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Vantive clarifies front office strategy

The front office software vendor moves to crystallize its Web strategy with new applications that better link businesses to their field sales force and customers via the Web, telephone, and email.

Front office software vendor Vantive will move to clarify its Web strategy this week, announcing new applications that better link businesses to their field sales force and customers via the Web, telephone, and email.

Santa Clara, California-based Vantive makes software that helps companies automate their front office operations, which include call centers, marketing departments, and sales.

The company's chief rival, San Jose, California-based Clarify, announced a similar product called eFrontOffice last week. The main difference is that Clarify is building most of its applications, while Vantive is partnering with other vendors for technology.

Throughout the growing front office market, Vantive and its competitors, including Siebel, Oracle, and Clarify, are scrambling to connect their applications over the Web so a company can track all points of contact from a customer via email, a Web site visit, or telephone.

The goal is to design a single system that field sales representatives, marketing employees, or call center workers can use to tap sales account information from different sources. Clients and field service representatives are also being funneled to Web sites to access a wealth of information about their accounts online.

While Vantive and Clarify have pulled ahead by announcing moves to completely integrate their Web-based product lines, No. 1 market competitor Siebel has focused more on its individual sales force technology and partnerships with PC vendors, analysts say.

Last month, Siebel announced Siebel Everywhere, a single-user version of its sales software, as well as Sales.com, a destination site for sales professionals. But Siebel shouldn't be too far behind on the Web integration front, said Peggy Menconi, analyst with AMR Research in Boston, Massachusetts.

Siebel reported about $392 million in 1998 sales and 89 percent growth, compared to Vantive and Clarify, which posted $162 million and $131 million in 1998 sales respectively, according to AMR.

Oracle is also coming on strong in the front office space, recently announcing its new Web-based sales strategy, boosted by the December 1998 acquisition of call center firm Versatility.

Not far behind, German software giant SAP announced last week that the company had jointly developed a call center application with Siemens for use with R/3.

"I think [in this market] it's 'don't take your eye off that ball because it's rolling'," Menconi said.

Vantive's new applications include Web sales, Web field service, Web collaboration, and a Web development engine, all which will be shipped by midyear, the company said. The components are designed to work together and with Vantive's Web self-service and Web partner, which are available today.

Pricing starts at $15,000 per Web server with an additional user-based license fee.

The company is partnering with Brightware for email management, Genysis for Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), and Annuncio for marketing automation.