CRM Software, Technologies Take Center Stage

A host of CRM (customer relationship management) vendors will tout their Internet-enabled wares this week at the CRM Conference and Expo in San Francisco, but a significant piece of the CRM action will be happening elsewhere.

At the conference, Hitachi Ltd. will join the CRM space with the announcement of Hitachi Data Systems Solutions (HDSS), a subsidiary that will offer customers platform-independent, integrated software products based on technology from partners such as Oracle and Seibel Systems.

HDSS initially will focus on the financial services, telecom companies, and state and local governments. In North America, the Hitachi subsidiary is aiming for $US110 million in revenues in five years, through growth and CRM-related acquisitions.

"The solutions we will bring to the table will be analytical, marketing, sales and service, and data warehousing," said Satya Sachdeva, director of CRM and Business Intelligence at HDSS, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Two of CRM's biggest players, PeopleSoft Inc. and Seibel Systems Inc., will be hosting separate user conferences this week. In Los Angeles, PeopleSoft will introduce PeopleSoft 8 CRM, which will, according to strategic marketing vice president Ed Schreyer, reduce the cost of ownership and be cheaper to deploy because code does not run on the client.

PeopleSoft 8 CRM will include a customer portal and enhancements to sales and marketing call centers that have previously been available only in the Pleasanton, Calif., company's vertical offerings. It will also feature CRM analytics that reach across different suite functions and CRM Connectors to enable PeopleSoft 8 to connect with other enterprise applications, such as SAP. "It's centered to customer relationships, but it's also important to let users manage relationships between employees and partners," Schreyer said.

Smaller CRM companies also will show their wares at the San Francisco conference, including Echopass with its LAN-based, phone-free Call Center technology.

"If you get an American Express bill and you're overcharged, how do you handle it? Everybody's got to use the phone, and that's the most expensive way a company can handle things," said Katharine Holland, an Echopass representative. "This [product] is really forward-thinking; e-mail, phone calls, [and] Web-chat text is all in the same queue."

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