IBM Makes Own SMB CRM Play

Big Blue partners with Clear Technologies to bring customer relationship management solutions to small and midsize businesses.

IBM is putting another stake into the ground in the small-to-midsize business CRM space, partnering with Clear Technologies Inc. to bring customer relationship management solutions to that market segment, the companies will announce Thursday.

The deal calls for IBM to package Clears C2 CRM suite with its hardware, middleware and database technologies. The companies will go to market with each others products, targeting the wholesale distribution, industrial and services verticals.

IBM becomes yet another big company to target the SMB space for CRM. Microsoft Corp. plans to roll out its own CRM suite in the fourth quarter, while Oracle Corp. has partnered with NetLedger Inc. to deliver the Oracle Small Business Suite hosted service. IBM already has a similar partnership with Interact Commerce Corp. for its SalesLogix CRM suite.

Clear, based in Coppell, Texas, has 30 Web-based modules in its C2 suite, covering sales, customer service, marketing and analytics.

"Its a comprehensive CRM package for growing midmarket companies that need the functionality of an enterprisewide system without the high costs of implementation, training and support," Marc Lautenbach, general manager for Global Small and Medium Business at IBM, said in a statement.

Lautenbach said the partnership was an important part of IBMs strategy to provide so-called "best-of-breed" solutions for the SMB segment.

In fact, IBM is announcing a similar deal Thursday with ERP software developer MAPICS Inc., targeting midmarket manufacturers in the electronics, automotive, heavy equipment and industrial equipment industries.

IBM has more than 30 alliances in the SMB space. The agreement with Clear calls for the two companies to jointly market C2 running on the IBM eServer iSeries, pSeries and xSeries hardware platforms and related operating systems, storage devices and IBM middleware technologies, including WebSphere, Lotus and DB2. IBM, Clear and other business partners will provide consulting, customization and integration services as needed for each C2 sale, officials said.

The deal extends a partnership IBM and Clear have had in place for the past 10 years.