IBM and E.piphany are expected to announce Monday a new agreement to integrate E.piphany's CRM (customer relationship management) solutions with IBM's e-business middleware, hardware, and services.
As part of the deal, which is tailored to focus on the telecommunications and financial services markets, E.piphany's entire suite of products will be integrated on the IBM e-business infrastructure, according to an E.piphany spokeswoman.
The deal is IBM's way of casting a vote of support to the CRM vendor that has done the most work to support J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), said Gareth Herschel, a research director at Gartner Inc. who has been briefed on the deal.
"By making this announcement it puts a stake in the ground and says, 'E.piphany is our partner here,'" Herschel said. "It gives IBM a strong partner on the marketing side of CRM."
The deal could indicate IBM's lack of confidence in its current high-profile CRM partner, Siebel Systems, Herschel said.
Siebel is strong in call center and field sales channel applications rather than marketing and analytics, he added.
"It's a vote of no confidence in Siebel's current solution. Part of it is Siebel isn't J2EE. You could either view it as a vote of no confidence in Siebel's marketing and analytics strategy that IBM has found the need to go looking for another partner, or IBM is looking for a strong partner today and Siebel doesn't have it," Herschel said.
In addition, IBM may view this partnership as protection from losing out on deals where an enterprise isn't keen on Siebel's solutions, Herschel said.
"Siebel has been struggling particularly in business-to-consumer industries," he said. "If Siebel gets knocked out of the deal, then IBM risks getting knocked out of the deal."
For E.piphany, which has been struggling to boost revenue, the deal means a much needed boost of credibility, Herschel added.
"The real concern [about E.piphany] has been will they be a serious player? Do they actually have a future here or are they a lame duck?'" he said. "People will look at this relationship and say they do have a future."