With 24% of the vote, Siebel Systems Inc.'s Siebel 7 followed as a fairly close second with its new Siebel 7 customer relationship management (CRM) package. Informatica Corp.'s Informatica Applications 5 collected a respectable 16% of the vote, especially considering the analytical application was not even on users' radar screens in last year's Product of the Year poll.
"2001 was a pretty lousy year for a lot of software vendors but despite this companies continued to invest in enterprise applications," says Josh Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif. "The usefulness of enterprise software doesn't disappear in a recession."
Indeed, many companies -- especially large ones -- remained committed to the productivity gains and streamlined business processes enabled by a host of different enterprise applications, from CRM to supplier relationship management to analytical applications.
PeopleSoft 8 Supplier Relationship Management took first place because many companies are looking to automate their interactions with their suppliers. "The whole thrust of the PeopleSoft product is to take supplier relationships, make them more efficient and more effective and take that to the bottom line," says Greenbaum.
As with last year's survey, CRM remains one of the hottest topics in enterprise applications. Siebel's Version 7 is an important release, according to Greenbaum, since it adds significantly more Internet capability.
"It has a more complete Internet metaphor. Everyone is on the Web now, and everyone is looking for tighter integration with their CRM product," he says.
Miracle Software Systems Inc., a Southfield, Mich., systems integrator, has used Siebel for internal sales force automation since 1999. Hari Madamalla, director of enterprise applications for Miracle, was one of the first customers to upgrade to Siebel 7.
"What we really like with Siebel 7: It has a totally Web-based architecture," says Madamalla. And though it is completely Web-based, it is intelligent, he adds.
For example, if a user makes a change to one field, Siebel 7 does not refresh the whole page (which other applications including previous Siebel versions would do) but rather it refreshes only the new data. That reduces system overhead and helps keep performance speedy.
Prior to getting his hands on Siebel 7, Madamalla worried the Web architecture of the new version would come at the expense of the customization options. (He was concerned that the sales people would revolt if they did not have the ability to tweak the interface just the way they wanted it.)
He was pleasantly surprised that Siebel 7 offers just as many opportunities to personalize the look and feel of the screen as the previous generation. "They carried the personalization in this version. That's not easy to do in a Web-based architecture," he says.
|Voters had a choice of the following nominees:|
Active Access eBusiness Suite for EnterpriseServer|
Geac Computer Corp. Ltd.
eGain eService Enterprise (E3)
Epicor ePortal 4.0
IFS Applications 2001
PeopleSoft 8 Supplier Relationship Management
Solomon IV Release 4.5
Informatica Applications 5
More than 35% of global 2000 companies reported that the economic downturn had a negative impact on their CRM budgets in 2001, says Liz Shahnam, vice president and director at Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn.
But the majority of those experiencing CRM budget cutbacks said those cuts were small, between 1% and 25% of the total CRM budget. With CRM the No. 2 IT budget priority for 2002 (second only to systems integration), Shahnam believes CRM spending will recover this year. "I don't expect budgets to be flat for long," she says.
For his part, Greenbaum believes Informatica Applications 5 has the potential to be the most significant product in Datamation's Enterprise Applications top three. "This has the opportunity to dramatically change everything that came before because it allows companies to do a very broad range of analytics across functions and departments," he says.
Previously, giant companies such as Cisco Systems committed enormous amounts of time and money to build their own analytical engines. Smaller and medium-sized companies had no hope of building their own and so had to forego these powerful analytical capabilities.
Now, a product like Informatica Applications 5 has packaged the analytics for all to use. "If you've got the data, they've got the analysis. This could be radically different from everything that has come before," says Greenbaum. Certainly, the market responded well last year to Informatica, which posted among the highest gains of any software company all year.
It seems likely enterprise applications will continue to be strong this year. Says Greenbaum, "Companies are finding greater efficiency, greater productivity, greater accountability. Companies are learning enterprise software can add a lot of value."
Lauren Gibbons Paul is a freelance business/technology writer in Waban, Mass. She can be reached at email@example.com.