Epicor wraps CRM in .Net

Epicor on Monday unveiled its Customer Relationship Management application, built for the Microsoft .Net architecture and targeted at the mid-market.

Unlike other CRM offerings for small and medium-sized businesses that have been wrapped as a Web service, Epicor's Clientele CRM has been built natively to support Web services, thus giving customers access to Epicor's existing application in a highly configurable, easily customizable environment via Microsoft Visual Studio, according to company officials.

Key features include published interfaces to which any vendor can write many sources for any extension, including Clientele development, VARs and Clientele professional services. In addition, Epicor -- which offers customer support, sales and marketing and customer portal CRM functionality -- has designed a smart client approach designed to provide a rich user experience.

While other CRM vendors like Oynx, Pivotal and even Microsoft's own Great Plains have built in support for .Net, their applications were based on older code and wrapped as Web services, said Kevin Scott, an analyst with AMR Research in Boston.

From a development standpoint, Microsoft-centric shops would have tighter integration with Epicor, Scott said. "People are looking for tight integration with (Microsoft) Outlook. You would think that it would be more scalable and stable being built on .Net."

While Microsoft has several servers they describe as .Net servers, Epicor is going a step further to use the .Net client framework and Visual Studio .Net to develop applications, said Greg Horton director of marketing for Epicor's Clientele group.

"(Customers) would like reassurance that the application will be able to grow with them," Horton said. "The .Net architecture is particularly valuable because of its ability to scale by adding hardware and configuring Web services to work across multiple servers."

In addition, Epicor will have an advantage over its competitors in the CRM space because it is taking mature functionality and moving it to the new platform as opposed to wrapping existing applications as Web services, Horton added.

"When you wrap applications you're introducing another layer of software which means another layer of potential bugs and problems," he said.

Epicor's Clientele CRM .Net offering is now in beta; the company will be rolling out modules between now and the second quarter of 2003. The company also is developing a customer self-service portal based on .Net, which will be beta tested in July, Horton added.

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