Vertical solutions take hold in CRM

Von Ephraim Schwartz

As the enterprise increasingly looks for vertical solutions from its CRM vendors, Kana Software Inc. with an on-premise solution and Entellium Corp. with a hosted solution, will both announce this week industry-specific best practice applications for customer service and sales force automation.

Kana Resolution for service resolution will include 150 to 175 templates for different industries such as financial services and telecommunications, that contain resolution workflows garnered from best practices and industry experts.

"This is the low-hanging fruit. Twenty percent of the problems represent 80 percent of the calls. They can be automated using rules and workflows," said Brian Kelly, executive vice president of marketing and product strategy.

Esteban Kolsky at Gartner said "verticalized" versions of CRM is a trend that is gathering strength, especially over the last six months.

"Customers are saying generic doesn"t give me anything. I need specific functions for compliance and integration," said Kolsky, research director in the CRM Practice at Gartner Inc.

Kana Resolution is also one of the first software packages that reflects what the industry is calling a customer interaction hub, according to Kolsky.

"A customer hub is a central repository of rules, integration points and information to resolve any inquiry or transaction a customer may have," said Kolsky.

However, hubs are useless unless the information is mapped to the right information.

"If you don"t have the information in place, the tool is going to draw from nothing," he added.

According to Kelly, Kana Resolution includes a knowledge base that learns what worked and a set of analytics that monitor the activity of the resolution.

The software also includes a drag-and-drop UI geared toward a business analyst to build or modify resolution workflows.

Adding a few new twists to its hosted CRM solutions for both sales force automation, customer service and marketing, is Entellium. The company will announce an open source strategy called Entellium Open Source Platform. The strategy includes three elements, one of which will make Entellium Web service APIs available to developers as points of integration as well as for the creation of new services.

"Many e-commerce platforms are not integrated with CRM. Our Web service APIs will link e-commerce with CRM to give users a more comprehensive view," said Paul Johnston, CEO of Entellium.

For example, if an e-commerce vendor has a transaction that fails, an Entellium Web service could be used to link it to a customer service agent or used as a lead generator for sales.

Although hosted on a multi-tenant architecture, which usually limits the ability of the service provider to offer vertical solutions, Entellium solved that problem by building a workflow engine in the middle of the application between the database and the UI, according to its CEO.

"It is the engine that is configurable within the multi-tenant architectures so each company can have a unique workflow," said Johnston.

The engine bubbles up functionality such as business rules, roles, thresholds, queuing, and permissions, said Johnston.

The second and third elements of the strategy are the launch of a developer community site in January to encourage third-party developers and plans to make "certain aspects" of the Entellium source code available to speed up the development of vertical applications.

"The company is smart to open source because they don"t have the R&D or the market reach to do this on their own," said Martin Schneider, an analyst for The 451 Group.

Another major trend that more CRM companies will start to incorporate into their solutions is analytics, according to Kolsky

Kana Resolution is available now. Entellium will launch its open source strategy next month.