Assets

Corepoint Technologies, IBM Corp.'s recently launched software spin-off in the customer-relationship management (CRM) software market, starts life both advantaged and challenged by the extensive resources at its disposal.

Corepoint inherits a wide array of technologies and services from IBM and its subsidiaries, and enters the market uniquely equipped to compete with established players, according to analysts.

CRM encompasses call-center, help desk, computer telephony, billing systems, and other technologies used to handle the full range of customer relations. For its products, Corepoint has focused on marketing, sales, customer service, legacy systems integration, decision-support applications, and computer-telephony systems.

"They've got a lot of work do to bring those products to the next generation and work on the integration between them," said Curt Johnson, an analyst at the Meta Group, in Stamford, Connecticut. "They've got to see where the holes are, and then decide to make or buy the remaining pieces."

With Corepoint, which was first announced in August, IBM is making a concerted push into an area that it has previously addressed only haphazardly, according to Johnson.

"They're also breathing more life into the effort with [IBM] services and consulting, which have been pushing process redesign and customer service outsourcing," Johnson said.

According to analysts, help desk and customer service vendors such as Vantive and Siebel Systems could be most directly affected, with less head-on competition between the new group and enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors such as SAP, although the latter recently spelled out plans for the CRM arena.

The CRM market is a fairly open sector, compared to the relatively saturated ERP market for such staples as financial, human resource, and manufacturing applications, according to Harry Tse, an analyst at the Yankee Group, in Boston.

Tse expects IBM's strategy in the CRM market to combine packaged applications and custom development.

Corepoint Technologies, in Indianapolis, can be reached at www.corepoint.com.

Corepoint dials in to customer-service marketComponents of the Corepoint suite-- Sales & Marketing: field sales, telesales, marketing management-- Service & Support: contact/call center, support center/help desk-- Relationship Management: decision-support tools for mining customer information-- Universal Access: phone, Internet, and other connectivity products for customer access-- Enterprise Connection: integration products linking front-office, back-office, and other systems-- Foundation Products: telephony, interactive voice response, Internet self-service, and data-integration/host-access technologies

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