Enterprise software maker PeopleSoft Inc. has announced what it calls its most significant CRM software launch in more than two years, updating its flagship suite with features designed to speed implementation, ease user adoption and support added analytics.
PeopleSoft CRM 8.8, due to ship on Dec. 26, also marks the release of six new sub-products, including the Product Advisor, an intelligent-guided selling engine that matches customer preferences with the sales process. Also new are Enterprise Pricer, a modular pricing engine to set customer-specific pricing, and Sales Incentive Management, which lets sales reps see their compensation status and map out commission scenarios. The new software offers mobile order capture, letting the sales staff place orders and give quotes while in the field.
On the implementation front, 8.8 contains 30 new configurable components and 20 new integration points, including connectors to SAP and Oracle back-office software, necessary additions because nearly half of PeopleSoft's CRM customer base doesn't use the company's back-office applications.
Barbry McGann, PeopleSoft's vice president of product strategy, said the goal is to "configure, not customize," thereby saving precious development resources and cutting installation times.
In an additional effort to cut down on customization needs, PeopleSoft will release market-specific iterations of 8.8 for the insurance, energy and high tech industries, bringing its total number of vertical offerings to six. PeopleSoft 8.4 had versions tailored for the government, financial services and communications markets.
Because end user resistance is often cited as a primary cause of organizations not realizing returns on their CRM investments, PeopleSoft said it made several user-related improvements in 8.8. The company hopes users will benefit from the software's context manager, which breaks down analytical data like overall customer satisfaction and customer profitability. It also added flexibility to certain personalization features and reduced clicks by 55%.
Eric Schmitt, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., said that PeopleSoft 8.8 offers the most improvement since the vendor debuted its 8.0 software in 2000.
"There are some important case management features [in 8.8] that go a long way toward making PeopleSoft more competitive in high-end customer service deals, particularly those that have a strong call center element," Schmitt said. "This release should easily carry the company through next year."
Schmitt also lauded 8.8 for improved sales capabilities.
Schmitt admitted, however, that PeopleSoft still faces an uphill battle against San Mateo, Calif.-based market leader Siebel Systems Inc. He said major systems integrators see roughly $1 of PeopleSoft-related work for every $5 of available business linked to Siebel. By most estimates, PeopleSoft ranks third in the CRM market, also trailing ERP giant SAP.
McGann said PeopleSoft's goal in the coming year is to double its number of CRM customers and sales revenue, as well as focus on more industry-specific solutions.
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