Previously on the Watchlist:
I’ve reached the point where I’m out of groups/categories to put the companies in. The remaining vendor winners are singular unto themselves. For example, we have BPMonline, for which you could make the case that it represents what Forrester calls “process based CRM;” Janrain is in the process of creating a category, though not really a market, called “customer profile management;” and Lattice Engines used to fit into a sales enablement or sales optimization market, but have now expanded to marketing (which, for umbrella purposes, puts them either into CRM enablement—which isn’t a market exactly—or, given the alignment of sales and marketing that we’re seeing big time now, they could still be sales optimization). Who knows? It makes things very interesting – and a bit complex for these companies, each of which has to find its identity.
While each is unique when it comes to categories, each is singular when it comes to their Watchlist victory. They are all smart about what they do and effective in their approach. They're all substantial one way or the other in their impact, even as the industry’s markets roil and the requirements for success change.
Let’s take a victory lap with each one of them.
This is one of the more interesting companies that won this year. Why? Because they were one of the first winners of CRM Idol when we first created the competition back in 2011. But that isn’t what makes them so interesting.
See, each of the CRM Idol winners is guaranteed to win the CRM Watchlist the year they win CRM Idol. But, the next year, if they choose to participate in the CRM Watchlist, they are on the same grounds as any other participant. Yet, for the last two years, unlike the vast majority of the Idol winners, BPMonline continues to win. They have grown, they have become more of an impact player, and they continue to develop what has become a superior product.
This is not a rookie company. They have been in business for more than 11 years, have 450+ employees, have an experienced, though quite young, management team and, equally as impressive, have 5,000 customers and 300,000 users. Just in 2013 alone, they gained 780 new customers from around Eastern Europe and—spoiler alert—here in the U.S.
BPMonline is a company that understands the product they produce. In a way, that sounds kind of ridiculous really. How could a company not understand the product they produce? Well, let me put it this way: Just because a company creates an effective product, doesn’t mean they know how to market it well, sell it to an audience of potential buyers in a way that will close the deal, define the intellectual framework around that product or portfolio, or find partners that will sell it for them without being embarrassing to them in some way (meaning partners with business savvy and ethical grounding). In the case of BPMonline (Terrasoft is the parent company), they do get it – and they act accordingly.
For example, in the last year they made sure they revamped their marketing which had been focused on the features and functions IT loves and no one else understands. They realized that the users, who are decidedly not IT people, are interested in one thing—doing their work better. That is, how will this provide an outcome that has value to the specific user. They revamped their market to reflect this.
For example, in its broadest, most universal application, they put together a short simple blog post that addresses how business process centric CRM can benefit your company—a description of the outcomes that the product (and products like it) can provide. While this may seem “meh” to you, a worldly, sophisticated CRM maven, it's very important to customers who are looking for results from a likely purpose and who want to see what those results might be, stated in a clear concise way in something easily consumable.
It is changes like these that keep BPMonline as one of the companies that sits at the top of the value chain.
But, it isn’t just a matter of great marketing; they have a quality product that only improves as the iterations are released. The newest, BPMonline CRM 7.0, is a major step forward for the company, and while not as robust as its competitors, it is a legitimate contender in almost any deal that Pegasystems or its equivalents may be in. In certain ways, it can surpass them.
Process-based CRM is a complex undertaking, because it presumes the automation of potentially highly complex business processes that are associated with rules that are based both on business need and roles/responsibilities and channel protocols. Add on corporate governance and possibly government regulation, and you can see what can be a huge opportunity for the successful automation of a difficult environment or, if not done so well, a hot mess. Ultimately, and optimally, it's driving what I would like to think is an exception-ready capability to deal with 90% of the interactions, transactions, and actions of a company (and, when necessary, between company and customer of course).
BPMonline took a look at what user concerns would be with a product of this potential complexity and they began to address them, showing their best face with version 7.0. They addressed the user experience, which is a combination of look and feel, navigation, and ease of use. The result was a great, very simplified, attractive interface. It's nearly intuitive (although nothing in the enterprise software world is truly 100% intuitive), and easy to navigate. They also re-engineered their search function, so it's now easy to find anything, and I do mean anything, that you need to, almost instantaneously.
Their overall portfolio is diverse, though a bit confusing (see below). Not only do they offer the CRM applications (sales, customer service, extensibility via additional capabilities, and mobile), they offer some vertical applications as well (realty and banking), areas that they have extensive penetration in. Last year at the opening of the new seven-story office building they purchased, I spoke at some length with a Russian bank’s CEO who told me how happy he was with BPMonline’s specific work around banks and around the customization of the BPMonline CRM product to their needs. All good things to hear.
While this is all great and their growth is significant, the companies that are ambitious and looking to grow in something more than linear increments, will find there is risk involved. In the case of BPMonline, the risk is in the expansion to the US.
For the last several years, BPMonline has been talking about expanding to the US. But for at least two years, it was mostly talk. They would decide to expand to the US but would actually be expand to the E.U. countries instead. But in the third quarter of 2013, they hired Ted Hartley, someone who is highly competent and deeply experienced (and a good friend) to run the US market effort. The results have been good: partnerships established, big wins (e.g., Schneider Electric). The roots are now there and the progress is beginning. But, as always, I have one thing to say to foreign companies who want to put their stake in US soil: Be patient. More on that later.
This is a company that is smartly run by what is a relatively young management team. Led by co-founder Katerina Kosterova, they have exhibited the verve, the intelligence, and the drive to impact not just Eastern Europe but a big chunk of the world stage. That is, if they can sustain the quality of the product, execute smartly on what is required to be a well-thought-out strategy, and continue to make improvements that align with the markets they choose to be in. There are, as always, things they have to do, though, to continue to have the impact they have had so far.
What they need to do
- Develop a vision – BPMonline doesn’t have anything resembling a vision, though they do have a mission statement – “We are inspired to create best of breed technologies” – a highly pragmatic mission statement. They lack a way of looking at the future that shows how they think in the long term. They need to change that because, as of now, they only seem concerned with their immediate situation.
- Consolidate the portfolio – Their product portfolio is actually quite confusing. Here is a simple list of products(with explanation in parentheses when required): BPMonline CRM; BPMonline Mobile CRM; BPMonline XRM (which seems to be BPMonline CRM plus planning, project management and service management ala customer service); BPMonline Agent Desktop (for contact center agents): BPMonline Service Desk (IT service management); BPMonline Loyalty (Loyalty management); BPMonline Realty; BPMonline Bank. The separations into multiple products seem somewhat forced. For example, XRM and CRM. XRM typically is an indicator of a platform and customization, extensibility, toolkits, etc. In this case, it is additional functionality tied to CRM. Why not just offer it as a premium set of capabilities rather than a separate product? Also, why is BPMonline Agent Desktop separate from BPMonline CRM, which theoretically is a CRM suite and which should consist of sales, marketing, customer service? I could go on, but you get the picture, right? This needs some serious rethinking and simplification.
- Find marquee partners – In the last year, BPMonline made huge advances in their partner program, both in Europe and the US. But what they still lack is any true marquee partners—the big guys like Accenture, Ernst and Young Advisory, etc. For many reasons, among them bigger deals that they can piggyback onto, and just validation, these partners are necessary, particularly in the US.
- Patience is a good thing– If there is any counsel I can give to smaller companies who are investing in the US market it is this: Be patient. It takes a long while to make inroads into an unfamiliar market, especially one that you're not native to. The US is also, in particular, a mature market with lots of competition before you ever get there. What makes it worth it is that if you succeed, the opportunity is easily the largest in the world. But that "if" depends on your willingness to invest the money, time, and effort necessary. Expecting fast returns is naïve at best and a deadly problem at worst. Patience is a virtue that can reward you well in this case.
I have little doubt that BPMonline will succeed. This is a company that I personally saw pulls in business from multiple former Soviet republics with a good deal of ease. I saw them bring 350 prospects and customers from seven former republics to a meeting at which I spoke two years ago, and 250 more of them last year. So I don’t doubt their ability to impact the markets they are in. Their other saving grace is their expansion to the US. While they don’t have that same impact yet, I’m betting, if they heed the above, within the next couple of years, they will.
Janrain is a first time winner this year—entering for the first time too. I want to start my “thing” about Janrain by just letting you know something about their questionnaire submission. It was refreshingly transparent, well written (conversational) and all in all, almost completely free of marketing speak. It was, at least to my thinking, the best-written submission of this year. They didn’t hide their issues and they didn’t make believe they were something they weren’t. They didn’t waste my time in any way. They answered all the questions I asked to the best of their ability and at the same time, when they were unable to answer something, they said so and didn’t try to spin it. They gave me the content I needed to make a decision on their efforts re: the Watchlist.
In a lot of ways, this is no surprise. Typically, the submissions quality and the approach are a reflection of the culture of the company that made the submission. Janrain clearly has an excellent culture, one that is so good they were named to the Oregon Business magazine’s list of 100 best companies in the state to work for (which is based on a confidential employee survey). What makes their company so good is that they are adept at balancing the exigencies of business with the human needs of the employees and the quality of the interactions with the customers. For example, this past year, even though there were a lot of long-standing friendships among the employees and management, they made the decision to restructure the company due to some manifestations of problems with the customers. So the CEO, Larry Drebes, made what was seemingly a genuinely tough set of decisions (best as I can tell) to let someone at the management level go and demote another and replace them with some internal upgrades and new people. This was handled in a way that both solved the problem with the customers and left no damage in its wake internally.
Janrain clearly has humane and experienced management—an unbeatable combination. Larry Drebes, the CEO, is a founder and funder of the Open ID Foundation which has played an obviously pivotal role in the establishment of social login as a viable way to register and to identify a digital person. He is also, according to their submission, a kind and loyal person, the only submission to humanize its CEO out of 162 questionnaire responses. But Larry isn’t the only strong management person. Their entire team has decades of experience. For example, their VP of Customer Success, Jamie Beckland, has a strong CRM background, and to his huge credit, delivered what Janrain calls “multi-channel storytelling with more than a dozen distinct touchpoints delivered asynchronously to the customer.” He is an accomplished thought leader and writer with agency level exposure in AdAge, Mashable etc. No slouch.
Oh, by the way, if you don’t know what Janrain does or who Janrain is, let me enlighten you. For historical purposes, think “social login.” For contemporary purposes, think “customer profile management.” More on this in a minute or two.
You may think that you’re unacquainted with social login, but you’re not if you’re a digitally connected human being. Chances are really good that, at one point or another, you’ve connected or registered to something via linking it to your Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn account. In a nutshell, that’s social login. Janrain claims to have invented the term—they may have but I have no way of knowing that. What I do know is that they and Gigya have both been CRM Watchlist winners over the last two years and both have specialized in this area.
But interestingly enough, both are widening their purview. Janrain has decided to expand to what they are calling customer profile management (CPM) which, in their eyes, consists of social login, profile data storage, full registration, and integrations into third-party apps, along with analytics and reporting.
I’m not going to detail the social login (or CPM) technology here. If you want to see more about it, please go to Janrain’s site and check it out. But one thing they offer that I do want to mention (I also mentioned it as one of the key differentiators for Jive), is strategic services. Their model differs from Jive’s in that it isn’t just a “how can you optimize the use of our product” model. They do that, of course, but they also offer:
- Scaleable social media strategies;
- Optimal use of social customer profiles for personalization;
- Ways for driving site registration;
- Behavioral profiling
There are multiple other services, but these are reflections of what they can provide. They are unique in that they not only show the value of the product but also are willing to design programs that will potentially alter what a company does and how they do it, rather than just optimize what the company has. Given their expansion into Customer Profile Management as you will see, this can be a very important part of the company’s future.
Additionally, Janrain is well positioned to piece together the thought leadership that will be necessary to set the frameworks for CPM, as they try to get beyond messaging and into the actual architectures, frameworks, and thinking that will be necessary to establish, not just the marketing around CPM, but the discipline it represents. They are already expert at consumer research for the US and Europe, identifying trends in their prior world – social login. They have a site, statboard.janrain.com, that provides data for digital marketers that is consistently updated. They approach research in both a serious way and a humorous way (the latter sometimes gets a bit cutesy, but it's better than the pomposity that some research exhibits). They do a very good job and know the value of market research.
But to get to where they need to be in CPM, they need to start thinking of a few things:
What they need to do
- A market or… – Janrain makes a very good case for customer engagement as an outcome of using their Customer Profile Management technology (as mentioned above). But they are also trying to define CPM as a separate market. It isn’t. At one point in their submission, Janrain mentions that “it is a struggle to find THE analyst within the firm who focuses on the challenges we help solve.” They also speak to the fact there are only two competitors (that’s in social login, not Customer Profile Management) and that the ones they brief are for the most part tangential to what they do. These are indicators of what will be a bad move if Janrain persists in trying to create CPM market. Yet, they make a credible case for what they are trying to do—helping support customer engagement. This is their market. If they provide the integrations, develop the partnerships, don’t try to be more than they are and change their business model to some extent, they can be a very successful company. If they decide to be a market maker…well, good luck. Customer engagement is their market. The pieces still need to be put into place, the messaging made stronger, but the opportunity lies in the market that will probably subsume even CRM in the next few years—customer engagement.
- CRM involvement – Janrain already has a significant technological presence with prebuilt integrations to companies like salesforce.com/Exact Target, and what they call “blueprint integrations,” which seem to be templates or at least the documentation for templated integrations with Marketo, Oracle’s ATG ecommerce product, Neolane (which is now Adobe Campaign), and gamification specialist Badgeville. But what they don’t have is that much of a CRM presence when, in fact, now that social channels are simply part of the CRM fabric, they're a potentially hugely important piece of the ecosystem puzzle for CRM companies. For example, they don’t have Microsoft, SAP, Infor Epiphany, Oracle Eloqua, among many others. They need to do serious outreach to CRM companies, make their interest and presence known. This can be a big revenue source for them and at the same time awaken an interest in a market that is far bigger than the market they currently play in.
- Get out there!! – Janrain has a weak market presence, given their importance in their niche. If they are to expand their model, expand their market, and grow their revenues, they need to expand their visibility. This is a company that does its homework. They do excellent work when it comes to thought leadership. Their research is timely and it's well done, even if a bit self-serving. It's genuinely good stuff. But they haven’t taken it to the level of mindshare or even to the level of exposure it deserves. Nor have they taken their leadership to that level. They need to partner with the companies I mentioned. Be at their conferences, show up at industry events (CRM Evolution would be nice to start with, says the chairman of that event, self-servingly), and start a much wider outreach with analysts and influencers, and journalists. Hire a PR firm with some analyst relations skills too. Do something, but get out there and expose your good works and top-flight leaders to the masses—and to the industry that you could potentially serve, as well as the one you currently do.
- The next level of revenue – Their current pricing model is a free application up to 2,500 users per year and then $100/year up to 5,000/users/year. That’s led to reasonable revenue. However, with the expansion to CPM, they have multiple other revenue opportunities that seem to be there for the picking. I would consider a premium services addition to their current pricing. Plus OEM the hell out of things. They already are OEMed by 24 companies, including Watchlist 2014 Elite Blackbaud, but there are some very big players out there who couldn’t help but be interested in Janrain as more than just integration partners. OEM deals can be incredibly lucrative as I’m sure Janrain knows.
I was introduced to Lattice Engines and its CEO and co-founder Shashi Upadhyay by a venture capital company who asked me to take a look at it about three years ago. I met with Shashi in San Francisco and was so impressed with what I heard, that I decided that this was a company worth paying attention to. But they were young and at the time clearly needed to mature.
Well, mature they have, both in terms of their management team and their offering, and their market position. And it is a sight to behold.
Before we delve too deeply, I need to make something clear about Lattice Engines. They are a data science company that has sound operational chops. But they focus on data science to come up with the products and solutions that they have. They engineer excellent products, and define algorithms that seem to make the predictive and prescriptive nature of their offering work with measureable results. They are a significant entry into a market niche that is now getting to the white hot level (though not there yet)—one that combines sales enablement and sales optimization—what I’m calling sales specialization. I imagine that means very little to any of you, so I will endeavor to explain if you will endeavor to indulge me.
Salesforce automation (SFA), the driver of original CRM interest, is now mature, and saturated with technology companies that pretty much provide the same functionality—sales operations focused capabilities, with mobile thrown in. That means contact, opportunity, account, and pipeline management—and possibly, if it isn’t in the marketing suite, lead management. Plus maybe a soupcon of a quotation system, dashboards, analytics, and reporting in the larger enterprise systems. These systems were built back in the day for sales management, but by 2004 began to serve the salesperson too, with the addition of the quotation system in Oracle’s salesforce automation product. When mobility became an industry standard several years ago, SFA offerings had reached adulthood.
SFA is so ubiquitous now, that all the aforementioned features and functions are considered table stakes. It tends to be what companies thinking about CRM buy first. It's got a proven track record and clear-cut ROI. It's also boringly the same, regardless of who is offering it.
But in recent years, the advent of social channels has seen their integration into CRM applications of all stripes and hues and suites, changing what we called CRM into a neo-CRM that meets the needs of contemporary customers and employees.
But the role of the salesperson has been changing too. Customers are now demanding much more of companies before they make a purchase in either a B2C or a B2B environment. On the one hand, the customers are demanding that the salesperson be their go-to person regardless of whether their interaction is sales related or service related. It also comes at a time where the alignment of the goals of sales and marketing is now de rigueur in many large companies and, minimally, attaching revenue objectives to marketing outcomes is becoming a regular event. Salespeople are expected to be subject matter experts in their fields—and accessible ones at that.
The competition is much greater than ever before as the array of products, services, tools, and consumable experiences grows and the attempt to simply get the attention of the customer in the midst of their daily dose of 3,000 messages (average) becomes a necessary first step in the sales process.
What that means is that clsoing deals successfully becomes increasingly more difficult (odds of forecasting that correctly are under 45%) and the need for tools to support the extraction of insights and forecasts of the behaviors (that lead to greater and more highly personalized approaches with higher deal closure and other positive measurable outcomes) becomes that much greater.
Thus we are seeing the rise of a sales specialization market—really a submarket in the sales space—but one that can be lucrative. There is where differentiation in sales technology lies now—and Lattice Engines is squarely in the middle of it.
Lattice Engines focuses on prescriptive analytics and next-based actions based on the prediction of behaviors. Their flagship product, salesPRISM, is able to deliver account-specific insights that are gleaned from algorithms that use rules based criteria, historical transactional data, historical social intelligence, and comparative intelligence (all the things other companies are doing) to construct predictive models that can result in significant improvements in handling sales.
To make it easier, let me give you an actual customer case and its result:
Hewlett Packard has over 3,000 users of salesPRISM all told. In 2013, The printer business began to use SalesPRISM. The idea was to find out the optimal “plays” (suggested next best actions for the inside sales team to focus on). The idea was to anticipate seller needs.
- 2.9X higher average bookings
- 6.8 plays pursued in Q2 2013 to create over $6 million in pipeline and $1.3 million in sales. Completely new revenue for the division—and directly attributable to the use of SalesPRISM.
Recently, Lattice Engines launched a similar product for marketing at a somewhat lower price point (though still not cheap)—Lattice PLS, which means predictive lead scoring. This is focused around demand generation, that area between sales and marketing that identifies prospects, figures out their value as leads, and hopefully, if they’ve accurately determined the value of the lead, turns the most valuable into opportunities. The idea is that they read the buying signals from all the systems they access via their Lattice Data Cloud.
The development of Lattice PLS is a wise strategic move for this young growing company. Lead generation applications that support smart lead nurturing are vitally important to any company in a competitive market. The interest in demand-generation applications is extensive. It's a natural addition to the Lattice Engines portfolio.
But make no mistake about it. Lattice Engine applications are costly, though they are worth the investment. Lattice PLS is the least expensive of the applications, and it runs $3,000/month depending on the number of users and data sources used. But it is deployable in days, and returns results in less than 48 hours after it's deployed so there are visible outcomes almost immediately.
But these are not products for the faint of heart. They are complex and granular—and they are great.
The product portfolio is expanding. The revenues are increasing. The customer base is growing. Another sign of their maturity is their analyst outreach program, which is good enough for companies 50 times their size to be envious. They have a strong understanding that the landscape has changed and that they have to engage at some level the traditional institutional analysts, the boutique firms, and the independents as well as the journalists and market researchers. In other words, they have an influencer program rather than just a traditional analyst relations program. Their outreach ranges from Gartner, IDC, and Forrester to Ray Wang’s Constellation Research to Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer’s CSO Insights to Altimeter Group to me, Brent Leary, and Denis Pombriant. One of the reasons for this is that they have industry analyst relations’ veteran Rob Bois on board and he is highly respected by all that know him. He was an analyst with the now Gartner-acquired AMR, and then did AR work for Eloqua, where we all got to know him. Good move.
They are cranking out significant amounts of quality content that address their own specialty. Led by their highly attentive content director Amanda Maksymiw (who I have had the good fortune to be working with on a project this year), they have seen a 175% increase in blog traffic and 275% increase in social media presence over a 12-month period.
In other words, this is a dynamic company making an impact. It has a solid value proposition that meets the requirements of a fast-moving and ever-changing customer demand.
But they aren’t perfect… (You knew I’d get there eventually).
What they need to do
- The indefensible is…indefensible – For a company as savvy and professional as they are, they make more than their share of statements that they probably can’t back up—or even if they could, they shouldn’t make because it sets expectations at a level that they couldn’t meet. For example, they say in their submission “By combining every relevant buying signal in the world…” A bit overstated don’tcha think? You can prove that how? I just wouldn’t make that extreme a statement here, or anywhere, whether it’s provable (not) or not. Let’s just say it's provable somehow. Why would you want to have to have maintained that standard as the expectation? It’s harder to do than, say, guaranteeing a 100% uptime on your servers in your SLA to your customers. Far more difficult than even 99.99%, which allows for error on in the case of “EVERY” buying signal “IN THE WORLD” missing one or two here or there. Drop it and other not-provable assumptions or statements. They're not worthy of a company that relies on the accuracy of its data.
- CRM partnerships and integrations – With their expanded portfolio, they become an important piece of a full CRM ecosystem. What they provide, few CRM vendors offer. In fact, none that I know of offer as deep or as thoughtful an application that matches Lattice Engine’s SalesPRISM or PLS description. That means that there are a plethora of CRM vendors who should be, if they are smart, eager to integrate with Lattice Engines. They have a few integrations with the usual suspects—i.e., salesforce.com—but there are so many others out there—Infor, Microsoft, SugarCRM, Adobe, NetSuite, and SAP, to name but a few. There are multiple approaches Lattice Engines could take here: provide an API for partners to build the integrations; build their own natively by using the APIs provided by the CRM vendors. Or in a more advanced way, develop go-to-market partnerships with key CRM vendors which include the integration of Lattice Engines as part of the vendor’s ecosystem; OEM the products the same way that InsideView did with Microsoft last year. Pick ‘em, mix ‘em, but do ‘em.
- Thought leadership lag must end – When a company begins to expand to a new area, there are two things it must do when it comes to explanation. First, explain the evolution or transition in a way that seems seamless to their potential customers and existing customer base. “This is the obvious path we took to get to the point that we are now at…” The second is to establish the intellectual framework for the area that they are professing expertise in. They have to be able to show that they are experts in order to a. inspire confidence, and b. capture mindshare that will, if all goes well, lead to market share. As Lattice Engines expands from the pure sales side to sales and marketing, they have to provide the content that shows their justification for the move and the intellectual guidance to their base on how this new stuff actually works. They should follow the example of Dr. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist at Lithium, who has established a body of knowledge that creates an intellectual framework and conceptual justification that supports Lithium’s direction though its done without making it blatantly obvious. Their timing needs to be pretty fast here because they're entering a busy and increasingly crowded space that is nowhere near as mature as the sales space per se is.
There is no doubt in my mind about the impact Lattice Engines has made in their domain. The question for the future is simple. Given their growth, given their results, given their thinking and culture as a company, can they make an even greater impact in coming years? Using my predictive algorithm, based on the Informed Hunch Gut Results theorem, I say yes they can – and thus, they are a Watchlist 2014 winner.
That’s it for this week folks. We have 2.5 reviews to go for the vendors. The CRM Idol winner doesn’t get a full review but they do win. We have three reviews left for the consulting firms/systems integrators, then we are done. But the registration process for 2015 has already started. If you are interested in registering for the questionnaire for the 2015 CRM Watchlist, please send me your information and I will send you the registration form. Fill that out and return it and when it is ready, I will send you the revised 2015 CRM Watchlist questionnaire, due as always, on November 30 of the extant year. Email me for the registration form at email@example.com. If you represent a company as a public relations firm, please let me know what company you are requesting the registration form for.
Up next week: Nexj, PROS, and UserVoice