CRM 2010 Watchlist - Part IIA

Summary:Okay, you saw what I think about the Four Bad Boys of CRM the other day.  Now onto the next not-really-a-tier tier.

Okay, you saw what I think about the Four Bad Boys of CRM the other day.  Now onto the next not-really-a-tier tier.  You'll note that this year, I'm changing the way I do my ZDNet blog posting to the "more-if-you-click-here" so they just don't look so damned long. This one is so comprehensive though, I'm splitting it over 2 days - though so no one will be pulling out their nails in the agony of the suspense, I'll announce at the end of this part who I'm going to be putting on Watchlist Part IIB.

The Sorta-Methodology & Thought Process

Part I of CRM Watchlist 2010 was simple because it was just those who are universally recognized as "The Big Four."  This part, the aptly named "Part II" is much more difficult because there is no universally recognized group beyond the Big Four.  What I've done with both Part II and III is to whittle down a list of the CRM vendors and social vendors numbering nearly 90 in all. I cut the total list to about 55, then down to its current 40 plus. Then I had to distinguish the "winners" - those worth watching in 2010 based on a number of criteria, including, importantly, having enough information on these companies to make a smart decision. Other criteria of important, was clarity and consistency (two different things) of their direction, good technology, potential impact, customer and analyst thinking about these companies (outside my own) and do they fit the criteria for the companies (mostly technology) to actually be considered among those in the sphere of Social CRM - since none of them are pure Social CRM vendors.  Their claims to be Social CRM might have gotten them attention but several who claimed it didn't make the cut for one reason or another.  So for example, given the maturation of the industry, some of the companies I included last year because I liked them a lot like Zuora aren't on this list though I love them even more than last year. They just aren't Social CRM - now that the definition of Social CRM is approaching something that can be called rigor without being called rigor mortis.

As a result the remaining 40 something choices (I'm being vague because a few are still being decided and might disappear entirely from the list), had to be separated out.  Thus, in Part II (right here, right now) you'll see the CRM vendors who are going to continue to have or are poised to have an impact in the CRM world in 2010 - which largely means Social CRM. You'll also see the CRM vendors who are on a 3 or 6 mos Revisit list.

The 3 month Revisit list are those companies that I thought deserved recognition for the quality of their offering but one way or the other are just short of ready for prime time - which, by the way, could also simply be my lack of information about that. Then there was the 6 mos. watchlist which was those that I thought still needed to sort their thinking out to provide some real clarity to their place in the universe, but had a lot of potential when it came to Social CRM - though each of them has some issue to deal with substantial enough to keep them off the list.  Each of these lists will be presented without individual discussion but with a link to the companies involved. If interested, I'm willing to explain to anyone including the vendor themselves why they aren't on the watch list.

So, here's how it all goes down.  Part II is the companies coming from the world of CRM who are becoming watch-worthy in Social CRM in 2010.  The 3 months and 6 months lists in Part II are those CRM vendors who don't quite make it.

Part III will be the social software vendors which could mean social media monitoring, community platforms, or even social channels. But what they all have in common is that they are moving toward CRM integration in some way - not always in the right way but their noses are sniffing the right winds.  There will be social vendor specific 3 and 6 month lists here too.

For another Social CRM list that is somewhat different than mine (its not meant to be a watchlist) but works check out Jeremiah Owyang's list (done on behalf of Altimeter Group) at the Web-Strategist.

Introduction

This is the "Other" players of CRM). These are major league unto themselves one way or the other and companies that I'm going to be paying close attention to in 2010 - for better or for worse. Luckily for all of us, this is a substantially larger marketplace than just the Big Four.  In fact, Cognizant, SAS and Sage are bigger than salesforce.com when it comes to both revenues and scope. So maybe size doesn't matter after all.

Remember though, this is a Watch List, not a Love List.

NetSuite

In the beginning of 2009, Zach Nelson told me over a nice dinner here in N. Va., that he intended to be more social in 2009. Now, if you know Zach, this wasn't a personal statement, he already is about as social a human being as it gets. The man knows how to party.

So I watched for this throughout the year and he did what he usually does, which is to strengthen an already strong enterprise SaaS product. Some of the notable efforts were

In other words a solid set of improvements to an already internationally strong feature rich set of applications and services.

But they also hinted at what was to come during the late 3Q and early 4Q with a few rather smart and sexy mobile applications including bringing NetSuite ERP and OpenAir to the iPhone and the Blackberry.

But this wasn't a year of pure karma love.  They  maintained series of campaigns that I have always found misplaced - their relentless direct attacks on SAP and a lesser series of attacks on Sage and salesforce.com throughout the year. I'm not going to rant here, but I wish they'd stop these overt valueless, efforts that either were attacks on the specific rival they had or take the form of "we took (fill in the blank) company away from (fill in the blank)" that they've persisted in doing for years. My take on it all is "who gives a crap" who they stole from whom.  Their products and services are good enough to stand on their own merits. I will say there was one silver lining in all of this part.  At one point, they actually did approach the competition the right way by announcing the availability of SuiteCloud Connect, which would integrate NetSuite and salesforce.com. That's the way to go about being competitive in my eyes.  Fill in the holes the competition has, play to your own strengths.

I have to admit, though, one of their more generalized campaigns like this was really funny, I have to admit. They offered to give you a cheaper price for NetSuite if in exchange you gave up  your on premise application - they called it "Cash for Clunkers"  THAT was funny - and not aimed at any one company.

But that was the only negative in what was turning out to be an otherwise solid year for NetSuite.  But--I remembered that Zach said he was going to get more social in 2009.

Damned if he didn't come through at the end of the year - a Twitter feed integration and far more importantly an alliance with InsideView to cover both CRM and ERP intelligence - NetSuite's first premier partnership with anyone.  This was a great move given InsideView's preeminent position in the social sales intelligence market. So Zach came through wisely.

What's there to watch in 2010?  A very good company with a childish marketing streak that has a lot to offer.

What makes this all good is that NetSuite continues to build on a solid foundation and constantly improve the basics when it comes to process and even compliance.  But they now are venturing at least with one or two toes in the water into the social side of services and applications - for them an important move.  Once again, NetSuite is a company to watch for 2010. And maybe even a company to like a lot, if they'll just stop being attack dogs. Ahh, I like them anyway.

RightNow

RightNow has been on a roll the last couple of years. They've seen Social CRM and they're acting on it. Their 4Q release of the new version of the RightNow CX "customer experience platform" reflects what is so good about this company. They actually create well thought out and well endowed (don't...go...there) services and applications that meet what social customers are now demanding.  For example, who else has not just the feature du jour - an embedded Twitter stream, but also a community  building platform, a web self-service capability, tools for traditional agent contact centers among a myriad of other capabilities.  Their commitment to the Cloud and Cloud connectors is strong, though Cloud Monitor, their current flagship when it comes to the cloud and social media monitoring is still a bit light with only monitoring Twitter and YouTube feeds. However, it does have embedded sentiment analysis, which is good on the surface, though I don't know how deep it is since I have yet to see it.

All in all, RightNow RX "customer experience" platform is without a doubt one of the best, most comprehensive in the entire software/services world.  And it is well executed.

They are also a solid company with 800 employees; around $150 million in revenue in 2009 and have around $100 million in the bank.

But even more than that, they've done something which VERY few companies have been willing to undertake. They've transformed their culture and created organization based on that appropriate cultural transformation. To see how it works, pay attention to their newest job position - customer success managers. These are the people who's only job is make the RightNow customers successful. They don't have quotas, they don't have "bogies." Their performance is based on how successful their customers are. I know few companies willing to invest in this level of "customer value creation." RightNow is right on target with this effort - a key indicator to their cultural change.

But once again, there is a but and its around their messaging.  For reasons unbeknownst to me, at their RightNow User Conference in October, they decided to say that "since CRM has failed, that CX was not CRM". They kept insisting that they didn't want to "create a new category" but of course by being "not CRM" you are creating an "are something" which makes it a new category.  Plus they used me to make their case on the same web location that calls CX "the big brother of CRM", in an apparent contradiction. They claimed that I've been quoted as saying that "70 percent of CRM projects fail." I never said that, Gartner did and I debunked this in my post on their conference last October. But they haven't changed this page where they make this claim of what I said (and I presume, other pages) so I'll reiterate it. Gartner said that in 2002 with their 55%-70% CRM project failure claim. Since then, everyone including them, pretty much recognizes the success of CRM with 55-70% of the projects succeeding as the industry matured and learned from its mistakes - like most industries do. For god sakes it's a $13 billion industry that grew during the recession and is expected to grow more.  I hope they remove that claim. Though, if I were them, I'd be more concerned about the "not CRM" marketing - since most of their prospects and clients aren't going to not think of them that way - and they are a CRM company.

Honestly, though, I still think the world of them.  They are doing the right thing at the right time. If they'd focus on the value of RightNow CX and forget the "not CRM" stuff, they'd be spot on for 2010.  Let's see.

Sage

This might be the company that made the largest leap in 2009. Not only have they mastered the REST architecture that is becoming increasingly important to Social CRM and mobile devices, but they also have introduced social features in useful way via their Saleslogix, SageCRM and even ACT! 2010 products) so that you can see social feeds for customers and accounts.  This is on top of utilizing that simplified architecture (think HTTP) that is so smart when it comes to the Sage target market - small and the lower end of mid-sized businesses.

What makes Sage a great story and something that I expect to see develop further in 2010 is that this is a company that was behind the eight-ball for years - always a generation and a half back when it came to how they "architected" their CRM applications. Plus their partner channel would compete with itself. I actually saw a Sage partner (twice happened - two separate partners) decide to have SageCRM compete with SalesLogix CRM in a meeting with potential buyers.  I mean think about this. Twice.

But they've done wonders with both their CRM products and their partner channels - not only adjusting to the contemporary customer trends and demands but also giving the partners a forum to interact with them.

They've even done something that I never expected.  They made ACT! 2010 Premium a "nearly SFA" product - it still lacks business rules/workflows and strong pipeline management.  (I remember someone calling pipeline in a comedy routine  a "pippa-leany." Anyone remember who did that? Saw it probably 40 years ago. Might have been Chico Marx. Sigh.). They also, using Lithium, created an ACT! community that had 8.9 million page views in its first 12 months. They've made what was a stodgy product into an exceptional one. As they have done to a lesser extent with SalesLogix and SageCRM.

But they haven't stopped there. They have developed solid mobile products for their CRM offerings, they are moving SalesLogix into the cloud, though that isn't a final project yet. They have folks like Ryan Zuk who knows how to stay in touch with and retain the good will of analysts and journalists - which as ridiculous as it sounds - is something that IT companies have to do to remain visible and competitive.

So we have a company that is necessarily contemporary with technical and functional trends, on target with their target market - and not getting greedy, doing what they have to do when it comes to visibility - all in all solid as a rock.

Which is where any nagging doubts remain.  Rocks are solid which means they don't flow - and resting on laurels is something that Sage/Best Software/SalesLogix (past ownerships) has had a tendency to do in the past.  There are some things they need to do and improvements they need to make. Among them:

  1. Keep innovating even though they are now on target.  I don't know what that means for them.  Could be more in the mobile realm; could be the incorporation of more SMB useful social features
  2. Keep eyes on the prize - don't get greedy as so many other companies have and trick yourself into believing that you have a different target market.
  3. Do a bit better - not a lot but a bit - when it comes to thought leadership for the SMB CRM market.

If Sage does these things their ascent will continue. If they don't, they might prove me wrong in 2010. That would not be good.

.....

Okay, that's enough for today. So no one freaks out about not being included.  Watchlist 2010 Part IIB's members are going to be Cognizant, Sword-Ciboodle, SAS, SugarCRM and Helpstream.

I'll also be publishing in the same post the first of the 3 Months Revisit lists (The other will be in Part IIIB)-which are companies that might have deserved to be on the watchlist but I didn't know enough about them to be comfortable. And the first 6 Months Revisit list - companies that are potentially deserving of recognition but there are some things that I think they need to resolve a.k.a. fix before I put them on the watchlist because they are troublesome. Unlike last year, this year, I will actually revisit the companies in 3 and 6 months.

I promise.  The rest in the next day or two.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Software

About

In addition to being the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light: Social CRM Strategies, Tools, and Techniques for Engaging Your Customers Paul Greenberg is President of The 56 Group, LLC, a customer strategy consulting firm, focused on cutting edge CRM strategic services and a founding partner of the CRM training company, BP... Full Bio

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