Tech Industry

Vantive calls on the call center

The front office application vendor is rolling out Vantive 8, a new version of its package that focuses on enhancements to the call center.

Vantive is calling on the call center to strengthen its market position.

The front office application vendor is rolling out this week Vantive 8, a new version of its application package that focuses on enhancements to the call center.

"Our strategy going forward is to concentrate on the call center," said Len LeBlanc, chief financial officer at Santa Clara, California-based Vantive. "It all comes down to where is the focal point of touching customers and 70 percent of all customer contact is in the call center. There are a number of departments in that area. That is our strength and we know how to do that."

Vantive 8's focus on the call center comes by way of several new Web-based applications for customer self-service and channel management. Other additions include mobilized field service, flexible field service scheduling and dispatching with integrated inventory management, new field sales, and telesales and telemarketing features.

Vantive and other front office vendors are fighting to stay a step ahead of larger enterprise resource planning vendors like SAP, Oracle, and Baan, who are all either developing or have bought front office software for managing sales, marketing, help desk, and customer service departments.

"It's going to be tough for these [front office vendors]," said Steve Bonadio, analyst at the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Look at [supply chain software vendors] Manugistics and i2 as the model for the front office guys. It's not a very bright future for them."

I2 and Manugistics are both struggling to fight off the ERP encroachment into their territory. Both have suffered sales slumps as a result of SAP and the others taking on their markets. In fact, Manugistics announced last week it is laying off people.

One advantage Vantive did have was a strong bond with PeopleSoft to provide front office functionality to PeopleSoft customers, but even that seems to be faltering. PeopleSoft recently announced it was forming an equal partnership with Vantive archrival Siebel to give PeopleSoft customers a choice between the top two players.

Adding to Vantive's worries is the fact that the other ERP vendors seem bent on taking over the front office as a core market. Baan last year bought top player Aurum and is continuing to sell Aurum as a standalone product as well as additional functionality for its BaanSeries application package.

And SAP chairman Hasso Plattner last week at the German software giant's annual user group conference, proclaimed that SAP's front office package will be one of the top three contenders in the marketplace.

As for Vantive's tactic of going after the call center, Oracle late last month paid $12 million for call center application maker Versatility, for the sole purpose of forging a role in this arena.

Vantive 8 is available now for Windows, NT, and Unix platforms. A single application costs $2,500, or for two or more applications integrated, the enterprise license is $3,500. Server side software ranges up to $10,000 for 20 users and to $50,000 for more than 500 users.