CRM Watchlist 2012 Winners - Customer Service Strikes Again

CRM Watchlist 2012 Winners - Customer Service Strikes Again

Summary: What we have so far:CRM Watchlist 2012 Pt 1A - The Big GunsCRM Watchlist 2012 1B - The Big Guns AgainCRM Watchlist 2012 - The Winners ListCRM Watchlist 2012 -  Let the Reviews Roll: The Top of the TopCRM Watchlist 2012 Winners - The GeneralistsCRM Watchlist 2012 Winnners - The Marketing MavensMy Disclaimers for the CRM 2012 WatchlistCustomer Service Takes The StageThe funny thing is that for all kinds of reasons, customer service has been the lynchpin for what we've all called Social CRM.

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What we have so far:

CRM Watchlist 2012 Pt 1A - The Big Guns

CRM Watchlist 2012 1B - The Big Guns Again

CRM Watchlist 2012 - The Winners List

CRM Watchlist 2012 -  Let the Reviews Roll: The Top of the Top

CRM Watchlist 2012 Winners - The Generalists

CRM Watchlist 2012 Winnners - The Marketing Mavens

My Disclaimers for the CRM 2012 Watchlist

Customer Service Takes The Stage

The funny thing is that for all kinds of reasons, customer service has been the lynchpin for what we've all called Social CRM. That means going well beyond the contact center and well beyond the ordinary customer service interactions that we've come to.... love/hate/pick one.

But customer service has broader implications than it used because customers aren't only communicating their frustrations in multiple channels, they are asking questions and getting answers in places not owned by the company.  The winners this year represent different levels of execution when it comes to the thinking on those broader implications - but all of them execute really well in whatever way they do.

Let's get down for KANA, Moxie, Parature, Pegasystems and Sword Ciboodle - in that (alphabetical) order.

KANA

I've known KANA, one way or the other, since the early part of the 2000s.  Back in the day, I spoke at their events, was pretty good friends with their CMO at the time, Marchai Bruchey. I was never overwhelmed by them but saw that they had a smart product portfolio that competed with the big boys when it came to contact centers.  But in roughly 2006 (or thereabouts) I realized that KANA hadn't changed and weren't going to change who they were or even the products they provided. They had little to no sense of the market transition that was beginning and as the last few years evolved, they didn't seem to be discovering, even with the clarity of the changes by 2008.  They went bankrupt. They were acquired by Accel-KKR.  They had a complete overhaul as a company both leadership and culture. They transformed their product portfolio - all in a couple of years.  Amazing.

Now, we are seeing a new KANA, one with 8 figures in cash in the bank, no debt, 400 employees, 600 customers and a pair of significant acquisitions, who, despite one or two giant holes they have to fill, are poised to be big impact players in the customer service world in 2012.

Their product overhaul is perhaps the most impressive part of what they've done. Frankly, while their old portfolio was something competitive with Siebel in the early 2000's, it wasn't so great when it was nearly the same thing in 2007.  But what they claim they are proffering now under the name of Service Experience Management (SEM - yet another one) is "the convergence BPM, CRM, Knowledge Management, Analytics and Social designed for customer service."  Sounds almost nirvana - like.

I took a look at what they have and, while there is no possible way to cover it all here due to space considerations, they do a good job of converging those pieces - better than any other vendor in the space I've seen.  I'm not saying that each piece is exceptional or the suite is. I haven't given it that level of analysis yet, but they seem to have actually intermeshed the parts.

What makes the suite stand out is that it is based on what is a context-aware service oriented architecture (SOA) This is a bit unusual for a contemporary technology vendor. On the one hand a lot of businesses are moving away from SOA to more RESTful architectures (though SOA is by no means dead), But KANA is not only embracing SOA adding the kinds of services that make it context aware. That means that with the KANA architecture enabled, customer service managers are able to design programs or respond to customers with an appropriate experience that takes the customer's circumstances - both long term and at that moment;  networks, ambiance, history etc. into account.  Theoretically, far more powerful than the usual - if, then Boolean statement that governs how much of the customer service world responds to customers. (if the customer is on a 1-5 scale 1 angry then offer him a 20% discount; if they are 2 angry, offer them an organic carrot).

Their core products are under the SEM umbrella.  Aside from the context-aware SOA, these products are characterized by 3 additional features:

  1. Adaptive Desktop - the presentation of information specifically relevant to the particular service interaction (can be agent to customer, customer to self, customer to customer)
  2. Knowledge-infused Process - deeply tying knowledgebases to business processes so, for example, if a customer searches on a specific word, he might not just get a series of links to posts or articles, but contact info for an expert in the field who is currently available.
  3. Experience Flows - processes, data, knowledge that combine dynamically in a user interface that guides the user through a path to completion of a task that is based on what interactions are occurring in real time. Kana seems to be HUGE on context.

These features are at the core of all the KANA applications.  Their current suite is far too large to cover here but I will note that they have two products Social CRM products - one an analytics offering, the other a community platform that seems to take all the current trends into account (e.g. gamification).  Honestly, I haven't seen them so I don't know how good they are. The significance of their offering becomes clearer when you know what kind of company they were - traditional customer service vendors who couldn't make precisely these kinds of transitions which led them to their nadir.  The very fact this offering exists (though, as I said, I can't speak to its quality) is an indication of a changed outlook.

So what are they doing as a company beyond providing Service Experience Management, since this is an impact award, not a product excellence award? Why do I have faith in these guys for 2012 even without any relationship to the company whatsoever?

Let me count the ways. (who knows where this line comes from? Anyone want to guess?)

They have a highly experienced management team in place. Their CEO, President and Chairman, Mark Duffell is the former President of Epicor, an $800 million ERP focused (with some CRM capability) vendor with a very visible public footprint.  The rest of the management team is of similar experience. Their new CMO, James Norwood,  is also an Epicor veteran, which, given Epicor's visibility, bodes well for KANA, but I have yet to see them strut their stuff.

They've made some quality acquisitions, buying Overtone for their social listening platform, and, even more importantly, Lagan Technologies, the Belfast based public sector focused service solutions company - one that I know and think very highly of.

As I've already said, their impressive product mix indicates that they do understand the direction that the world and they have to go in.

Additionally, they've spent some time, effort and money on institutional analyst outreach and it bore some fruit.  They were named in the 2011 Gartner Web Customer Service Management Magic Quadrant. But, that said, with all their investment in Gartner, Aberdeen, Forrester, a significant amount of their thought leadership kudos and market presence was inherited via the Lagan Technologies acquisition, judging from what they submitted to me.  But all in all, as effectively a noobie company (albeit with lots of experience) re-entering the market in the last couple of years, they have come a LOOOONG way to having an impact this year.

So what are my suggestions for this impressive bunch?

  1. They need to step up their influencer relations efforts. I was kind of stoked to see that they are talking to Esteban Kolsky and Constellation Research, a person and a group representative of the new wave heavyweight influential that vendors need to talk to in order to succeed. There are many out there however, that they aren't talking to and frankly, the longer they delay that, the worse it will be for them.
  2. Their partner program isn't anywhere near what a company with this powerful an offering should have.  IBM and PwC are the two partners that are on the enterprise-scale that also have the cache that they need to beef up their market presence and escalate their go-to-market-strategy.
  3. They need to reduce their messaging dependence on Lagan's success - at least when it comes to their analysts/influencer relations. What they sent to me was predominantly focused around the public sector and overtly spoke of KANA and Lagan in several of the submitted pieces. The story that KANA has to tell is terrific. Develop the narrative out a bit. Make it visual. Tell a true story, not one with such a public sector emphasis.  To be fair, this isn't their messaging on their website or in their general collateral. But it shouldn't be the messaging to anyone at all. Bring it into balance.

I have to say that they may be one of this year's biggest Watchlist surprises. So make 2012, your impact year KANA, I'll be watching.

Moxie Software

Moxie spent their 2011 doing two things that I noticed.  They straightened out their messaging (thanks to the work by their excellent CMO Tara Sporrer) and they began to deepen their attempts to drive thought leadership.  I'm not saying they didn't improve their products - they of course did that too - but for impact they spent 2011 focused there - it seems - and they were successful. Which says a lot. For all kinds of reasons.

Getting their messaging straight was actually a big deal.  It was, shall we say, crooked, for a long time. It was characterized by continual and nearly total alteration, not due some big marketing issue, but due to their original business model - which was acquire and roll up lots of small companies.  In fact, what got my original attention was that they bought a CRM company - Talisma, which in my thinking then was the first time a social company acquired a CRM one. Usually it was the other way around.

To integrate little companies and create a solution with a portfolio of products that relate to one another is an effort of no small consequence. The messaging can't work until that exists.  There can't be a story line without a story.

But in late 2010 and through 2011, especially the latter part of last year, they had gotten their act together around a solution that made sense to their customer base. Keep in mind before we get briefly into this product line - one thing that distinguishes Moxie from the rest of the pack - even those winners here - is that it is a newer generation of software that started with social channels from the get go.  That's why the foundation apps are not really apps but almost portals called Employee Spaces which is organized around internal collaboration and Customer Spaces which is organized around communities and channels for customer outreach and participation.  The two combined make Moxie a social business platform as much as they are a customer service focused one. But let me be clear, service is their focus.

For example, incorporated into Customer Spaces, are a number of additional pieces such as service chat, sales chat which is designed primarily for service agents to up-sell and cross-sell to customers, knowledgebase, a standard piece for any good customer service application and even phone which allows for the fact that traditional communications media still play a major role in the service interaction.  But they also have social media which is designed to handle service queries from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc from within the system.

Their interface is a source of pride too. While they make a big deal of their collaboration with innovative creative agency Ideo as the partner in the creation of the interface, my guess is that their customers couldn't care less about that. Nor do I though its nice that they did. What I care about as would their customers, is that their interface is outstanding in its ease of use, looks and easy navigation.  It is outstanding.

Where they have been very smart and even kind of interesting is in their integrations which have been strategic from day one.  For example, not only do they integrate with salesforce as you would expect, but they integrate with Microsoft Sharepoint, Atlassian Confluence and Skype, among others. Each one of them is wise in the context of what they do.  There was a lot of thinking that went into this and if you see it for what it is, they have developed integrations to social applications.  So their technology partners, while a small group, are an important one.  They lack a bit on the consulting services and systems integration side, but I'm sure that they will take care of this since their focus is the enterprise.

They also have a reasoned approach to thought leadership - and are off to a good start. They've developed a site called Moxie Insight that highlights Don Tapscott, the business guru best known for his books around social business including the ground-breaking Wikinomics. The objective is to provide thought leadership around collaboration, talent, and the enterprise. There are ongoing blogs, white papers and other media that cover broad trends down to specific practices that will benefit service related practitioners.  Its an attractive site and certainly well worth it even for the Don Tapscott content alone.

There do a lot right as a company and are a solid candidate for a company that needs sophisticated, scalable customer service capabilities.  But in 2012, they have to be more than that.  This is the year for busting out. It took them several years to integrate their acquisitions, to develop the high quality products that they have now, to align their messaging, to develop and execute on their thought leadership program.  So they had to stay back a bit though, to their credit, they maintained a visible public presence continually, where several larger companies I can think of pulled way back doing similar things.  So they kept some advantage.

But this is a company that I expect will break out in 2012 and to that there are several things they have to consider:

  1. Expand their thought leadership program. For example, there is very little third party content on the Moxie Insight site.  Mistake.  This should be a vibrant place for thought leaders from the company and from outside the company to engage via the forum, rather than just a place to go to read Moxie thought leader stuff - even though its good stuff.
  2. Evolve the consulting/SI side of their partner program. They need enterprise level partners. Period.

Those are big tweaks, but just tweaks nonetheless. Time for Moxie to step it up and step out even more in 2012. This is their year.

Parature

To begin, I need to come clean about something.  I've been following Parature for years, but a couple of small incidents with them (they are local to me) kept me at arms length and probably impacted their place on this list in the past to at least some degree.  But, early in 2011, I realized that while I may have been bothered by the incidents, not only were they in the distant past, but, damn it, this company was beginning to do things that were totally attuned to the nearly seismic shift in business that was occurring and they deserved my undivided attention as a company I should track.  Though I had little to no conversations with them.

Okay, one other hint to the vendors who pursue influencers.  Influencers may be watching you regularly but they aren't necessarily going to call you. In fact, to me, the test of an influencer/analyst relations program is how you handle someone like me proactively. I probably know a lot about you, but I'm also expecting you to find me and do the outreach that a good AR program leader does.

Just sayin'.

Parature and I didn't speak once to my recollection in 2011, though in 2010, their co-founder, CEO and chief evangelist Duke Chung, a really cool dude and good CEO was out at my house for a couple of hours with some of his colleagues.  But even without the interaction, I watched them grow, capture significant accounts, get past the "only small business" customer target market to larger companies, though the bulk are still small businesses.  I watched them evolve their product according to the most practical contemporary customer service market trends - adding components that were the most requested by customers who understand how the customer has changed.  Normally, in my classic influencer delusion of grandeur, I might watch a product evolve and say "damn, I couldn't have done it any better than that."  Clearly narcissistic on my part. But even with that, these guys had me thinking, "damn, I just learned something there. That's really smart."

Their product is focused around customer service, not a product per se. It supports a solution and a platform for providing customer service in any physical environment. If you think about what has been their strongest target base this makes complete sense.  How many small businesses do you know that have their own contact centers?  For example, they have 300 universities and colleges who use them. I will guess that it is less than 10% of them that have their own contact centers. But they do have customer service representatives who are providing multichannel services.

So what does Parature provide then?  For those of you who are looking to tailor your service offering, Parature Portal and Customization Portal - which allows for high degrees of customization of self-service knowledgebases and ticketing systems.  For those of you who are looking to do service outreach or input to and from social channels, Parature for Facebook or Parature Forum; for those of you who are looking for customer input, Parature Feedback and Parature Survey; for those of you who are getting more complex and need workload management, voila, Parature Activity. All the traditional tools are there too for knowledge management, case management and anything else you would see in a contact center if that's the way you roll

They smartly integrate with other applications because one aspect I would presume of their go to market strategy is integration with other facets of a CRM platform. So, as is typical of pretty much everyone in the industry, they have a partnership and integration with salesforce.com. But they don't stop with CRM platforms. Their technology partners are those than either complement or enhance Parature's technology offering. So, they partner with Angel.com for their IVR integration - a complementary technology in the Parature tech ecosystem.  They also partner with CRM Watchlist 2012 winner Lithium to enhance their community capabilities. This barely touches on their well conceived partner ecosystem.

This strategy - the power of their product offering and the intelligence of their very seful partnering effort - makes them one of the leaders in the customer service industry with thousands of customers who will probably agree with me.

Their efforts to reach out and participate in the community - both the customer and industry communities - are vigorous, though they fall short in one area.  They speak at or sponsor or attend dozens of events that are horizontal (e.g. Technology Services World 2011) or vertically specific (e.g. EDUCAUSE 2011). They go to partner events (Lithium's LiNC in 2011). They attend local events (Washington Area CTO Roundtable in VA). Meaning, they, in particular Duke Chung, gets around and makes Parature presence known.  They host their own user group meetings, though, curiously, don't seem to have a big bash User Conference that I can find - which is an error at this point in their existence.

Because they have a clearly defined mission - "to be the expert in customer service, not just customer service solutions" - they diligently work on moving the discussion forward in the customer service community with regular thought leadership activities, internally producing white papers - on subjects like trends in customer service or best practices around social engagement. They host webinars on topics of interest though these are more of the lead gen variety then the thought leadership variety e.g. a webinar case study on Thomas Edison College.  But all in all solid outreach.

But this brings me to my suggestions - with a perfect segue.

  1. One thing they are notably deficient at, a bit surprisingly, is their influencer relations outreach. They have relationships with the institutional analysts, but little to none with the independent or even the boutique firms. I don't mean sending out press releases. I get those from them for example. But I'm talking about relationships with them. They need to step this up big time in 2012 if they want to get to the next level with influencers. For example, one thing they might want to do (and you all know I chair what I'm about to talk about) is show up at CRM Evolution in 2012 in NY - the CRM conference that is run by CRM magazine. Because its influencer agnostic - many of the influencers show up from the institutional firms, the independent firms and the boutique firms.  Duke, buddy, you and a few others, should be there. Make your presence known. You've got the other pieces.
  2. If their mission is being a leader in customer service, not just customer service solutions, they need to fix their messaging which has a strong product bias.  See what I say below about jobs-based messaging in the section on Sword Ciboodle.   I'd pay close attention to that.  The mission statement and the messaging are globally inconsistent, even thought the mission and the business-wide activities are very consistent.

These are the two main deficiencies I see, which in the scheme of things, ain't so bad.  So, Parature, I apologize for being bothered by the incidents - if it clouded my judgment. I'm not sure it did but I figure just in case....

Welcome to the CRM Watchlist 2012 winners, man.

Pegasystems

Pegasystems (a.k.a Pega) has always been the business process management (BPM) 800 lb. gorilla.  They were so strong in that space - which is geared to the efficiencies that are inherent in well-constructed business processes - that they thought themselves agnostic.  To the point that CRM to them was always seen as a dead business science. But, in one of those revelations and efforts that characterizes good and smart companies that are willing to change, they recognized that they were wrong and retooled their products and their messaging to embrace CRM and then Social CRM in particular and have quickly moved to become a fast rising leader in the space.

Their value comes from what they have historically offered - a suite of tools and a platform for the construction of highly efficient, complex business processes. Over the last several years, they have improved the ease of use and navigability of their process construction tools admirably.  They've distinguished their service-oriented platform by the incorporation of strong predictive analytics capabilities that, I think, are unique to them.  They've spent a good deal of time and money on making sure that their platform and products can integrate with other systems including legacy systems.  They've done a lot of work in simplifying their platform through the development of what they call their Build for Change® technology, which automates the capture of business requirements, something which is typically manual and extremely tedious.

In other words, they have a powerful product and platform.  But this has been the source of their greatest weakness too.  Or their greatest perceived weakness at least. More on that later.

For 2011, they launched an aggressive campaign to influence influencers and to extend their market presence in multiple venues including a high level of visibility in the CRM world.  It paid off in multiple ways. Look at these two awards.

  1. Leader Dynamic Case Management, Forrester Wave.
  2. Leader, CRM Customer Service Contact Centers Gartner's Magic Quadrant

Pretty damned good for a company that was decrying CRM less than 2 years before. Once they decide to move, they are all in. They got results.

But it was much more than that. They became ubiquitous at industry events, they did podcasts, webinars, white papers etc. to establish a beach head.  They held their own events beyond just a user conference.  They succeeded well enough to make their presence expected - which of course, becomes a challenge for them in 2012.   But they have a great ambassador in the energetic, friendly and smart Steve Kraus, who is their senior director of Product Marketing.  Making sure he's the core rep at the public facing events is a wise move by this company - particularly due to what I said above about their key problem - hang in there, I'll get to it.

Did it pay off where it had to? With the growth of the company?  It did.  Don't forget what I said, they have a powerful product.  As a result of this, this 1,600 employee company went live with dozens of customers in 2011 and have shown year over year double-digit growth with a real surge in 2011 and no reason to expect less in 2012.  They have particularly strong presence in financial services e.g. banks and insurance.

So what is it that they have to think about in 2012 to maintain or increase the impact they so dramatically had in 2011?

  1. Foremost, they are perceived as having a dry engineering culture - which, changing or not, is what they had.  They are going to have to become considerably more innovative and publicly so - beyond saying "hey we're innovative."  They are going to have to loosen up enough publicly - a step they seem to be taking with Steve Kraus out there - to get past the perception that they are "just" engineers and thus aren't going to successfully make the ultimate adjustment they have to for a 21st century major business to succeed.  They may protest, but this is how they are perceived - and it, at least, was how they were.
  2. If they are all in on Social CRM and are focused around the customer service market, they are going to have to show their multichannel engagement product strengths beyond Twitter and Facebook and beyond the strong superpowered operation and process-driven customer service capabilities that they have.  For example, its great that they have added dynamic case management via their Service Case Manager product.  But what are they doing about the more visionary products like communities.  Potential competitors Sword-Ciboodle and Moxie both have products that provide that capability, for example.
  3. Show your vision around at least CRM - which goes to the heart of the first and foremost issue. One of the questions I asked was about vision and I got an answer which was an engineers dream answer about BPM, and cutting costs and flexible deployment.  But this isn't a vision.  It would go a long way to getting Pega past its perception as an engineering culture if there was truly clear and hopefully transformative vision emanating from this excellent company - that the public knew about.

I am impressed in ways that surprise with Pegasystems. Ask me a year ago if I thought they would have made it in CRM as far as they have, and, honestly, I would have said "nope."  But luckily, they ignored me (not literally) and did what they felt they had to - and it was the right thing to do. I have zero doubts about their impact in 2012.  They are a slick, smart, strong company that is going to be that and more in 2012.

Sword Ciboodle

One thing about Sword Ciboodle is that their name gets them noticed.... but not on this winners list.  What gets them noticed and has since the first time I met them, is that they have become a best in class in a class that they and Pegasystems (another winner this year) gave validity - process based CRM and they have a record of rapid success and thoughtful progress that is admirable to say the very least. They are three time winners of the Watchlist - one of a handful of companies that can say that.  Not too shabby.

So what does it for this company? What do they have to do? Patience, grasshoppers and butterflies, all will be revealed.

They have a strong product suite - in fact are one of the key reasons Forrester invented a category called process-focused CRM (good overview by Forrester CRM analyst leader Bill Band here). The products are geared toward highly complex, enterprise-level contact centers.  The bulk of what they provide is a way to make sure that the 90% of the ordinary contact center/customer interactions that aren't a problem or complaint, remain that way.  That's where they powerful business process engines and management capabilities come in from their Ciboodle Flow and Ciboodle One products.  These products allow their customers to make sure that the experience of the customer in a multi-channel environment is one that the customer doesn't regret.  Which, by the way, is more important to a business than an experience of a customer is constantly exceeding expectations.

The rest of their product suite, Ciboodle Live and Ciboodle Crowd, is the technology that is used to allow the customer to interact with the company and other customers via services ranging from live chat to service communities - again on a large scale, complex level.

One of their other great strengths is their partner program run by Ted Hartley, which actually has a different character and feel than many others out there.  They don't have a lot of partners, but the ones they have are selected for their compatibility with Sword Ciboodle in two ways. First the value to the Sword Ciboodle ecosystem - how does the technology (think here of their partnership with SAS for the Intelligent Contact Center) help enhance and integrate with the SC technology stack?  The second is their ability to go to market with Sword Ciboodle. What makes this such an important part of the Sword Ciboodle success is that each partner has a discrete and concrete joint strategy to drive business with SC.  Does this work?  The best proof of this is from the partner's mouth to your ears.  One of their strategic partnerships is with this year's Watchlist highest scoring consulting firm, CSC.  When CSC submitted their questionnaire to me - in one of the sections with information I can use publicly, CSC, wrote, unbeknownst to Sword-Ciboodle,

"Sword Ciboodle is one of our new partnerships delivered out of the Americas which has been very successful thus far. We currently have circa 30 CSC employees trained to use the Sword Ciboodle product suite and are pursuing a solid pipeline of work jointly."

What would be the value proposition that is the core to this alliance? Clear objectives and focus - work together on ISV cloud enablement, multi-channel contact centers, the utilities industry.  Working with IBM, another partner is highly specific and very different than CSC.  This is a paradigmatic approach. Discrete value propositions that are driven via tight relationships.  Simply put, quality, not quantity.

But there is even more to what they do. Their messaging, unlike almost any other company I know, is dead right - and done with some true subtlety.  Their messaging is developed using what is called in some circles jobs-based thinking.

Jobs based thinking arose from the a value-based approach to service delivery called SDL - service dominant logic. (for more on this extremely important topic read these pieces by thought leaders Wim Rampen, and Graham Hill and this piece byf SDL gurus Vargo and Lusch. It looks at the idea that services and their enablers are best delivered when they address the jobs that people do and how well the services and their enablers support a successful outcome.  To a technology vendor, its messaging would reflect it by identifying how the technology helps a person do a particular job in a way that provides a better chance at a desired result.  If you look at the Sword Ciboodle homepage what you see there is that it operates like a portal to a place that services a role - a business manager, IT director, contact center agent or even a customer.  So rather than presenting an overwhelming abundance of features and functions, you see a well organized way to address a problem that you as a customer service stakeholder have in your actual life on the job.

You tell me, which has more impact something that addresses what you do directly and helps you understand it or something that says here's what we have to choose from, you figure it what you need - now that you're just acquainted with us?

Another area that Ciboodle is strong is their thought leadership.  With CRM thought leader Mitch Lieberman, who had a role as an independent thought leader in the space prior to his joining SC, at the helm, SC is able to be out front when it comes to concepts that can help define the space for its future or bring the service domain back to reality.  For example, I did a small video with them on how the phone call still remains a staple in the customers bag of channels.

They have one of the best analyst relations people in the business in Clare Dorrian who has a presence of her own and is not only accomplished in her work but well liked by the influencers. She manages to influence the influencers.

Obviously, this is a company that has serious legs.  But I have some concerns, albeit not huge ones:

  1. Since their U.S. CEO Paul White returned to Glasgow to head up Sales and Marketing worldwide, their C-level presence on the U.S. stage has dropped precipitously.  For all the companies on this Watchlist, even though I don't make much of it, a presence of their key business leaders at events, on analyst calls, in the non-operational facets of the business that involve the public image of the company, is necessary.  I don't see that with Sword-Ciboodle going on at this point much at all in the U.S. I'm not pinpointing any one person, I'm talking about the body here. Only Mitch Lieberman is visible and active except on rare occasions.
  2. Their competition is rising fast.  Pegasystems, who you will see later on, is hyperactive and aggressively pursuing thought leadership and defining areas of market presence. Newcomers like BPMonline, a Ukrainian process-based CRM provider, while not a major challenger yet are fast establishing a presence in the market that bodes well for them.   Sword-Ciboodle is a consistent steady player and while there is merit in that, they are going to have to up their game in 2012 with more events, a stronger and more visible presence in their markets, especially the U.S. and make a conscious effort to make their leadership more publicly available to the influencers who want to talk to them.
  3. There are a couple of other things, but I'll keep them private and tell them directly.

I have been a supporter of this company as a player since I first met them and continue to be one of their strongest.  However, this is the year that their game escalates.  This is the year that keeps from becoming complacent.  They have little choice here. The competition is getting stronger. More players are coming on the market. Frankly, they are CRM Watchlist 2012 winners, because I know they can do that.

Okay, that's it for customer service.  Next up whenever I get done with it:  The Social Animals - Attensity, Jive, Lithium, Yammer

Topics: Enterprise Software, Software

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