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PeopleSoft widens vertical appeal

Three new markets are getting their own iterations of PeopleSoft CRM applications.

PeopleSoft Inc. today introduced new enterprise CRM software offerings for three industries, raising its number of vertical-specific packages to nine.

The releases -- for higher education, wealth management and revenue management -- come in advance of PeopleSoft's next major CRM upgrade, dubbed PeopleSoft CRM 8.9, which is due out in the fourth quarter.

In the last year, virtually all of the enterprise CRM vendors have emphasized their vertical offerings as a way to deliver necessary capabilities without forcing companies to embark on costly customization projects. Siebel Systems Inc. and SAP AG each have industry-specific software flavors for more than 20 verticals.

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PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM for Higher Education attempts to help colleges and universities manage student bodies the same way that companies manage customers. The software focuses on lifetime relationship management. Segmentation tools and profile-building features target qualified prospects and applicants. Institutions can boost student retention through better contact with students on campus and by maintaining relationships with alumni.

The application also offers real-time analysis and key performance indicators to optimize institutional efficiencies. It will be available in the third quarter of this year.

"Education is very much about relationships, from the time people are students to alumni, and those [communications] are often siloed within institutions," said Ron Yanosky, a research director with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. He said that PeopleSoft has always been strong in higher education but has faced some recent competition from Oracle Corp.

On the revenue management software front, PeopleSoft is targeting insurers, banking institutions and revenue-generating government entities such as license, permit and tax collection offices. The offering combines customer care, high-volume billing and collection capabilities.

"With state and local deficits like they are, it's not just about taxing now, but collecting," said Steven Roop, the new vice president of PeopleSoft CRM marketing.

The application consolidates service records, as well as account, billing and credit information, onto a single platform. A flexible interface and real-time configuration allow executives to modify business processes based on market changes without getting IT involved, Roop said. Additionally, the application automates billing.

Jack Swanson, manager of information systems for Benton Public Utility District in Kennewick, Wash., which deals in broadband services and electricity, said he's particularly interested in the interface, which should be a big improvement over the version of PeopleSoft CRM that his organization is currently running. Additionally, while bill consolidation is not an immediate worry, he said, it ultimately will be.

At Benton PUD, "deregulation hasn't come yet, but we see the potential for that in the future," said Swanson, who plans to deploy the CRM offering for revenue management. "We have some customers asking us now if we can put multiple accounts onto one bill."

The wealth management application for financial institutions is designed for an organization's relationship manager, according to PeopleSoft. A client summary feature combines relationship overview, account balance, contact data and opportunity information into one screen, eliminating the need for a user to tab back and forth.

Because banks and brokerage firms are increasingly trying to bring in midlevel investors, Roop said, several features of the software are important: "Relationship Summary," which identifies business, family and professional relationships a customer has with the institution; "Clients At Risk," which identifies customers who are likely to jump ship; and "Client Holdings," which outlines all of a customer's accounts.

Both the wealth management and revenue management software will be available in the second quarter.

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