CRM 2009 - Companies to Watch For - Part Tree, er...Three

To RecapWe're heading into the homestretch.  Which is why the Giants need to beat the Panthers....
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

To Recap

We're heading into the homestretch.  Which is why the Giants need to beat the Panthers....last night.  Oh, snap. This isn't my NFL blog. I don't have one. This is the final episode in that hilarious sitcom, Greenberg's Fools Gold.  For those of you who missed the previous episodes, here are the links:

Episode 1 - In which Greenberg identifies the trends in CRM that are both mobile and social - though he's not talking about Paris Hilton's posse.  Or Perez Hilton's blog.

Episode 2 - In which Greenberg identifies the trends in CRM that involve honesty, openness, social influence and the cloud - and didn't hire Susan Lucci to play the lead.

Episode 3 - In which Greenberg writes about what he forgot in 1 and 2 - including....feedback 3.0 and......uhhhhh.....mmmmm. I can't remember the rest.  Let me know if you remember.

Episode 4 - In which Greenberg talks about the BB4 CRM companies and how big and bad they are - and aren't.  Oh BTW, BB4 stands for, guess what....Big, Bad 4.

Episode 5 - In which Greenberg talks about the not as big but maybe as bad (in the sense of "good" and "bad") companies and how not as big they are but may become...or something like that. Did I say anything  coherent?

Now Presenting:  The Up and Coming Companies of 2009 Social CRM/CRM 2.0 Space

These companies are the ones that you just might not know but must be on your 2009 CRM social calendar or 2009 Social CRM radar screen. I insist - which means "please?" Each of them is a genuine gem - in the case of Helpstream, I can't even find a flaw.  Don't worry though, that's way too out of character since I'm a New Yorker.  I will. In the meantime. enjoy all of them - they are actually interesting in addition to being on the rise. Real studmuffins and for the most part, outright cool.

  1. InsideView - This is a company that just figured out how the world of CRM and business knowledge (not BI) intermingle when it comes to traditional competitive intelligence and the social information needed to know the customer. They have this kick-butt product called SalesView in three editions (the basic one is free, the other two are $99.00 per month per user) that draws competitive and profile information from some 20,000 sources ranging from Reuters to Facebook.  But it doesn't just provide that information to you in some unstructured way. For example, it can do what the folks at InsideView call "Connection Analysis" so you can identify who the key influencers are at the companies that you are targeting. So what? Social Network Analysis does that?  Yeah, but not from 20,000 places including the oft used Reuters and Hoovers but also Jigsaw, Facebook, LinkedIn and a myriad of other social networks. It then actually does the analysis and provides you with an extensive view of who's who.  Cool, salesguy, huh?  But it goes so much further - best target market sales prospects, repeatable alerts for events of interest or importance to you.  Oh, it just goes on.  Their very bright management team comprised of industry veterans like Rand Schulman, realized that CRM was a natural integration for these extended social services so they partnered not just with the usual - salesforce.com, but with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SugarCRM, Oracle (in their on demand incarnation, and Landslide (see below for Landslide). They are deeply rooted and involved. Their service is invaluable - and most of all is cool without being there to be cool. They are an incredibly capable provider of intelligence that sales and marketing folks can use - with a business and pricing model that works. What do they need to do better? I'll let you know. Right now, they need to just keep on keepin' on.
  2. Helpstream - This is my paradigm company for a CRM 2.0 feature set.  Para-digm.  They seem to have it all together.  They are the ones that I use as the example of the difference between CRM 2.0 and Web 2.0.  They are my numero uno for explaining the difference between CRM 2.0 and Web 2.0 Their focus is customer service. They incorporate the social functionality needed to involve the customer community in solving customer service issues and also to monitor and capture the feedback they get from the customers.  But to make it truly a CRM 2.0 application, they incorporate analytics, business rules and workflow to make sure that customer service activity in the community is not only monitored and analyzed (in a left and right brained a.k.a. whole brained way), but that the responsible company staff members are notified when situations appear - those situational responses are triggered and then flagged due to a business rule, workflow routes the flagged occurrence to the selected authority and that person is notified to take action in some way.  Perfecto.  But besides their well executed apps, they have a smart strategy - they are currently allied with Oracle and I'm sure they aren't going to stop there. They would be remiss if they did. Watch these guys. They are what CRM 2.0 is.  Big time up and comer in 2009. If any practitioner company has a brain.
  3. Connectbeam - Somehow, which I will explain, Connectbeam has been successful yet stayed under the radar and remained cutting edge at the same time - roughly akin to me trying to juggle even one ball.   Since they've been under the radar more or less for their existence, I'll bring out my sonar instead and enlighten you as to what they do and who they are and why they are so important to the CRM 2.0 space. They provide an enterprise strength social collaboration application that comes in two flavors - a software only version and, the thing that puts them on my list - an integrated hardware appliance that can handle up to 150,000 users.  The services are what you are likely to come to have expected from social software - industrial strength social tagging and social bookmarking capabilities integrated with ranking, comments, and ratings. They have hooks to integrate with Google, Sharepoint, Confluence, Outlook and Jive Clearspace. That means, for example when you do a Google search, not only will you see the search results, but also the related tags, the related bookmarks and the importance of the related content according to the "collective intelligence" of the enterprise/users behind it.  They do this in an elegant way too, with some customizable capabilities, such as limiting the tag cloud results to the content that created over the last, say, three weeks.  You can expand or constrain it.  Connectbeam management has a good management team and board of directors behind it. Led by CRM (Oracle and PeopleSoft to be exact) industry veteran Puneet Gupta, they have also had the input from Web 2.0 legend Thomas Vander Wal. This meant they have what is likely the best social tagging engine that exists today.  One thing that perplexes me, given the CEO's CRM background is the lack of integration with any CRM applications since this set of tools and the integrated appliance is made for companies using CRM who want to extend to CRM 2.0, or, at least, add social tools/networks to their CRM toolbox.  Their pricing is reasonable $29/user per year (yes, per year). Remember, if you're wondering why so inexpensive, they are aimed at the big boys - large enterprises. That's why they scale to 150,000 - because they can and they target those kinds of companies.  Watch them.  They will start to radar up (I made the phrase up) in 2009 - and they should.
  4. Zuora - Technically, this isn't a CRM company. But it is a SaaS-based billing and payments service developed by Tien Tzuo, the former Chief Strategy Officer at salesforce.com. So, after consultation with a team of lawyers and engaging a research team of hundreds, I've concluded that its within my rights to focus on them as one of the companies to watch in 2009.  What they do is something that has even more value in a recession than it did prior to that recession.  They provide billing (Z-Billing) and payment (Z-Payment) services to companies that have recurring payments models, whether that company is large or small. Currently, they are integrated with salesforce.com.  But they've allied with Boomi On Demand, which has a technology that provides a pre-integrated capability with CRM and financial services packages done with one click from the web. Needless to say, (so I'll say it) that pre-integration simplifies things - which then increases the speed of Zuora product enablement in situations when integration is needed.  A smart technology partnership, and reflecting multiple smart moves that Zuora is making. Zuora is also well funded - recently getting a second round of $15 million, bringing their total funding to $21.6 million - with both Marc Benioff and Benchmark Capital among the funders - great names to have in addition to the money. They have a solid model, priced to go, fill a market need, are as easily integrated with other SaaS apps as can be and a great CEO who knows how to be one.  I hope that they become a little more active in figuring out how to integrate with some of the SMB CRM vendors SaaS apps and I even have a thought for a new service related to it, but that's left to another day.  This day, I'm saying watch Zuora in 2009.
  5. LucidEra - Founder Ken Rudin and CEO Rob Reid are both CRM industry veterans with combined Oracle, Siebel, Upshot and salesforce.com senior management experience. So when they developed the SaaS business intelligence product they provide, needless to say, CRM was never far from their minds. That's why, if you see what they provide, they give you lead, pipeline and order insight - all CRM related analytics and have three versions - one of which is devoted to salesforce.com and the other to Oracle Order Management - which of course is right at the heart of many CRM applications functionality.  The other version, if you happened to wonder, is "Enterprise" which includes ERP and Excel spreadsheet data with the CRM data.  So, the CRM pedigree here is strong. Their outlook is to provide considerably less expensive BI services to small and medium companies. They understand that because they are competing with giants like Cognos (IBM), Hyperion (Oracle) and Business Objects (SAP), that they have to be "different" - in a nice way of course. That means not only providing a basic model that keeps it simple for the SMBs, but also providing some business leadership in the world of BI so that the SMBs can begin to understand the marketplace and the value of BI. In fact, Ken Rudin has his own forecast for the 2009 BI world here.  What makes their model appealing is that they know their market, they focus on it, and they provide services of genuine value tailored to the market - which means basic services that are meaningful - not a lot of customization. But its what the SMB companies need. LucidEra provides it and in a time of transformation, getting what you need to either participate in that transformation or weather it, is comforting. Watch these guys.
  6. Infusionsoft - Infusionsoft is hardcore marketing automation...so they say.  They don't have a lot of social bells and whistles. They do have a complete suite of marketing and sales tools in the realm of CRM, despite their best efforts to distance themselves from CRM earlier this year. They are absolutely solid when it comes to companies in the below 75 employees range.  Probably no one better that I know in the market.  What's interesting to me about them is that they are also ambitious in a cautious kind of way and while not offering social tools to the 75 or less small businesss, they use them to engage the 75 person or less small business. They have an Infusionsoft customer community that is active and lively and engaged. They use the community to solicit feedback, to create opportunity for peer engagement and to create conversation or just let them occur. They use Twitter for customer outreach and to engage analysts and other influencers. In other words, a marketing automation company that actually drinks its own Kool Aid and does what it recommends to others to do.  They have a young and solid management team and are poised to take off.  One interesting aspect of their offering is that they see sales and marketing as extensions of each other - a unified duo. They might see it as marketing with sales subsumed. Others might see it the other way. Doesn't matter at this point.  I think they're right about the integration of the two. In fact, in the new edition of CRM at the Speed of Light, I've combined the sales and marketing chapter into one after a suggestion from my dear friend and uberanalyst Denis Pombriant and a lot of reflection.  Infusionsoft presents their SaaS applications that way.  They have reasonable pricing and a substantial clientele to act as a foundation for their future growth.  What I'm glad to see is that their earlier attempt to declare CRM "dead" is removed from their website.  The reason I'm glad? 'Cause CRM isn't dead. They still claim they aren't CRM but truth be told - they are.  Once they clean up their message a little, they are going to go far - and that will come in 2009 because small businesses under 75 employees will like what they see.
  7. Really Simple Systems - This is one that jumped onto my radar in midyear and that I've been following ever since. This is tailored specifically for the small end of the small business market, and, as its name implies it is designed to be simple for small business.  Not only is the interface an easy one to use, but the pricing model, business model and technology model (SaaS) are entirely coherent with simplicity and small business. Even CEO John Paterson's attitude is coherent with the small business universe. He's laid back, doesn't sweat the large stuff - and believes that useful capabilities not feature/function overload drives customer benefit.  Plus he's got that extraordinarly droll British wit. When you buy Really Simple's CRM service, you turn on the functionality you want (Oh, my god!) - and you can have as much or as little as you want. Of course, for those industry veterans out there, you know that this is shocking. Normally, you have to turn off functionality.  The pricing is model is....different. It is $45/user - customization and installation cost included in that. If you have 1-4 users, you get the sales module.  But they have all three of the usual suspect CRM modules in the portfolio. If you have 5-9 users, 2 of the modules; 10 or more - all three. If you fall short of the user criterion, you can have another module for your users at $45/mo - not per user - a blanket amount.  The applications themselves have an easy to use interface and they have available the functionality inherent in any good SMB CRM suite.  They are targeted at the 5-200 seat market and, at least according to themselves, they are the UK's largest hosted SMB CRM provider - and they are coming to the U.S. in the very near future. Their future plans also include the provision of SOAP APIs and pre-built links to other hosted systems.  I have to tell you, they may (though I need to hedge and say "may") have the best SMB CRM application out there. It really is simple and yet fully capable.  Big stuff for this company that numbers the British Library and Royal Academy of the Arts among its customers.  I like them, I really like them.
  8. Jigsaw - Jigsaw not only has a really good product - but they have the "I'm going to seize the initiative" leadership smarts too. The latter first. In June 2008, they announced the Jigsaw Open Data Initiative which gave members of the initiative free access to integrate Jigsaw data, which includes over 10 million business contacts and over a million company records into their applications data stores.  Members of the JODI are Landslide, salesforce.com, Maximizer, SugarCRM, Oracle, NetSuite and Sage.  Jigsaw also released  a Web Open API that could be used to integrate Jigsaw data with other CRM applications, not already partners.   This was a brilliant move on Jigsaw's part.  But the question remained then, how is Jigsaw going to make $$$?  Well, that was covered too. There are a lot of companies that don't use the JODI partners nor are they members of the Open Data Initiative themselves. They still pay monthly subscription fees ranging from $25/mo. to a customized fee.  The value of 10 million complete business records and the data for 1 million companies is pretty much incalculable. The way they got the data...different. They have a community of 450,000 members and many corporate clients who provide it in return for access to the data for free. That means that I can download my contact file to Jigsaw and get the data I want in return. Which of course, brings up the diciest part of their model.  Not only don't I think I have the right to treat someone else's information as a commodity, I wouldn't do it.  It makes me uncomfortable to think about that.  Does this means of collecting information work? Is it ethical? Apparently enough people think so to give them an astounding amount of data that they can provide for free or sell.   That said, they are making some brilliant moves and while I have some doubts about their model's long term success, I think they are poised to go up in 2009. And I think that their Open Data Initiative is a strategic artwork.
  9. Neighborhood America - Neighborhood America is smart, strategic, and has an evangelist, Kim Kobza, who thinks big at the helm. Their ELAvate platform is probably one of the best developed social networking platforms in the industry.  It has a number of standout features - a highly attractive interface, a video chat function that can handle what is effectively private (or public) videoconferencing for up to six users - that in addition to all the standard stuff that you would expect of a social network platform - threaded discussions, communities of interest and practice; rich media; user generated content integration through uploading media plus commenting and ranking.  They have a client list in the entertainment and media world to die for -ABC, CBS and Fox News among many others.  They have a Board of Directors that is committed not just to the future profitability of Neighborhood America - though that too - but to the vision and they have an exciting, technology-forward, open corporate culture with an incredible number of hardworking, attractive, accomplished staff.  To their credit, they're working hard on CRM integration with at least 3 of the BB4 to begin with - which is more than I can say for most of the social network platforms. In fact, I think that the Lithium/RightNow integration is one of the few that are out there - and Lithium isn't strictly a platform.  In other words Neighborhood America has a lot going for it.  Do they have flaws? Sure they do. They could change their marketing strategy a bit.  They could improve some of their blogging and social media platforms a bit from the technology standpoint. And one or two other things. But this is a company poised for breakout. Watch 'em do it in 2009 or 2010. Its gonna happen sooner than later.
  10. Silverpop - Silverpop has already been a leader in the world of innovative email marketing which, needless to say, falls in the CRM space - especially because the marketing model that they've developed their applications and services for is built around customer engagement. But rather than rest on their laurels as a leader in this space, they've instead decided to take the next step to fall in lockstep with the empowered customers that businesses now face. What drives them to this list of companies to watch is a simple set of buttons to click. Its a new feature called Share-to-Social and it literally allows you to do just that. Take an HTML email that you've received and with Share-to-Social activated you can share the email to Facebook, LinkedIn, and several other social networks.  Pretty nifty.  What makes this smart is that it makes an email viral and the buttons are embedded into what can be hundreds of thousands of emails - a smart move if there ever was one.  People love sharing these days in case you hadn't noticed. What makes this a particularly valuable feature is that the results can be tracked.  Yeppers. They can be tracked. This is a highly respected company that can handle high volumes of email that is more than share-to-social buttons.  They have thousands of customers and their CEO, Bill Nussy is a technology industry influencer.  In other words, they have chops. They are making some tentative steps in the social CRM right direction. Though tentative, they are well worth watching in 2009 - if they continue to take more steps.
  11. Aplicor - I have had a secret love affair. Yes, I have - with Aplicor. They are a company that does SaaS smartly and well. They understand how SaaS works in the commercial realm, yet play strongly in the public sector with one of the largest SaaS user implementations in the federal government. They have power house feature sets in both sales and customer service applications though not much to speak of when it comes to marketing (but to their defense, no one is much to speak of beyond a few rising stars who concentrate on marketing). They are targeted at the midmarket so their typical seat count for a customer isn't the usual SaaS 5-25 but 160.  They have a solid management, with CEO Chuck Schaefer a clearly 2.0 knowledgeable guy who has a genuinely insightful blog to prove it.  They get thought leadership.  Another principal Pete Koltis is a longtime industry veteran who ran major practices at companies like Arthur Andersen (that would be the consulting side of AA and a PeopleSoft practice.). They have won countless awards ranging from the TMC.net Software Excellence awards (5 times) to the Computerworld Green IT company of the year in 2007.  There are too many others to mention.  On the technical side, they have not only delivered an amazing full service back office (accounting) and front office (CRM) product, but they've had, catch this, 100% server uptime for 4 years in a row. This is a seriously good company. Yet, they are not only making my list for the first time but they seem to be traveling under the radar - even with lots of press releases and awards. What gives? I don't know exactly. Regardless, they really need to step up their public visibility and engage in more of the contemporary marketing vehicles like Twitter, Facebook, etc. - which I know they understand. But they don't use much.  They should do something to be more visible.  Just don't tell my wife. This is a company ready to explode - in a good way.  Watch them very closely.

MidYear Review For These Puppies

Just a quick list of companies that I either don't have on my radar screen long enough or companies that should be on the watch list but remain speculative because of something that stands in their way - though correctable.

  1. Landslide - They're interesting. They are a step beyond traditional CRM sales force automation. They introduce a more effective buyer engagement methodology that come with sets of interactive tools. They aren't just data driven, they are buyer driver.  They aren't quite in the social realm that we keep talking about. They take the requisite swipe at CRM and SFA in what seems to be necessary in the world of sales product differentiation. I think that's silly, but I think they are something that I might want to reckon with.  I just don't know about them.  I know that my bud and SMB CRM analyst Brent Leary likes them and that's a great start.
  2. Unica - They are making huge progress on the marketing 2.0 front, including analytics but they are just back (a week ago) on my radar for the first time in two years so we'll have to wait and see. I'm juiced though to see what they're doing.
  3. Eloqua - They'd be on the companies to watch list, but their pricing concerns me - they are easily the most expensive marketing application. And, for those unaware of it, like maybe most of the athletes in professional sports, we're in a recession. Pricing, even to an enterprise, is a consideration.   But Eloqua has unmatched quality in traditional and some innovative marketing automation for the enterprise.  So we'll see.
  4. CastIron - I know their model for Enterprise applications as an appliance works and they have a great set of relationships with the CRM vendors, like salesforce.com, NetSuite and Microsoft.   They also have recently added a "cloud" to their arsenal so that they have a SaaS driven hardware appliance with a "cloud backbone."  But I just don't know them well enough to put them in the list above. I'd love to, but let's see what happens by midyear.
  5. Marketo - Again, an interesting 2.0ish SaaS marketing application - I just have no traction with them yet. I see them around, but have never spoken with them.  But they are doing enough to interest me.
  6. EBSuite - I've known them for several years, and as a small business marketing suite, they are very, very good. But I've had no interaction with them for over a year.
  7. Infor (Epiphany) - Since Epiphany (they finally dropped the stupid period between the e and the p), was scarfed up by SSA and SSA was then snorted up by Infor, Epiphany has turned into one giant mystery to me. They had a great customer interaction engine for a long time - class of the industry.I have to emphasize had here because I have no idea what it is now - its been more than 3 years since I've heard a thing about them except in occasional releases. They are deep in the recesses of Infor.
  8. Vtiger - I just completed a serious review of the open source CRM applications for TechTarget (I'll provide a link when its actually out) and, while I think SugarCRM has no real competition as of yet, Vtiger might be the one to show up. They have over 1.5 million downloads of their CRM suite, far eclipsing all the other other non-SugarCRM open source vendors. In fact, they may eclipse them all combined. They are owned by Adventnet, who also owns Zoho, who you saw highlighted in the last entry on Companies to Watch. They seem to be very smart. I simply don't know enough to put them in the heavyweight list of up and comers above.  However, that doesn't rule them out by midyear. I'm watching them closely.
  9. nGenera - They totally intrigue me. They are the first "social" company to buy a CRM company - Talisma.  They bought Talisma for their customer interaction engine, though. In fact, they recently solid Talisma's CRM business to Campus Management. They operate primarily with a rollup strategy - acquiring the pieces they need to offer a truly social CRM/Enteprise 2.0 product suite that covers the gamut of the customer experience. I like these guys very much but need to see how they do in a bad economy before they go into my final list.  That's just natural caution I always have when the strategy is rollup.
  10. SkyData - This is a company that has the mobile smarts and a proven MAJOR veteran of the CRM world, Kevin Nix running it.  They are mobile, multi-platform and are doing the social CRM thing by linking personal information to CRM system customer data. They interconnect between Facebook, Jigsaw, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo and salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Microsoft, Siebel and NetSuite. Jeez.  I just need to see it work well for a bit and I'm sold. But I need to see it work well. With Kevin Nix there, it will and I will. I'm awaiting.
  11. Angel.com - Even though they've been around since 1999, they may be the first company I've seen that actually can provide a genuinely personalized customer experience with a call/contact center.  They've got 1500 corporate clients.  I'm impressed but waiting and seeing.  I mean, I spoke to them today.  I've known of them since 1999 though But I haven't spent nearly enough time, obviously.  But they are very intriguing.
  12. Loyalty Lab - I love what they are doing around marketing platforms that focus on customer engagement and integration with communities as their model. But I don't see them out there enough - even though I'm highlighting them in the 4th edition of the book. Six months will tell me what I need to knowl.
  13. SocialText - Why consider them  in a CRM technology company review? After all SocialText is the leading enterprise wiki provider in the world, not a CRM company per se.    BUT. BUT. BUT....in the fall of 2008, they launched their SocialText Social Publishing platform which seems to have customer engagement at its core.  But they don't integrate with CRM worth a damn so I'm not sure about whether I'd give them the total thumbs up in a CRM context. For social tools - a two fisted hands up. But CRM wait and see.
  14.  Atlassian - These guys, depending on who you talk to, are either the #1 or the #2 enterprise wiki company. I'm in the #1.5 camp.  I give a bit of an edge to SocialText, due to market presence and better looking tools, but these guys are miles ahead of SocialText when it comes to the integration of their world class Confluence wiki product and their JIRA help desk management product with CRM applications. They are know to integrate with salesforce.com, Siebel, Vtiger, and several others.  That alone puts them at the Social CRM forefront.They have a devoted set of advocates who swear by (not at) Confluence and, all in all, they have 13,300 corporate customers that use their products. For the world I inhabit, they are probably too project focused but because they make no claims about being a CRM product, that's fine with me. But it also makes me hesitate about putting them on the list. I'll let you know.

Some Random Final Thoughts

Whew. That's it for the sixth and final post in the 2009 Nostradamus Series on ZDNET. I'm going to be settling down to a more reasonable length in my posts - oh and adding graphics too once I can ask somehow how to do that.  Its been a pleasure - an excruciating and time consuming pleasure doing these forecasts and company watch lists.  I'm sure that there are dozens of companies I could have included and I'm sure that someone hates my choices. For example, someone told me that I should have included Onyx - and someone else - Pivotal. Here's the dealio on them.  Pivotal is owned by CDC. Onyx is owned by M2M. As long as they are owned by either of those two companies, I will never cover either company because I dislike the way that those companies operate. M2M carried out a bloodbath against the team at Onyx at the time of the acquisition.  That ended any interest I have in covering this company. Why? Because they treat employees like objects to be discarded and that doesn't work for me - business decision or not. So no Onyx and no Pivotal for similar reasons though different circumstances.

Hey. This is my selection of what I think. I hope that you think they are valuable. But I will say, regardless, my principles matter to me. So those I have covered or am interested in, to the best of my knowledge, are honorable and ethical and a company that I have no problem associating my thinking with or writing about.

Have a wonderful holiday no matter which you celebrate. Its an honor to be able to write for you.

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