Important Industry Announcements

By Geoffrey James

SAGE announced availability of the new ACT! by Sage Premium for Web 2006 contact and customer management solution, which provides real-time Web access to centralized customer information. Features include customizable opportunity fields, custom user permissions, en masse contact access settings and scheduled automatic database backup. The product is targeted for small businesses, functionallydefined workgroups and divisions of larger organizations that want to implement Web-based sales force automation without recurring monthly user fees.
Our Take: What we like most about Sage is that they don’t claim their software is for every organization on the planet. Sage targets SMBs and segments of larger companies that behave like SMBs. Since success in software is highly dependent on focus, it’s nice to see a company that knows where it’s going, especially when contrasted with Oracle and SAP, both of which are pretending that their monster ERP systems are somehow going to squeeze into an SMB environment. Yeah, right.

SALESFORCE.COM announced Salesforce Sandbox, a service to provide customers a replica of their existing Salesforce deployment, making it easier to customize and add additional applications. The product offers access to a fully replicated, on-demand production environment for customization, integration, testing, development and training, without colliding with a company’s “production” implementation. This allows companies to evaluate new customizations or features before rolling them out to users, build a development environment for integration testing, or create a safe training environment for employees.
Our Take: This is a perfect example of Salesforce.com’s interesting tendency to make a simple product feature sound like an earth-shaking technological breakthrough. The truth is that every software development environment since the 1960s has had some form of split between the development system and the production system. However, while we’re less than impressed with the importance of this particular announcement, it’s hard to argue with a company that seems able to out-market and out-promote every other CRM vendor.

PRAGMATECH joined the EMC Documentum Application Developer Program to help its customers automate the process of developing and delivering personalized content. Pragmatech intends to use Documentum’s software to automate information access and to enhance collaboration capabilities around sales processes, specifically personalized customer-facing documents such as proposals, customer letters, presentations and investor communications. The integrated solution is also intended to improve the overall quality and accuracy of the information.
Our Take: The union of CRM and document management seems like such a no-brainer that it’s surprising there haven’t been more examples of it in the past. Yes, we know there are several Salesforce.com extensions that help sales reps handle marketing documents, but we’re talking about full function document management, with revision control and extensions to support complex document types. For companies with complex sales materials (e.g., semiconductor firms, medical instruments vendors, etc.) such a union of technologies could prove invaluable.

ONYX announced that a Special Committee of its Board of Directors unanimously rejected a merger/acquisition proposal from CDC (formerly China Dot Com) on the grounds that it is not in the best interests of Onyx shareholders, would not produce a stronger combined entity and would risk eroding value. The Committee stated that CDC’s Software division assets have been performing poorly, lack a sustained history of profitable operations and have a poor track record of delivering shareholder value.
Our Take: CDC, a software conglomerate headquartered in Hong Kong, has been on a buying spree, most notably acquiring the CRM vendor Pivotal. CDC’s strategy is apparently to grow its customer base through acquisition of unrelated products. The problem with this approach, pioneered by Computer Associates, is that the acquired companies lose much of their engineering talent, forcing the product set to quickly grow obsolete. If CDC succeeds in a hostile acquisition, Onyx users are likely to encounter product delays and even find themselves in a technological dead end.