Ease of use and ease of customization have long been enterprise needs that CRM (customer relationship management) software developers have sought to meet, often with mixed results.
Onyx Software Corp. and SAP AG will attempt to solve both issues with technology that allows enterprises to customize CRM applications by designing their own business processes without IT intervention. The promise is that business process owners themselves could design the processes without needing programming skills.
Onyx plans to ship by the end of the year a major upgrade of its Onyx Enterprise CRM suite that integrates the BPM (business process modeling) technology it acquired in April from Visuale Inc. This will let users call business processes via Microsoft Corp.s .Net-based Web services, using a drag-and-drop interface.
“Nonprogrammers could set up a business rules foundation for business processes,” said Onyx Senior Vice President Ben Kiker. “Were giving them a way to model processes thats faster and cheaper to set up and change.”
Onyx has yet to determine packaging or branding for the release, company officials in Bellevue, Wash., said.
Separately, SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, hopes to eventually deliver similar capabilities through its NetWeaver middleware platform, according to Darc Dencker-Rasmussen, vice president of SAPs global CRM initiative.
“Were getting to the point where developing business processes doesnt require the generation of code,” said Dencker-Rasmussen, explaining that users would just do a Web services call from SAPs portal and create cross applications, aka composite applications.
But Dencker-Rasmussen conceded that NetWeaver remains largely a tool for SAP business partners and has yet to become a customer tool for business users who want to automate their business processes. He was noncommittal on when NetWeaver would be ready to be used this way. “Our goal is to get it out to the business users,” Dencker-Rasmussen said, although he said IT likely would still play a collaborative role.
Workflow and BPM are becoming “key technology enablers” for CRM, said Erin Kinikin, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. CRM business processes include fee waivers, retention programs, new-customer welcome programs, and returns and complaint handling, said Kinikin in Santa Clara, Calif.
“CRM process management is a win for everyone,” Kinikin said. “It helps the company do things more efficiently and delivers better service to the customer.”