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IBM, Onyx Team to Offer CRM Service

In what could be described as Big Blue's answer to Microsoft CRM, Onyx Software , a Bellevue, Wash.-based customer relationship management (CRM) software provider, today announced the availability of an online service that will be delivered by IBM.

The new service will sold by both IBM and Onyx and is aimed medium-sized businesses with as few as 25 users. A company typical customer represents 75-100 seats, Eben Frankenberg, Onyx's executive vice president of Business Development, told ASPnews.

The companies report that the service can be implemented in 30 days and will delivered and managed by IBM. The application is architected and scalability-tested for multi-tenant environments, which is important for the cost-efficiency of hosted applications.

"Onyx's experience in the mid-market and its Web-based architecture made it the natural choice for this IBM CRM utility offering," Mary Garrett, vice president of distribution channels and mid-market, IBM Global Services said. "We're allowing companies to focus on their customers while IBM takes care of their CRM infrastructure for them."

The CRM market is largely a tale of two software approaches. Traditional client-server enterprise software offered by large well-established vendors such as Siebel and Peoplesoft is viewed by many as cumbersome and largely unsuccessful. On the other end of the spectrum is a new breed of application vendors such as Salesforce.com that offer Web-native services.

The IBM-Onyx offerings appears to bridge that gap. "The CRM industry is full of well-known war stories of failed implementations. As a result, many companies have felt their only chance of success was to subscribe to online offerings that turned out to be nothing more than throw away alternatives," Onyx president, co-founder and CEO Brent Frei said.

The on-demand CRM service, IBM and Onyx claim, offers scalability, customization and integration capabilities not available with most online applications.

Onyx' application focuses on marketing automation, sales force automation, and service and support. Admin tools are designed to allow customers to customize user screens, workflows and underlying business rules to reflect their operations.

Onyx reports that IBM is one of the first vendors to deploy the Onyx Embedded CRM Platform, a Web-services model designed to allow its partners to deliver tailored CRM services.

Pricing for Onyx CRM on Demand is $150 per user, per month with an initial activation fee of $100,000. For its target audience, Frankenberg said, the implementation costs compare favorably to costs of for Salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM.

Asked how its CRM application compares to Microsoft CRM, Frankenberg said the Microsoft CRM is aimed at "low-end customers" and that Onyx CRM on Demand includes as basic features capabilities that are add-on features in Microsoft CRM. For example, dashboard view of customer, organization chart, basic relationship tracking, capability to send literature, de-duping duplicate records, multi-lingual or multi-currency, personalized home page are included with Onyx's basic pricing. Frankenberg described these as the "blocking and tackling of CRM."

In November, IBM introduced what it described as an application enablement program designed to provide software on an on-demand, utility-based model (see Big Blue Moves to On-Demand 'Fast-Track'. Shortly thereafter, Big Blue announced its first four "e-business partners" (IBM Announces On Demand Partners for Midsize Market. Other partners announced in November were Employease, HRsmart and Intacct.

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