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KANA Embeds IBM Open Technology

IBM and CRM vendor KANA Software are expanding their strategic alliance agreement by jointly marketing, selling and supporting SOA-based customer service solutions, the companies said Monday.

IBM and KANA will jointly market a new Service Experience Management solution that will enable companies to drive customer loyalty and retention by creating seamless service experiences across all channels within the business.

The companies said this solution will improve call centers around the world by giving customer service executives better control over the end-to-end service experience. The solution will be built upon IBM’s SOA Foundation and include KANA’s customer service capabilities.

KANA has inked a new original equipment management agreement to get a larger piece of the customer service and support segment of the customer relationship management market.

KANA will embed IBM middleware, including WebSphere and DB2, in its next enterprise customer service solutions in an effort to provide highly scalable and secure SOA capabilities for customers. This is IBM’s first such CRM partnership, the companies said.

The companies said the agreement will enable clients to transform their service operations and resolve customer inquiries taking advantage of IBM’s SOA and Information on Demand capabilities to share data across multiple applications quickly and seamlessly across all channels including, call center, web, e-mail, chat, kiosk, agent and branch.

Also, the two companies will jointly create a SOA-based solution for managing the customer experience, which they said will breakdown traditional barriers to integration and be easily deployed by customers across all vertical markets, including retail, finance, banking, and others.

"Customer service organizations are transitioning from cost centers to loyalty centers, charged with the strategic mission of enhancing the value of each customer relationship," Michael Fields, KANA CEO, said in a statement. "By combining the open technologies from IBM and KANA into a single enhanced solution for end-to-end service experience management, we will deliver the technology that Vice Presidents of Customer Service need to succeed."

IBM and KANA are building on their commitment since 2000, with more than 100 joint customers. The expanded alliance will tighten the integration between IBM and KANA across all areas, including software, hardware, services and marketing, leading with IBM Global Services.

In an interview, Jay Ennesser, Vice President, Cross Industry Alliances, IBM Global Solutions, said KANA continues to get accolades in the analyst community. He said IBM’s CRM strategy involves working with a multitude of companies.

”We will continue to maintain a portfolio of partners because the customers ultimately decide how that want to go market and how they want to use the strategy,” he said.

The new solutions will be able to run on IBM hardware, including IBM system p. IBM pulled out of the traditional ERP application software market 8 years ago.

"These relationships are like a marriage,” Ennesser said. “These relationships are like are like a marriage. We hit a curve, go hard with the market; the market shifts we take a deep breath, re energize, and go up the next curve, and right now we’re up the next curve with KANA.”

Analysts see the move as a continuation of IBM’s strategy to form more partnerships.

“IBM has been extremely aggressive in promoting next generation SOA solutions and promoting use of DB2 and Webspace,” Charles King, principal analyst at research firm Pund-IT. “It’s always significant for a company like IBM to get a company to sign on to so elementary a strategy of SOA.”

Judith Hurwitz, president of the consulting firm Hurwitz & Associates, said IBM and its competitors, such as Microsoft and Oracle, would like as many companies as possible to adopt their infrastructure software.

“Think of it as soldiers in an army” Hurwitz said. “You want as many of these as you can to control more territory.”