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Onyx rolls out 5.0

Onyx is making an ambitious play for enterprise customers with its latest CRM offering. The company will need every one of the product's new features to challenge the dominance of the big CRM players, one analyst says.

With the release today of Onyx 5.0, Bellevue, Wash.-based Onyx Software Corp. is building on some of its existing strengths, said one analyst, a necessity if the company is going to win larger deals and overcome its recent poor earnings results.

"For their traditional midmarket clients, they're beefing up areas of strength," said Sheryl Kingstone, CRM project manager with the Boston-based Yankee Group. "But the more they move upstream to compete with the Siebels of the world, the more competitive they're going to need to be with these capabilities."

Onyx Enterprise 5.0, announced Friday and available now, includes enhancements to workflow, call scripting, e-mail integration and usability, said Patrick Angelel, Onyx's vice president of marketing and alliances.

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The workflow enhancements streamline multiple screens and mouse clicks into a single user interface and automate processes, Angelel said. For example, opening a sales opportunity will trigger a task or follow-up item.

The call scripting capability provides for more customer interaction and guided selling in the customer service department. It includes merged conversational prompting and branching logic, which allows users to inject intelligence into the application. For example, when a customer calls a retail bank with an address change, the system will prompt the agent to ask whether the customer needs new checks as well.

The scripting and workflow enhancements are intended for executives and casual users.

"What I really like about [Onyx 5.0] is speeding up the workflow releases," Kingstone said. "You need the workflow capacity for business processes. They have a great toolkit. With the better integration with e-mail, it all goes to usability and helps productivity."

The e-mail integration capabilities allow users to keep working within Microsoft Outlook and still update the CRM system. Additionally, users now have more control over their workspace and the fields they see, also improving usability, Angelel said.

"We really think this takes us from a more passive approach with CRM into an area where you have a more active strategy to improve processes," Angelel said. "You're not just logging information but leveraging end-to-end business processes."

The workflow capability is an add-on module, but the rest of the features will not affect pricing, Angelel said.

For Nick Voutsakis, CIO of Glenmede Trust Co. in Philadelphia, the workflow enhancements are not something his company is too worried about yet. The usability and e-mail integration enhancements, however, are welcome. Voutsakis agreed that Onyx was building on strengths its applications already had.

"What we've had is a tremendous amount of feedback from end users," he said. "One of the unanimous things they voted on was the friendliness of the product. I don't think I have much of an issue in terms of adoption."

What Voutsakis would like is for the company to name a new chief executive. It was a shock when Brent Frei stepped down in January, he said. Yet neither that nor the company's recent earnings slowdown have dampened Voutsakis' enthusiasm for the Onyx product.

"We kind of knew there were some issues, but who isn't having issues in the software industry these days?" he said. "We kind of went along on the strength of the product figuring that would sustain itself."

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