|Jeffrey Read, PeopleSoft VP|
With a limited number of giant customers available around the world, enterprise software makers have traditionally targeted the populous middle market to keep business coming in once the big guys have been spoken for. The CRM space is no different.
Among the foremost initiatives under way at CRM software maker PeopleSoft Inc. is the push to gain a leadership position in supplying applications to medium-sized companies, those with less than $500 million in annual revenue. But the playing field is not as defined as it may seem at first glance, with different companies seeking varied approaches as to how they can utilize CRM platforms without incurring the headaches or expenses often encountered by larger organizations.
At some mid-market companies, the desire is strong for stripped-down applications that allow them to isolate elements out from under the broader CRM umbrella, without having to deal with the other areas of an all-inclusive offering. Others are calling for CRM packages that include the widest array of applications available, while still retaining the ability to be customized and sized to scale.
Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft is aiming itself squarely at the latter group, and derides the simplified CRM model. Meanwhile, the company estimates that one out of every three new customers it gains is a small-to-medium-sized business.
"Our approach has not been to strip down or dumb down our PeopleSoft 8 line for the mid-market," said Jeffrey Read, vice president and general manager of PeopleSoft's Mid-Market Solutions group. "Based on our observations, any company that has attempted that approach has failed. Few have found that just because the companies we're dealing with are smaller, their demands are any less complicated."
'Accelerated' CRM components
To that end, PeopleSoft has launched 10 "accelerated" CRM packages that it is targeting directly at the space. The offerings are designed to be modular and give a running start to customers while lending the ability to add on new applications, as end users so desire. Read said mid-market clients are turned off by the costs incurred during the integration of new applications in its competitors' products.
"These solutions arrive already bearing anything that you need, with no need to reimplement over time, like with Siebel," he said. "That kind of strategy only touches off huge integration costs that customers don't ever recover."
Read said the PeopleSoft mid-market bundles cost roughly $50,000 per CRM module, with service and support included, and typically go live in about 70 days.
A user's modular approach
One mid-sized customer already taking PeopleSoft's approach is e-commerce software maker Sterling Commerce Inc. The Dublin, Ohio-based company has implemented several elements of the PeopleSoft CRM package and will go live with the help desk component in December. Making things even more complex for Sterling's situation is its status as a subsidiary of telecom giant SBC Communications and its desire to help push information upstream to the parent company.
"We don't need a stripped down version," said Marianne DelloStritto, director of CRM/ERP delivery at Sterling. "We end up leaving the system up and running the way it was designed; that's the approach that we're taking. When we want to use additional feature functionality that's in the system, then we go ahead and use it. If we don't need a portion, we just don't use it."
According to DelloStritto, Sterling is already utilizing more of the CRM system than it had originally planned to at this point and has found it valuable to not have to add on additional products or spend time working through unexpected integration.
"We started out small but have added a lot more on to the system without a lot of development work," she said. "All that's needed to ramp up more functionality is entering the data or turning some configuration. It ends up costing my team less time by having everything onboard from day one and having the option to use it whenever we want to."
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