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Web 2.0 firm buys CRM vendor Talisma

nGenera, a social networking and collaboration tool vendor, has acquired Talisma and its customer service suite.

The rush of CRM vendors into Web 2.0 functionality took a new turn today with nGenera Corp.'s acquisition of Talisma Corp.

nGenera, an Austin, Texas-based maker of Web 2.0 collaboration tools and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, acquired Bellevue, Wash.-based Talisma for an undisclosed sum. Both companies are part of the Oak Investment Partners portfolio.

"The future of innovation is customer co-creation: talking directly to customers, listening to them, learning from them," said a statement by Steve Papermaster, chairman and CEO of nGenera. "We're taking content and processes from customer interaction software and mashing that with Web 2.0 collaboration tools to help companies discover brilliant new product ideas inspired by their own customers."

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Recently, CRM vendors like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft have been adding Web 2.0 or social networking and collaboration tools to their products in an effort to make them more user friendly and adjust to the new ways in which people are interacting with applications. nGenera, whose executive leadership does not come from the CRM establishment, should bring some fresh perspective to the market, according to John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research with the Service and Support Professionals Association. Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, is chairman of the nGenera Innovation Network.

"This industry definitely needs some new blood and new life," Ragsdale said. "They're coming from the Web 2.0 aspect, and having the author of Wikinomics is a good sign."

Last month, nGenera launched its nGenera Customer product, which combines Web 2.0 collaboration tools like blogs, wikis, tag clouds and analytics with advisory services. It will incorporate Talisma's Customer Interaction Center suite, a set of customer service applications.

As the market for CRM technology has matured, winning deals relies less on the functionality of the applications and more on integration and cost, Ragsdale said. Some new perspective should help in the evolution of customer service technology -- particularly when it comes to bridging the gap between support and development, giving customers a voice in the development of a company's products.

"Everybody is a platform now," Ragsdale said. "It's getting really difficult [to purchase technology]. When people wanted a solution, it used to be email or chat, but now no one just does one thing anymore. People wind up buying a suite and using just a piece of it. We've been competing in functionality, and what this could possibly do is change the dynamic of conversation into: 'What are you trying to do for customers, and how can we help you do that?' "

Talisma was a target of Oak Investment Partners in 2003, when the firm attempted to combine Talisma with Pivotal Software, a midmarket CRM vendor that was ultimately acquired by CDC Software.

Talisma's customers include Aetna, Canon, Citibank, Dell and Ford.

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