PRM Becoming Staple in CRM Suites

Partner relationship management, once thought of as an adjunct to CRM, increasingly is becoming a mainstream fixture in application suites. Granted, it is not up there with the big three staples of CRM — service, sales force and marketing — but as recent releases ofSAP’s (NYSE: SAP) mySAP CRM 3.1 andNetLedger’s online NetCRM show, it is starting to be a regular on the CRM menu.

Both mySAP 3.1 and, more surprisingly, NetCRM — Oracle’s (Nasdaq: ORCL) small business CRM online application — offer PRM functionality. Indeed, NetCRM president and chief operating officer Zack Nelson told CRM Buyer Magazine that he considers his company’s PRM module a significant competitive differentiator in its particular market space.

Louis Columbus, senior analyst with AMR Research, told CRM Buyer that the growing inclusion of PRM in CRM suites is an endorsement of the new software niche. “It’s very significant, especially [the NetLedger module], because it recognizes that PRM in the mid-tier is something that can deliver hard numbers and drive revenues,” he said.

While a small business application may not necessarily be deployed by large companies on an enterprise-wide basis, Columbus said, “it is something they would place in smaller and more localized divisions.” SAP has made a massive effort around PRM and its channel management strategies as well, he added.

Siebel Holds the Lead

However, Siebel remains the undisputed champion in this space, Columbus acknowledged. “From a PRM perspective, they have been able to capitalize on their customer base very well. Also the Universal Application Network [integration tool] is the PRM division’s ace in the hole, because Siebel will be able to take their PRM product much further than their competitors because of that integration layer.”

As Siebel adopts more process-oriented workflows in its PRM product, the rest of the industry is likely to follow suit, he noted, and “what remains to be seen from Siebel is whether they can develop the ability to measure financial and operational performance.”

The Next Step

Eric Hills, general manager of Siebel PRM, agreed that the space is undergoing a shift in product development and direction. “We’ve been in the PRM market for nearly four years now and have seen the requirements evolve from tactical communication tools to strategic channel management platforms,” he told CRM Buyer.

He compared where the PRM market is today to where CRM was six to eight years ago. “The difference is that the PRM playing field is a lot less crowded, the requirements are complementary to CRM, and the customers are much savvier,” Hills said.

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