Significant Industry Announcements, With Commentary

By Geoffrey James

IBM introduced software and services to allow organizations to anonymously share and compare information without revealing private or sensitive personal details. The product is intended to help companies rapidly and more securely share information while protecting the identity of individuals within their respective data repositories.
Our take: As reported in previous editions of this newsletter, security is a growth area in software sales. IBM’s offering in this space seems a bit odd, however, because it’s unclear how making employees anonymous makes a system more secure. Sales reps selling against IBM in this space should point out to customers that there’s enough anonymity on the Internet and that, in most cases, the ability to keep an identity secret can actually reduce security and increase the potential for fraud.

MICROSOFT released Point of Sale, an application that enables retailers to track and manage sales, inventory and customer information. The product tracks sales trends and helps maintain control, onsite or remotely, of cash, employees and business processes. Retailers can use the new software either out of the box with their existing PCs and peripherals or can purchase complete hardware and software bundles.
Our take: Microsoft Business Solutions continues to issue new products, mostly point applications focused on small business. Since Microsoft products tend to be well designed, however, it’s likely they’ll also work well inside larger enterprises. While Microsoft currently isn’t targeting such organizations, it’s probably only a matter of time before Microsoft Business Solutions expands its target market. Sales reps selling against Microsoft need to move aggressively to sell in areas where Microsoft is likely to introduce new products. The goal should be to deny Microsoft applications a foothold in the account, lest they expand their reach into other application areas.

ORACLE announced Oracle Product Information Management Data Hub, an enterprise data management solution intended to help customers centralize all product information into a single product repository. This will allow companies to manage product catalogs, product specifications, product documents and product configurations within a central system. Users of the software will be able to manage new item definitions, control product data quality with validations, streamline product change requests and handle product orders with workflow approvals and reviews.
Our take: The main strength of Oracle’s offering is that the pieces all connect in a logical way. This product leverages that connectivity to create a new application class that’s badly needed in the CRM space. Oracle’s products traditionally have less functionality than best-in-class applications in the same segment, however, so sales reps selling against Oracle should identify and emphasize weak points in the Oracle solution.

SAP announced the next version of mySAP CRM. This version features embedded analytics and enhanced dashboard-like analytical applications and also includes custom-developed vertical-industry extensions for marketing, sales and service organizations. Features include strategic planning for marketing, email response management and better support for mobile devices.
Our take: SAP’s movement toward marketing software and vertical industry customizations follows the trend of the rest of the CRM sector. As with Oracle, the main advantage of SAP’s CRM solution over those of other vendors is that SAP provides the functionality within the context of a larger ERP system. As with Oracle, sales reps selling against SAP should identify weak points and missing features.