Top CRM stories of 2003

Vendor viability took center stage this year. A chaotic period of consolidation hogged the headlines and dominates our top 10 list.

2003 is the year in which CRM might have been more aptly called M&A. Consolidation fever swept through the market and dominates our annual list of the year's top 10 stories.

10. The Dalai Lama ad flap -- How often does a vendor have to apologize to one of the world's spiritual leaders? Sure, advertising tactics are meaningless to CRM users, but we thought the controversy over Salesforce.com's infamous poster makes great fodder for a top 10 list.

9. BI buyouts -- The big guns of business intelligence got even bigger. Business Objects bought Crystal Decisions, Hyperion snapped up Brio and Actuate acquired Nimble. Next year, attention turns to product integration.

8. SAP's 4.0 release -- Issued in June, the latest iteration of the ERP giant's software is largely seen as having closed the functional gap with Siebel. Now, can SAP narrow the CRM market share divide?

7. The tug of war over Pivotal -- Three suitors vied for the financially struggling midmarket CRM vendor. The winner appears to be CDC Software, a little-known Hong Kong-based software firm that has the distinction of trying to turn Pivotal's red ink black.

6. Salesforce.com's great gains -- Eight thousand customers, annual revenue estimated at $100 million, its first user show and a likely IPO in 2004. Despite failing to deliver its much-ballyhooed ERP functionality, this was a good year for the hosted-CRM leader, which got a head start in a suddenly sizzling space.

5. Marketing migraines -- Loopholes and court challenges aside, the national "do not call" registry is a hit with consumers who just want to eat dinner in peace. Antispam legislation breezed through Congress. Marketers might call 2003 their annus horribilis.

4. Siebel's hosting about-face -- Despite well-publicized comments that it wouldn't do so, Siebel re-entered hosted CRM in a big way with an IBM partnership and the acquisition of UpShot. It also set some pretty lofty market share goals. Still, does hosted CRM really deserve this much attention?

3. PeopleSoft acquires J.D. Edwards -- Perhaps overshadowed by Oracle's hostile takeover bid, PeopleSoft picked up key manufacturing and midmarket expertise in the deal. It may be expensive, but PeopleSoft is dead set on maintaining three separate product lines.

2. Microsoft enters the CRM fray -- Its SMB software finally shipped in early 2003. Despite one reported bug, user response has been mostly positive. Other vendors hear footsteps and are wondering how long the Redmond giant will be satisfied sticking solely to the small-market sector.

1. Oracle-PeopleSoft saga -- Oracle's hostile takeover bid has as much melodrama as an episode of Dallas and should keep us entertained through the New Year. While the acquisitions struggle turned into a nasty battle between these two rivals, the proposed deal also has significant implications for both companies' substantial CRM installed bases.

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