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PeopleSoft unveils Enterprise CRM 8.9

The latest version of the software maker's flagship product suite includes new customer segmentation capabilities, as well as its first crack at a tool to manage partner relationships. One expert says it's clear what PeopleSoft is up to with this release.

PeopleSoft Inc. today took the wraps off its long-awaited Enterprise CRM 8.9 applications, a package designed to increase ease of use and to provide companies with new customer segmentation capabilities embedded in sales and customer service processes.

In addition to updating its flagship customer service product, PeopleSoft also announced versions 8.9 of its Enterprise CRM Sales and Marketing suites, as well as a brand new CRM offering, Enterprise CRM 8.9 Partner Relationship Management (PRM). The company also unveiled new versions of its HelpDesk and HelpDesk for Human Resources applications.

Steve Roop, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based vendor's vice president of CRM product marketing, said that based on internally

PeopleSoft has put a lot of thought, as has Siebel, in their latest release, in trying to lower the total cost of ownership.

John Ragsdale, senior analyst,

Forrester Research

conducted benchmark tests, the PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 8.9 Service suite features a 54% improvement in call center ease of use over version 8.8.

Mitch Myers, vice president of operations with F.W. Murphy Co., in Tulsa, Okla., said that usability of CRM systems has been a problem for his end users in the past. But he said gradual progress is being made in this area.

"I have had quite a lot of feedback over the last few years from the user base that the software isn't (very) intuitive to use," said Myers, whose company manufactures gauges and instrumentation for industrial engine applications.

F.W. Murphy's first CRM system was from Siebel Systems Inc. and was implemented in 1999. Two years later, the company migrated to J.D. Edwards' Midmarket CRM offering, which later became PeopleSoft's EnterpriseOne. Today, the company uses the application for contacts and service requests, and it is considering it for sales force automation.

"One of the things that we've really seen as a value since PeopleSoft acquired J.D. Edwards is a real focus on usability," Myers said. "I think PeopleSoft is really stepping up."

PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 8.9 Service features a single knowledge base that integrates all of the sales, marketing and service data so that agents can get a more consistent view of customer information, Roop said.

The Service suite also includes a new e-mail agent workspace that incorporates all customer information, such as billing, complaints and order status. PeopleSoft said the enhancement solves the problem of e-mail service agents having to open several applications to help customers.

Enterprise CRM 8.9 Service also features Natural Language Processing (NLP), which aids in translation of documents, e-mails and chat messages. The technology also supports auto classification and routing of e-mails to the proper agent.

Roop, whose company announced the new products at its CRM Customer Summit in New York today, explained that the Service suite also delivers a learning engine that tracks NLP activity. The engine stores solutions to problems that arise and effectively grows "smarter" over time, he said.

Roop said that PeopleSoft's new PRM suite is designed to extend the company's sales, marketing and service offerings to business partners. He said the new offering provides a set of partner management capabilities for companies that sell through third-party channels.

Some of the software that comes with the PRM suite includes Partner Sales, which enables business partners to implement cross-company virtual sales teams and share leads as needed. Partner Marketing facilitates the execution of marketing programs targeted at partner audiences. PeopleSoft said Partner Commerce enables channel partners to drive business to each other by browsing partner-specific catalogs and capturing orders.

Roop said that the new PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 8.9 Sales suite delivers significant usability and productivity enhancements through role-based launch pages, call reports, streamlined contact management and new personal information management capabilities

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through tighter integration with Outlook and Lotus Notes. The Sales 8.9 suite also offers a new Services Management Module allows users to manage changes to existing orders and maintenance agreements through integration with PeopleSoft Enterprise Billing.

The Enterprise CRM 8.9 Marketing software offers usability enhancements, including an interactive and searchable marketing calendar, streamlined data entry through summary grids that can be edited, one-click analytics and segmentation quick counts.

The Marketing application also offers campaign and customer strategy enhancements, including a new drag-and-drop dialogue designer, recurring marketing triggers and improved cost tracking within tiered marketing programs. The company said the in-line product recommendations and event triggers that area included help marketers plan and execute up-sell and cross-sell offers.

PeopleSoft CRM 8.9 HelpDesk for HR includes new service-level management capabilities that allow human resources organizations to deliver support defined by multiple factors, such as employee status, department or role in the company. PeopleSoft said the features enable companies to lower costs through better prioritization.

PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 8.9 HelpDesk automates the support of IT systems and assets, Roop said. The new release offers change management enhancements to deliver increased functionality for change requests and multidimensional reporting. The company said the suite's asset management integration framework enables integration between HelpDesk and third-party assets for diagnostic monitoring.

John Ragsdale, a senior analyst with Forrester Research in Boston, said that PeopleSoft's move to increase ease of use with these new releases is part of an ongoing trend among CRM vendors.

"Cost of ownership and maintenance and ongoing reoccurring costs around CRM have always been really high," Ragsdale said. "PeopleSoft has put a lot of thought, as has Siebel, in their latest release, in trying to lower the total cost of ownership."

Ragsdale, who has looked at the new releases, said that PeopleSoft has overhauled the end-user interfaces to make the software more intuitive, easier to learn and to ultimately lower the costs associated with training and retraining.

"They're also increasing employee productivity because they're consolidating some of the data on the screen so that the data needed to complete frequently used tasks is right there and you can flow through without having to change tabs and things," he said.

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