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Survey: CRM users eager for Web services

New research to be unveiled this week shows Web services are beginning to impact the customer relationship management (CRM) market, at least in the hearts and minds of CRM professionals. Approximately 93% of respondents to a recent survey indicated that Web services are becoming a critical enabler of real-time CRM capability, and the majority of those not currently developing Web services are seriously considering them.

New research to be formally unveiled later this week shows that customer relationship management (CRM) professionals say Web services technology is becoming more important to CRM, and many are preparing to back that up with Web services implementations.

The information comes from the results of a survey, which was conducted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Reservoir Partners research and consulting firm. During January and February, the survey asked approximately 350 members about the impact the nascent Web services industry is having on CRM.

Approximately 93% of respondents indicated that Web services are becoming a critical enabler of real-time CRM capability. Between 40% and 50% of respondents already have a Web services initiative of some kind underway at their companies, while the majority of those not currently developing Web services are seriously considering them.

Chris Selland, founder and president of Reservoir Partners, will officially present the study's findings later this week at DCI's Customer Relationship Management Conference & Exposition in Chicago. He said that even though several major CRM vendors -- including Siebel Systems Inc. and SAP AG -- are working to better integrate their products with other enterprise applications, users think Web services could solve the integration woes that vendors have largely failed to address.

Selland said the growing popularity of Web services among CRM professionals may indicate trouble for enterprise application integration (EAI) technology, which has served as the primary method of integrating CRM offerings with other applications to date.

"In the near term, you're going to see some Web services platforms displace the EAI technologies," Selland said. "You can do more effective integration with Web services, like channel and partner integration, [and] multi-company integration, offering true services outside the firewall."

Another way Web services could benefit CRM, according to Selland, is in the area of self-service applications. Once security issues are squared away, he said, the technology could enable the deployments of more effective self-service tools.

Platforms and vendors

When asked which Web services platform companies their organizations are considering, respondents confirmed Microsoft Corp.'s leadership in the race for mind share. Forty-eight percent indicated that they were considering Microsoft, with IBM Corp. placing second at 26%, Oracle Corp. a close third with 25%, and Sun Microsystems Inc. a distant fourth with 14%.

Respondents were also asked which CRM vendor or vendors they are currently considering. Despite only recently releasing its first CRM offering, Microsoft topped the list with 37%. Oracle ranked second with 29%, Siebel came in third at 26% and PeopleSoft Inc. fourth with 23%.

"The survey didn't back up Siebel's dominance" in the CRM market, Selland said. "Interest in Microsoft is growing very quickly."

Selland said it's likely no coincidence that Microsoft and Oracle faired well on both lists, since both companies are prominent in the Web services and CRM spaces and customers want to use as few vendors as possible.

Other than Microsoft and Oracle, Selland said hosted application providers such as Inc., Salesnet Inc. and NetLedger Inc. could also benefit from a tighter relationship between Web services and CRM.

In the past, it has been difficult to integrate hosted CRM applications with legacy systems, but Selland said Web services would ease that process as well. In fact, he said, has already forged an agreement with Web services infrastructure provider Grand Central Communications Inc. to do just that.


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