Vendors bolster CRM wares

A flurry of software makers have upgraded their customer relationship management offerings in recent weeks, including NetIQ, Omniture and Blue Pumpkin Software. The latest is Salesforce.com, which last week announced a new iteration of its hosted CRM service.

Customization is the theme of Salesforce.com's upgrade, called Spring '04. The new version includes Studio, a set of tools designed to let non-IT users tweak the software. With Studio, users can build their own custom objects, pages and modules, as well as rename existing sections, to fit their company's terminology, industry and business environment.

Also new to Spring '04 is sforce 3.0, an integration platform for developers. Sforce 3.0 enables integration with enterprise applications and desktop software such as Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes. Specialized toolkits from Salesforce.com let developers use tools from IBM Corp., BEA Systems Inc., Borland Software Corp. and Microsoft Corp. to customize their Salesforce.com implementation, including the user interface, business logic and underlying database.

Spring '04 is the 15th iteration of Salesforce.com's subscription-based software.

In other CRM news, systems and security management vendor NetIQ upgraded its Web site analytics offering, WebTrends.

It's easier for users to interpret Web site data with WebTrends 7, the vendor says. New "visual analytics" tools use graphical diagrams to illustrate the routes users take through a Web site, identifying the common drop-off points as well as the paths that lead to purchases.

WebTrends 7 also is aimed at making it easier for companies to integrate analytical Web data into other business systems. For example, users can opt to import results from Web campaigns into business tools such as Microsoft Excel, or overlay Web metrics directly on a Web page to visualize the relative value of different Web pages.

NetIQ offers enterprise, professional and small business versions of WebTrends 7. Each version is available as licensed software and a hosted service.

Separately, rival Web analytics software maker Omniture last week announced a new version of its hosted offering, upgraded to include greater segmentation and integration features.

Omniture's SiteCatalyst 10 adds tools that allow users to more easily combine current transactional data with historic information to glean behavioral information about a specific subset of online buyers. New assessment tools relate metrics such as visitor profiles and revenue to page-by-page Web site paths; the goal is to help users identify where to focus their marketing efforts for maximum gain.

On the integration front, Omniture added tools for incorporating data from external sources - such as ad servers, e-mail servers, paid referral services and CRM applications - into SiteCatalyst reports.

Meanwhile, Blue Pumpkin last week released a new version of its workforce automation software, which companies use to improve employee efficiency in their contact centers. The new Blue Pumpkin Workforce Optimization Suite includes upgraded planning, scheduling and activity management modules.

Specific new features include: built-in industry benchmarks so users can measure their performance against that of peers and competitors; shift bidding, team scheduling, and coaching/training session scheduling capabilities; and role-based user interfaces.

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