Onyx to bolster Web services CRM platform

Onyx Technologies Inc. this spring plans to release Onyx 4.0, an upgraded version of its Web services-based CRM platform that will feature a redesigned user interface and support for the Oracle Corp. database and the Sun Solaris OS.

Onyx 4.0 is a customizable CRM platform based on Microsoft Corp.'s .Net Web services initiative, according to the company.

"Our main intention [with Version 4.0] is to enable customers to manage their customers, whether it's marketing, selling, or servicing, [and] to do it with Web services technology that integrates all the departments," said Brent Frei, CEO of Onyx, in Bellevue, Wash.

Through the use of an XML-based application server, Onyx 4.0 is able to offer "elegant" Web services, Frei said.

The product's user interface, the Onyx Employee Portal, has been redesigned based on an enterprise usability study. Functions will exceed that of the Onyx Windows client, according to the company.

Onyx Employee Portal will include a "no-coding" UI toolkit to integrate third-party applications and content directly into the Onyx applications. For example, Onyx includes a variety of operational reports based on Web technology from Cognos which are displayed seamlessly within the application for monitor customer-facing processes in real time.

Also included in the portal is a proprietary selling model called Opportunity Manager, which is not available in the Windows client.

Onyx 4.0 users can leverage third-party Web services through support of Microsoft's HailStorm platform.

Onyx is building on its position as a Microsoft-centric CRM provider, said analyst Jeff Comport, vice president and research director at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

"Onyx is continuing [its] close alignment with Microsoft's .Net direction, which means continuing with their object-oriented approach toward implementing CRM functions, building on top of Microsoft tools, and integrating with things like Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office," Comport said.

Onyx's approach "allows greater flexibility in configuring the application without having to resort to changing source code, and that can be a competitive advantage for clients who are uncompromising in getting their business processes exactly as they want them," Comport said.

The company has made heavy use of XML as a way to make its functionality accessible by outside applications, said Comport. But as far as supporting Web services in a manner superior to rivals, that remains to be seen given Web services relatively immature status, he saidMeanwhile, database support has been extended to the Oracle platform. Onyx already supports Microsoft SQL Server. The Sun Solaris OS also is supported in Version 4.0.

"They planned [Oracle support] for a long time and it's been delayed, and now it's available and [it] broadens the range of databases and the markets in which they can play," Comport said.

Onyx has added features for direct marketing to deepen the sales capability around task management and team selling. Internet-based self-service and personalization functions also have been enhanced.

Other new features include improved WAN performance as well as improved queue management for service and support professionals, according to the company.

The base Onyx 4.0 platform will start at US$15,000, plus user fees starting at $1,350 each.

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