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August 17, 2005

SSA wants Epiphany for real-time analytics

SSA Global Technologies has shown itself a master of acquisitions but its proposed purchase of Epiphany indicates that it could be entering a new phase in its acquisition strategy and company development cycle. This carries increased risk as it branches out into new areas of functionality and new markets.

By CBR Staff Writer

SSA CTO Cory Eaves admits that the proposed Epiphany acquisition differs from its past activity on one level because of the CRM providers’ base in high end analytical CRM and its focus on the financial, telco and retail vertical markets, but on another it is just another part of the strategy we have been executing for the past four years which is to acquire market share and grow customer share, he said. We focused on acquiring ERP [vendors] to grow market share and share of wallet by broadening our product base and Epiphany is one way to do that.

The increased risk factor could arise from SSA’s intention to build its profile in service-based verticals which are a world away from its traditional mid market manufacturing base. Mr Eaves said the company is looking to Epiphany to help it strengthen its position in the financial, telco and retail verticals where it only has a minor presence at the moment.

However, it does not have expertise, deep domain knowledge or detailed sector-specific functionality for these verticals, which increases the risk factor even if Epiphany remains the lead sales focus, making the risk-return ratio higher. SSA can benefit from Epiphany but it has to be careful not to over reach itself.

SSA is on firmer ground when it comes to identifying how Epiphany’s sales, service and marketing products will benefit the existing SSA customer base.

For sales and service it is clear cut, said Mr Eaves. Manufacturers see service as an opportunity to grow revenue. Marketing functionality speaks directly to the general trend in manufacturing to reach out more directly to the customers.

This refers to the fact that few manufacturers interact directly with their customers because they are part of a supply chain in which there are multiple layers between manufacturers and end users, and the move by manufacturers to address this through marketing campaigns. As an example of this, in the pharmaceutical area the name Pfizer used to be unknown to end-users even though a large proportion was using its products. With ever increasing competition, manufacturers want to associate themselves directly with their products in consumers’ eyes.

SSA also believes the marketing functionality will be important in helping customers move to a demand driven supply network. This is a key theme for SSA and it is about managing and understanding demand. In manufacturing that begins with marketing, said Mr Eaves, where the ideal is a closed loop system built around the marketing component.

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Although Epiphany supports both in bound and out bound communication channels, historically it specialized in in-bound customer interactions, but there is limited immediate call for high volume in-bound communications among manufacturers who have little direct contact with their end user customers in terms of product supply and support. Mr Eaves said that the company sees more opportunities for Epiphany’s outbound functionality, especially the campaign management component, coupled with analytics.

As far as in-bound is concerned there is some demand, almost every products has a 1-800 telephone number on the back, said Mr Eaves. He admits that while some opportunities will arise from the inbound functionality that is almost synonymous with call center operations, the market for these aspects lies predominantly with Epiphany’s traditional markets. However, with 450 SSA customers in the finance and telco verticals using SSA’s financial and human capital management software, he does see strong opportunities for the call center applications.

SSA is looking to capitalize on Epiphany’s analytic capability with its ability to take large amounts of data and analyze it in real time, and is looking to apply it within the supply chain.

We see an opportunity to takes real time analytics and apply it to supply chain problems, said Mr Eaves. Fruitful areas could be addressing stock-out issues or being able to react to unexpected events such as dock or airline strikes when goods are in transit, by running real time analytics-based what if scenarios to identify the most effective response. We have some supply chain analytics but it is more off line, said Mr Eaves. Epiphany’s functionality will make real time, event driven analytics possible.

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