IBM unveils CRM initiative

IBM Global Services is launching a hosted service for customer relationship management, with an offering intended to help...

IBM Global Services is launching a hosted service for customer relationship management, with an offering intended to help companies get a CRM application up and running faster than an in-house deployment.

IBM's service offering, called CRM Management Services, aims to accelerate and reduce the risk of CRM deployments at medium to large-sized companies. IBM will provide CRM services for six industries: consumer-packaged goods, financial services, retail, telecoms, travel, and transportation and utilities.

The CRM services will be deployed on IBM Unix servers at various data centres. IBM is also working with call centre providers to provide call centre functions as part of the offering.

"[In sampling the service at small engagements], we've been able to shorten the deployment time from anywhere from 10% to 20%," said Jimmy Augustine, IBM's marketing manager for strategic outsourcing. The use of industry-based templates enables a reduction in deployment times, he added.

Companies can opt for CRM packages from companies such as Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft, Kana Communications and SAP.

As part of the service, Augustine said customers would be provided with business intelligence in four key areas: customer behaviour, customer value, contact value and the performance of the customer service operator.

For retail companies, IBM will furnish a CRM template that provides customers with data on buying patterns, to stay in touch with consumer trends. Companies will also have recent sales data to manage their inventory and supply chain.

For financial services firms, templates focus on helping companies better understand the customer base, to enable cross selling of other services while providing customer service.

For telecoms vendors that are merging or acquiring other companies, a CRM template is available to consolidate various applications and databases.

IBM is following a trend towards managed services, said Jocelyn Young, an analyst at IDC.

"I think it's further validation of the trend towards managed services specific to the CRM market. Basically, IBM is taking this end-to-end approach to their entire CRM services portfolio and delivering it through a hosted solution," Young said.

"They're starting from a very strong foundation of CRM services already."

Separately, PwC Consulting and Sun Microsystems have announced an extension to their partnership agreement to cross-sell and market integrated CRM solutions.

The two companies began a joint CRM data integration initiative in October through the PwC Architecture for Cross-channel Customer Experience and Loyalty.

PwC Consulting and Sun will cross-sell, market and train 3,600 consultants on a new pre-integrated technology, with CRM being the first technology in a series of solutions sets.

The partnership involves Sun's Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) architecture, hardware and iPlanet software, as well as PwC Consulting's business strategy and integration services.

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