E.piphany upgrades to 6.5, adds four modules

CRM (customer relationship management) software vendor E.piphany announced Monday the forthcoming version 6.5 of its applications suite, adding several new modules and spotlighting its "Customer Relationship Backbone" integration architecture.

Scheduled to ship Nov. 14, E.piphany 6.5 adds new software for telesales, sales and service contact center management, event-driven marketing, and marketing campaign and resources management. The update also adds support for version 8 of IBM's DB2 database software. Pricing for the software varies, but licenses start around US$250,000.

E.piphany is using the new release to "introduce" its Customer Relationship Backbone, the company's name for a design strategy it began pursuing last year that focuses on flexibility and a component-based architecture. That architecture is intended to ease interoperability with other open-standards-based applications and allow customers to tailor the software and its modules to their needs.

San Mateo, California-based E.piphany first carved out its space in the CRM market by focusing on marketing and analytics functionality. In 2000 and early 2001 it purchased several smaller vendors to fill out its CRM functionality. Last year, incorporating the technology picked up through those acquisitions, E.piphany rebuilt its suite on a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) foundation and released what it hailed as its first full-featured CRM suite, E.piphany E.6.

The upcoming 6.5 release adds to the core E.6 platform functionality customers have been requesting, such as the event-driven marketing module to aid users in following up on triggers like service calls from their customers, said Mike Trigg, vice president of product management and marketing.

"This really marks the culmination of our journey toward full-footprint CRM vendor," Trigg said. "We're pretty happy with our product set right now."

While E.piphany counts among its 450 customers several major enterprises, including retailers Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Gap Inc. and several large financial services firms, the company sits in the middle tier of the CRM market, with a significantly smaller share than leaders Siebel Systems Inc., SAP AG, Oracle Corp. and PeopleSoft Inc. For the first nine months of this year, it has posted a loss of US$24.7 million on revenue of $68.9 million.

E.piphany's sizeable cash assets will help it weather the tough sales climate facing enterprise software vendors, and position it as one of the more likely candidates to survive the consolidation wave sweeping through the market, according to Gartner Inc. analyst Kim Collins.

"I do think that they need to build a little more momentum in the market than they have," Collins said. "I see a lot of E.piphany play in particular in the retail sectors, in the B-to-C (business-to-consumer) market. They still have a strong heritage built off their original core competency, which was around marketing and analytics."

E.piphany's Customer Relationship Backbone architecture is an interesting attempt at solving the problem of providing an integrated workflow for various customer-management activities across applications that traditionally operate independently, Collins said. As customers work through integration challenges, vendors are pitching a variety of solutions, with many large ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendors taking a "buy everything from us" approach. E.piphany, along with the leading dedicated CRM vendor, Siebel, is emphasizing instead the integration flexibility offered by an open-standards platform.

"I think it's a very interesting approach. The real test will be getting validation in the market for being able to pull this off," Collins said. "I think we'll see more of this, but it's still fairly untested. There need to be organizations getting to this enterprise level of CRM. As we see more of that happen, we'll get more proof points."

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