As IBM, through a partnership with Onyx Software Corp., rolls out hosted CRM applications, the acknowledged leader of the space, Salesforce.com Inc., is shoring up its own hosted customer relationship management offerings with deeper Microsoft Corp. Outlook integration.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., bolstered its e-business on-demand strategy last week by making available IBM Application Hosting for Onyx, a hosted CRM offering based on Onyxs Onyx Enterprise CRM suite and managed by IBM Global Services. IBM also announced a remote IT infrastructure management offering built on its own technology.
Both services are designed for medium-size businesses.
IBM Application Hosting for Onyx is implemented within 30 days and accessed through a Web browser, using a multitenanted approach similar to hosted CRM services from Salesforce.com, UpShot Corp., Salesnet Inc. and NetLedger Inc.
Onyx officials, in Bellevue, Wash., said the hosted service offers more enterprise-class functionality as well as better capabilities for customization, integration and scalability than existing hosted offerings.
The service includes applications for sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service and support. User screens, workflows and business rules can be customized to individual businesses.
IBMs other new service, IBM Services Anywhere Select, enables medium-size business customers to have IBM manage the components of their infrastructure, including storage, application support and security, saving internal IT resources for other projects.
The integration was extended so that sales and customer service personnel can send and receive e-mail messages through Outlook and log relevant messages in Salesforce.com through Outlook controls. Users will be able to associate inbound and outbound e-mail with the appropriate lead or contact in Salesforce.com without requiring integration with Microsoft Exchange or any other e-mail server, Salesforce.com officials said.
The new functionality is similar to that announced by UpShot in November and that Salesnet will make available in the second quarter.
Kathleen Fiore, CIO of AccuWeather Inc., which uses UpShots hosted service, said tight integration between a hosted CRM service and Outlook is a "key criteria."
"Everything we do is in e-mail," said Fiore, in State College, Pa. "Being able to e-mail as a document history for customer contracts, calls, events and accounts in UpShot is critical."