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Onyx Looks for Edge With Embedded CRM

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Posted May 16, 2003 By Allen Bernard     Feedback

Turning to the benefits of a Net-native architecture and Web services technology, Onyx Software sees its future pinned to its partners using Embedded CRM as an integration platform.

Coming on the heels of its e-business on-demand deal with IBM, Onyx Software is about to point itself in a new direction based on something it calls Embedded CRM, which just so happens to be the same rearchitected software that's helping to power IBM's utility computing strategy (see IBM, Onyx Team to Offer CRM Service).

Read and React
"These are like table stakes. If you don't have these things, you are not able to play."

— David Vanderhoff
Director of Embedded CRM
Onyx Software

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Although not yet officially announced (that should happen sometime next month) in many ways E-CRM looks like any other customer relationship management (CRM) package. In fact, it is a CRM package, but with one important difference: Onyx has rearchitected its software to be Net-native and Web services-friendly enabling partners to use E-CRM as an integration platform that allows them to incorporate business process level functionality into their own offerings.

For example, if a banking client wants to give its tellers a snapshot view of customers so they can up-sell on the spot or offer better service, it can do that. Or, if a client needs to incorporate just one business process, such as an e-mail alert for a stock broker application that tells customers to buy or sell a stock based on market fluctuations, it can do that as well.

It's a Web Services World
The key is Web services, said David Vanderhoff, Onyx's director of Embedded CRM.

"The purest form of Embedded (CRM), which does 100 percent rely on Web services, is the component-based model," Vanderhoff told ASPnews. "The general idea of Embedded CRM is you are taking your own processes and combining them with other processes. That's the idea with these component-based offerings — via Web services they'll include those business objects in their applications."

Currently, only Reuters is using Onyx's E-CRM in full Web services mode (although other deals are in the works, Vanderhoff said). Reuters has incorporated an alert process into Intelligent Advisor, the solution it fields for the financial services industry. By using Web services, Reuters has sidestepped headache-prone, cross-application integration issues, instead relying on machine-to-machine interactions to automate functionality.

Basically, what Reuters did was point a user-interface at an instance of Onyx's CRM solution that invokes the alert function and calls the software to action, said Vanderhoff. E-CRM then communicates with Reuter's database (regardless of location) to get customer information and feeds the packaged results into Intelligent Advisor. Brokers can then take action personally or an automated response can be invoked; that's up to client's software and business processes, not Onyx. Oynx focuses on providing the functionality and the interface.

"Data can sit in their database, it can sit in our database, their business objects can look at our database for that matter and ours can look at their database via business object-to-business-object. It all depends on how they want to do it," said Vanderhoff. "That's the cool thing about Web services, it doesn't matter where the data sits."

ASP Banks on E-CRM
Banking ASP Metavante is also using Onyx's E-CRM to offer value-added functionality to its clients, but it has yet to take advantage of the Web services aspects of E-CRM (that is to come in a future release of their solution). It has, however, embraced the overall concept of E-CRM at the application layer.

Since Metavante supplies its customers with a hosted solution, what the company has done is bolt on functionality to the Onyx CRM package housed in its data center. Customers are then able to pick and choose functions a la carte. Because Onyx has architected its software to be multi-tenant, this becomes a much simpler proposition than in days past.

"What we have done, from a front-end perspective, is taken that base Onyx employee portal and customized the user interface to be specific to the financial services industry," Steve Lane, Metavante's vice president of CRM Strategy, told ASPnews. "So, what our clients see when they invoke the application is something that is truly relevant to them and their needs."

The CRM Engine That Could
Like IBM's e-business on demand strategy, E-CRM is intended to be the engine propelling Onyx into the future. The company believes it the only CRM vendor responding to a number of emerging business trends in such a flexible and technologically up-to-date manner. And, like IBM, the company believes flexibility will be the key to attracting and keeping customers in the coming years.

"We see it as a massive proportion of our business moving forward in 2003 and, especially, 2004 and beyond," said Vanderhoff.

To that end, Onyx intends to work with its customers at every level by customizing its offering however the customer needs — a feat made much simpler with Web services.

"At the end of the day we are the only broad-based enterprise CRM vendor that has exposed its entire application via Web services," he said. "We think this really is a transformation in the market. People are saying I want [just] forecasting, I want to be able to [just] send an email alert out, or I [just] want x, y and z. Because folks are looking for things like that, we can use these Web services and this Embedded CRM initiative to enable us to bring CRM — very tailored CRM — to end users via partners.

"These are like table stakes. If you don't have these things, you are not able to play."


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