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January 3, 2007

Knova acquired

Yet another customer relationship management (CRM) vendor has recently been taken over, and taken into private ownership. Shortly before Christmas 2006, Knova Software (itself a result of the merger of ServiceWare and Kanisa) agreed to be acquired by M2M Holdings, the owner of Made2Manage Systems, which earlier in the year also bought Onyx software. Are the days of separate CRM vendors numbered?

By CBR Staff Writer

CRM emerged as a separate software category in the early 1990s, and although it has grown significantly (and the number of vendors in that area is still considerable) the software area is ill-defined, and many CRM vendors have been subsumed by vendors of other applications. The most notable of these is probably the acquisition of Siebel by Oracle.

Knova Software is a public company that provides software that handles ‘intelligent customer experience applications’ – that’s customer service to you and me. These include call center, self-service, and knowledge-based solutions for help and service desks. This whole area is undoubtedly useful as it helps organizations to keep track of customer interactions (whether by phone, email, or some other channel) as well as helping to provide answers to some of the customer service-related questions that may arise.

What always seemed puzzling about the need to have a completely separate CRM system for this was the likelihood that many customer interactions are probably about missing or incorrect deliveries, and the information for this is much more likely to be found within the depths of a transactional system that handles customer orders (often an enterprise resource planning, or ERP, system). It is, therefore, no great surprise that many ERP vendors are starting to either build, or more often buy, CRM applications to add to their portfolios, as is the case with M2M Holdings.

However, M2M’s strategy for integrating new products is to ensure that each acquired product line maintains its brand identity and is enhanced, maintained, supported, and sold by dedicated sales, product management, development, customer support, and professional services teams. This suggests that integrating the products within its portfolio is not high on its list of priorities.

It is evident that potential customers have a range of very different requirements, and the days of monolithic packages that can do anything if only you know how are coming to an end. The promise of newer technologies, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), should allow different software modules to interact with each other much more easily, even if they are not provided by the same vendor, and this is where M2M’s earlier acquisition of Onyx, another CRM vendor, may help.

The CEO of M2M has stated that the most immediate and obvious advantage of the acquisition of Knova is that it will enable M2M to offer a broadened, more powerful customer management solution based on the individual strengths of the Knova and Onyx applications. The company will be able to take advantage of Onyx’ SOA structure and Knova’s existing application programming interfaces for CRM integration, and so the two products can be quickly integrated with one another using web services – a step in the right direction then. Existing Onyx customers will be able to add contact center tools and web-based self-service capability from the same vendor.

Yet another independent CRM vendor ceases to exist, although its products live on. We are likely to see more consolidation over the coming year, and CRM will become just another aspect of enterprise applications.

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Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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