Fast-growing software vendor Clarify is attempting to ease that pain with eFrontOffice, a software suite announced today that the company says will help corporations juggle all sorts of business data--from email to telephone calls to Web orders--by funneling it to one Web-based system.
Analysts say San Jose, California-based Clarify's focus is turning to a new direction with eFrontOffice, which will be available in April.
The trouble with many front-office systems, say analysts, is that they fail to help users access data from multiple systems quickly and easily.
"The reality is that very few interactions today happen only through one medium," said Ben Kiker, Clarify's director of corporate marketing. "You may start a transaction over the Web and follow up over the phone."
"Right now the other companies offer integration, but it's a piecemeal approach," said IDC analyst Judy Hodges. "Clarify's strategy is a unified approach through multimedia [that includes] field service, email integration, mobile user integration, computer telephony support, and the Web."
And unlike Siebel, which bought call center vendor Scopus and was forced to integrate the Scopus/Siebel product lines, Clarify has been spared that hassle by building all of its own components, she said.
Clarify's eFrontOffice suite includes:
Components will be available on the Microsoft Commerce Server platform initially and ship in the third quarter with support for Unix on the IBM Net.commerce platform. Customers can also use eFrontOffice to provide portals for customers, who will use a password to access a screen with their individual profile, including recent orders, order status, and account activity.
EfrontOffice pricing is set at $20,000 per application server and is based on volume usage.
Clarify--whose competitors include market leader Siebel and neck-and-neck rival Vantive--makes software that automates sales, marketing, call center, field service, and help desk functions. Market research firm International Data Corporation estimates the $2 billion front-office software market will expand to about $9 billion by 2002.
That's why Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) vendors, including German software giant SAP and Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle, have been eyeing these same applications to boost revenues and tap new business from their existing customer base--though they have yet to pose a real market threat.
Nonetheless, analysts say these back-office business software giants hold a key advantage over existing niche players--as their customers have already invested thousands in software that automates their manufacturing, human resources, and financial needs. Many of these companies are waiting to add new front-end applications from their vendor partner.
SAP, for example, is expected to have the first version of its front-office suite up and running for customers this spring. Baan bought front-office vendor Aurum in 1997 but their front office product remains loosely integrated to Baan's back end system.
PeopleSoft has announced partnerships with Vantive and Siebel. J.D. Edwards has announced future plans to release a CRM package. And at a recent sales force automation trade show, Oracle also unveiled its new Web-based software for sales and marketing.
However analysts say these companies still have a way to go to catch up with Siebel, which sold $390 million in front-office packaged software and maintenance in 1998, as well as Clarify and Vantive, which sold between $130 and $160 million last year, according to IDC.