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CRM vendor Onyx wraps up hefty financial services project

Onyx Software is best known for catering to mid-market professional services firms, but it recently finished a large implementation in the financial services sector.

While many industry experts still identify CRM vendor Onyx Software Corp. as a mid-market specialist, the Bellevue, Wash.-based applications vendor has quietly won some large-scale deals, including a 5,000-seat deployment at Australian financial services company Suncorp.

Onyx is also known for its presence in the professional services market, but its implementation at Queensland, Australia-based Suncorp, completed in April 2002, represents one of the largest deployments in the financial services sector.

According to executives at Suncorp, the country's sixth largest bank and second largest insurance company, the massive undertaking wasn't as grueling as it could have been. Mark Hocknell, senior manager of Allfinanz technology and sales effectiveness at Suncorp, said Onyx CRM helped the company become more customer-centric, while combining data from eight disparate computer systems. Allfinanz is Suncorp's name for its company-wide effort to leverage its range of financial services across its entire customer base.

"I've met with a number of my counterparts at Australian financial services companies, many of whom have Siebel implementations, and we've spent a lot less to get some of the same results," Hocknell said. Suncorp's CRM implementation process took roughly one year.

The executive said Suncorp considered a number of vendors including Siebel Systems Inc., E.piphany Inc. and Clarify Inc. before selecting Onyx in April 2001. While Hocknell declined to say how much Suncorp spent on its implementation, he admitted that pricing was not key factor in making a vendor selection.

"When the Onyx product was demonstrated, it was clear that most of the other players had core competencies in other areas," he said. "We wanted operational CRM and this was it. [Onyx] had the most mature offering of the products we'd seen."

The suite, called Onyx CRM, features the core elements of most CRM packages, including sales force automation, marketing and employee relationship management.

Among the benefits Suncorp has gleaned from its CRM project is the ability to refer existing customers across various arms of the company to create and track sales leads. The project has also helped improve productivity among Suncorp's IT staff, which is no longer saddled with running eight individual database systems. Having a single view of its customers has allowed Suncorp to convert on a multitude of cross-selling opportunities, Hocknell said.

Hocknell admits that the Onyx software wasn't tailor-made for 5,000 users out of the box, but he credits Onyx's XML-based architecture as a key component in easily adapting to his company's demands. XML, he said, was particularly handy in building interfaces between CRM applications and legacy systems for banking, insurance and other existing customer data repositories.

Looking forward, Hocknell said Suncorp plans to utilize its CRM deployment to improve internal customer data management. This will give the company the ability to change a customer's information in one place and push the alteration out to its 14 different product systems, he said. The company will also use Onyx applications to integrate its customer data with its financial quoting systems.

And while Suncorp achieved a significant milestone, bringing 5,000 users live on its system in one swoop, Hocknell still advocates taking a metered approach to CRM.

"A big mistake people make is trying to deliver too much functionality on day one," he said. "We succeeded by identifying the most important business needs. Now we want to build."


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