RightNow aims to take on SAP, Siebel in Europe

CEO Greg Gianforte says his company's CRM offerings will win clients at the expense of two big rivals.
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor
Greg Gianforte, the outspoken CEO of RightNow Technologies, says the market for customer relationship management software in Europe is booming--and he predicts that some of his company's biggest wins will come at the expense of industry heavyweights SAP and the Oracle-owned Siebel.

Gianforte says chief information officers are tired of what he calls costly and time-consuming on-premise implementations. His company, he says, is picking up enterprise customers from both of his big-name rivals.

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"We beat SAP at Nikon, for all their campaign management. We threw Siebel out of Electronic Arts. And those are just some of the ones who are prepared for us to talk about it," Gianforte told Silicon.com.

He said many companies are unwilling to admit when they've been forced to ditch costly software rollouts: "You have to understand this is fairly embarrassing for these companies because they made big investments and couldn't get value."

Gianforte singled out market leader SAP for criticism, on the back of recent poor results. "You could drive a truck through the cracks in SAP's armor," he said, claiming he would much rather have his current problem--the recent announcement of $49 million in losses related to a change in RightNow's licensing model--than those of SAP or Siebel, which have to turn around far larger businesses.

Of the two larger rivals, Gianforte said, his biggest day-to-day competitor is Siebel's enterprise-level on-premise offering.

Last year, RightNow, based in Bozeman, Mont., saw 70 percent growth in its core large-enterprise customers. Gianforte said the enterprise is his No. 1 target, although the midmarket--a more familiar hunting ground for on-demand vendors--remains important.

And although SAP and Siebel are now both moving down the on-demand route in progressive steps, Gianforte claims the difference is not simply one of on-premise versus on-demand.

"There is no such thing as a software-as-a-service market," he said. "Nobody wakes up and says, 'I want to buy some software as a service.' They say, 'I wish my call center worked better,' or 'I wish my customer churn was lower.'"

But speed of implementation is key, he said, and those companies accustomed to rolling out large on-premise solutions over several months have major cultural and business changes to implement before they can compete with the speed of pure-play on-demand offerings.

Analysts, however, are more temperate in their predictions than Gianforte. Although Gartner spelled out a rosy future for on-demand vendors last October, the consensus remains that on-premise offerings will remain a necessity.

Oracle and SAP did not respond to a request for comment.

This week, RightNow appointed its first head of Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, Joe Brown, signaling a greater focus on Europe.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

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