Ernst & Young LLP and Lucent Technologies were among the six IT heavyweights who teamed up yesterday to announce the formation of a new group aimed at promoting customer contact software solutions to the enterprise. The Centric Group, which also consists of representatives from Siebel Systems Inc, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc, Smart Technologies Inc and Staffware Corp, is jointly funded by the member companies to the tune of between $4m and $5m, officials said, although they refused to give specifics about individuals’ contributions. The group will operate through its new Customer Solutions Center in Chicago. The Center will serve as a hardware and software resource where The Centric Group can work with companies to define new customer interaction strategies based on business objectives and provide demonstrations of end-to-end solutions and new technologies from the group’s members. The ability to meet customer demands is a critical success factor in today’s marketplace, said Paul Cole, director of Ernst & Young’s customer connections solutions practice. Most large companies have a CEO, CFO and CIO, but few have a chief customer officer focused on the processes and systems for acquiring, retaining and growing customer relationships. He added that the aim of the group will be to provide the necessary guidance and resources to help companies fill this void. Cole stressed that The Centric Group was a collaboration, not a legal entity. The companies had got together to raise awareness about customer contact solutions, but the partnership does not mean they endorse each other’s products, he added. Rather, the companies would work together to try and provide the best integrated solutions to meet organizations’ end to end customer contact needs. Neither do we subscribe to the notion that there is one single solution, Cole continued, we just want to illustrate the power and potential of customer contact software and how our clients how it can help them. Cole added that it was conceivable that the group members might collaborate on joint development at some stage in the future although he stressed it definitely wasn’t the intention at the moment. The Customer Solutions Center will open in December 1998 at O’Hare International Center, close to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The Centric Group web site is at www.centricgroup.com.