CRM Isnt Just for the Big Guys

New entrants recruit partners to target a fast-growing market.

As more and more software companies step into its ranks, the CRM market keeps swelling with partnering opportunities for systems integrators and solutions providers.

Like longer established CRM players before them, newer entrants are now starting to team up with high-end and midmarket integrators. With their eyes on bigger slices of the CRM pie, the younger software companies are trying to carve out highly targeted partnership strategies.

And for good reason. The CRM market is expected to grow at least 50 percent this year, with sales nearing $10 billion, according to several industry estimates. And familiar names like Oracle and Siebel arent the only CRM games in town.

Webridge and Cytura, for instance, recently announced their intentions to take on market leaders BroadVision and Vignette.

Webridge and Cytura both produce CRM environments aimed at ease of use and quick implementation. Both are using systems integrators for tasks like front-end customization, back-end integration and system deployment in far-flung regions. From there, however, their approaches diverge markedly.

Betting on Bill Gates For its part, Webridge is pursuing a pure-play Windows approach. As a result, most of Webridges leads to systems integrators come from Microsoft and Intel. Integrators can use familiar scripting tools, such as Microsofts Visual Basic, to customize Webridges CRM environment for different B2B apps, says Gary Whitney Webridges VP of marketing.

Cytura, on the other hand, is targeting its XML-based CRM software at vertical markets like health care, financial services, the enterprise space, and media and entertainment. "I dont think you can be all things to all people," insists Bea Lozinski, Cyturas VP of strategy and alliances. Though currently available for Windows only, Cyturas product is slated for ports to Unix and the AS/400 by the close of Q2.

Stay in Touch To find qualified integrators in vertical markets, Cytura staffers are relying on contacts already established in the industry and referrals from customers. Cyturas customer list ranges from Priority Healthcare, to Walt Disney Studios,to The Waterbury Republican.

Over the past three years, Webridge has signed almost100 partners, Whitney says. About 10 to 15 are in a program for top-tier partners, which include Crowe Chizek, MarchFirst and Proxicom. Proxicom, for example, recently completed a CRM implementation for wireless ASP Aether Systems, enabling Aethers allies to update product information and pricing directly over the Web.

In contrast, Cytura currently is formalizing a partnership program for software. One way Cytura plans to compete against the giants is to forge pacts with integrators and Web hosters in international locations, including Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

Limited Allies Cytura plans to have a total of 50 to 75 partners, in categories that will include systems integrators, software vendors, and various solutions providers. "More partnerships [than that] would mean more overhead. We want to grow, but in a risk-free, managed way," Lozinski contends.

Cytura, meanwhile, is building a set of software-based "best practices" templates, aimed at specific vertical markets. Also, unlike Webridge, Cytura is making reseller arrangements with some of its system-integrator allies.

Of course, Webridge and Cytura are not alone in pursuing new integrator partners. In a recent survey, industry analyst firm Cahners Instat profiled 38 "traditional" and "nontraditional" CRM players, all vying for market domination, thus showing a hotbed of competition.

For systems integrators seeking new revenue streams, CRM constitutes very fertile ground.