Perhaps because they have been around longer, established customer relationship management players PeopleSoft Inc., SalesLogix, SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc. have more clearly defined integration strategies than their . However, eWEEK Labs analysis shows that each of these vendors takes a fundamentally different integration and midmarket approach with its packaged CRM application.
eWEEK believes that integration capabilities and developer experience should be considered as at least as important as functionality and price when choosing a CRM system. Its therefore important to fully understand the openness of the CRM platform, how well-defined the APIs are, what integration tools are bundled with the system, and how strong a vendors partner relationships are.
We believe that PeopleSoft currently has the strongest integration story, although Siebel is quickly catching up.
Much of PeopleSofts core technology for CRM integration is based on technology it acquired with Vantive in January 2000. That architecture has been branded as the Pure Internet Architecture, which is something of a misnomer because PeopleSoft applications also can be integrated using native drivers over any networking protocol.
PeopleSoft officials stress that the preference in a PeopleSoft integration is to leave data in the application in which it originated. However, many integration projects require data to be migrated into the PeopleSoft system or tied together by a warehouse.
For complex integrations, PeopleSoft officials recommend using the Integration Broker product that ties PeopleSoft applications, third-party applications and other data sources through a routing and brokering mechanism over a messaging gateway. In some cases, warehouses may become necessary; in other cases, direct links can be developed.
In contrast to PeopleSoft—which has a broad product array that includes financial and human resource applications—Siebel has core expertise in CRM and has built depth into its modules, including Sales, Employee Management and vertical solutions that complement the CRM application.
Siebels integration strategy has some similarities to PeopleSofts. For integration projects, Siebel has a similar array of adapters and partners to provide integration into the Siebel system. Siebel is marshalling its forces, however, with Universal Application Network, now up to Version 2, which launched last month.
UAN is simultaneously a technology and a partner network. It works like this: Siebel has customized specific versions of its applications for some vertical industries, including insurance, high tech and financial services. There are now more than 100 of these applications. If a company plugs into UAN, its developers can write higher-level business processes that can semi-automatically be distributed to other applications on the UAN. Siebels main mission is to get IT out of the adapter-writing business and into the business-process-writing business. Its early, but we expect UAN to gain momentum.
SAP is the company that started the packaged applications business. As such, its integration strategy was somewhat hampered early on because SAPs designers expected all relevant business data to reside within the SAP system. SAP began opening up its application server in the mid-1990s with its programming interface, called BAPI (business API). BAPI was developed in part with Microsoft and can be used in conjunction with ABAP—the SAP programming language. Developers can download well-documented reference ABAP scripts to show how integrations might occur.
SAP can be connected to just about anything and everything, but all this is too complicated for the midmarket space. There, SAP relies on its NetWeaver product line, which is functionally similar to Siebels UAN. At this time, not all SAP applications work with NetWeaver, although SAP has laid out a road map that shows that all future SAP versions will be architected around the NetWeaver framework. Currently, however, developers can use NetWeaver to ease integration with .Net and IBMs WebSphere application server.
One company that has always been in the midmarket is SalesLogix, which is a division of Best Software, which is a division of the Sage Group plc.
Best Software now runs more than a dozen midmarket financial and packaged applications, ranging from Act to Peachtree to the MAS manufacturing software to SalesLogix. Best Softwares main goal is to stay as far ahead of Microsoft as possible by integrating these popular packages. In fact, late last month, Best formalized a management structure to expedite the development and marketing process.
Technically, SalesLogix has several adapters to other popular accounting systems, including Microsofts Great Plains. For other integration work, SalesLogix hinges integration on the openness of its APIs and with a partner product called Dynalink from Spinnaker Software.
eWEEK Labs Director John Taschek can be reached at [email protected].