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Fowler: Kana's evolution for eRM strategies

Recently, Kana Communications and Broadbase Software signed a definitive merger agreement, which analysts see as a potentially powerful move.

How does the Broadbase merger fit into Kana's strategy for the future?

The Kana solution that we offer today is very much oriented around the service and call center, or contact center, side of the world. What Broadbase brings to the equation is a set of marketing tools that you can use to turn every interaction that you have with a customer or business partner into an opportunity to market or sell to that customer. If a customer calls up and says, "I'm looking for information on my last order," and the agent is able to pull that information up and say, "Your last order was last Tuesday, it shipped on Thursday," they also can get a prompt on the screen that says, "By the way, this order was a bicycle and you ought to sell to this customer the fact that they could get... a backpack for that bicycle." ...(It's) very personalized around the individual. How has Kana evolved from an e-mail response software vendor to an eRM vendor?

The genesis of Kana itself was starting out as an e-mail handling system, and then they acquired two companies that were in related communications areas. A year ago, Silknet and Kana merged. ...That new Kana was focused on a broad set of products that were oriented around everything that you needed to supply great customer service. That company now is merging with Broadbase to create an even bigger company. Do you have any examples of that?

As an example, an old way of doing business under CRM might be that I have an agent within my company, if I want to get the balance of my checking account, ...I call the company, the agent looks the information up on some system, figures out maybe through two or three different systems how to get an answer, and ... gives it to the customer. In the new way of doing business, the customer would go or have the option to go online. They would get their private, personalized portal that has, right on the screen as they log in, all the information about their relationship with that company. ... The new way of doing business, it's not just about how you manage your relationship out of your company. It's how you build your relationship between your company and your business partners. What is Kana's overall strategy for the future?

The strategy we have is targeting the relationship management marketplace. What's unique about the way we target that marketplace is we don't go after the traditional ... CRM marketplace, which is oriented around how do people within my company deal with customers, such as call centers, sales force automation or sales agents talking to customers. It's more oriented around what we call e-relationship management, or enterprise relationship management. (It's) how you build a two-way relationship between your company and your customers, and between your company and your business partners. In that two-way relationship, instead of it being around just people supplying information to customers outside your company, it's about systems that actually invite the customer to come in and participate in how the company is running their business. How does that work?

It uses technology in the object area... and it integrates with existing databases so you can actually create this virtual view by tapping into the existing databases and mapping the data into a new structure. Going back to relationship management, how would a company go about implementing something like that? What kind of planning would be necessary?

The first challenge for most companies in building a relationship management system is that they have no idea what is going on with their customers or their business partners. That's because their data is scattered all over the organization. It's not unusual for us to go into a company and find out that there are five, 10, 15 customer databases within that company. We were at a company the other day, and they said they had 100 different customer databases. So, you can imagine what it's like when you say what I want to do is stop looking at the world from the agent's perspective and I want to start looking at the world from the customer's perspective. ...It means I've got to go out and tap all of these databases or I've got to create a new database -- yet one more -- that pulls all of the data out of the existing databases. That latter scenario doesn't work very well because pulling the data from the databases is very complex. New technologies... allow you to virtually create a view of the data without removing it from the existing database. What it does is create a logical view of the data, and then it sources the data, pulls it out of the existing databases and puts it into this logical view so it can be used by the customer or by the application. What do you see in the future of the RM market?

The changes that are happening in the relationship management marketplace are oriented around more personalization, more relationship into the interactions that are happening between companies and their business partners and customers and the company. WE call this the virtual enterprise. the general concept is that it's not just your business and what your company does to survive, it's actually creating a collaboration between what your customers want, what your business does and what your suppliers and distribution channels can supply.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

 See the related searchCRM article: " Kana and Broadbase sign definitive merger agreement" Have you noticed any shifts in the eRM market?
Yes, a significant shift, actually. ...The third wave, the wave we're really in now, is this eRM wave. In that, it's not about just the information, it's how you intelligently use the information and how you intelligently communicate the information. You get that by actually building a relationship with the customer so you understand what they want and need and orient your business around that.

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