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Cassandra Millhouse, a leading business and technology analyst for research house Ovum says that while CRM is a management initiative, it is not a new idea. We are saying that we need to look at all the means possible of managing a relationship instead of just making a sale, she says.

Management is also beginning to look at employees in terms of dealing with customers as universal employees. When people interface with the customer they need to have a complete view of the customer available. What we want is a global view of the business relationship with the customer from every angle. We are not just automating the sales process or our contact managementsystems. The idea here is that businesses need to look at their customer's holistically. A business needs customers to survive so it needs to manage a long-term relationship with that customer.

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And the tools to holistically manage relationships with customers are becoming readily available, which is why the market for CRM software is taking off. For example, laptops are now everywhere and palmtops are going the same way. These enable employees in the field to obtain all the information they need about a relationship. This is especially important, for example, for salespeople or evenrepair people whose point of interaction with the customer is out in the field.”

Millhouse has written several reports for Ovum that investigate the players in the CRM industry. The information is designed to assist CRM project managers choosing partners and vendors. Companies such as IBM, Vantive, Oracle, SAP and Baan are explored in terms of product positioning, leadership claims and technology claims along with in-depth product evaluations.

The CRM tools market is not just an overnight phenomenon. It is going to be a huge industry and the players that seize the markets and opportunities now are going to make a lot of money. This is why you see companies like Oracle and IBM going after it as aggressively as they can.”

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Millhouse's view of the CRM model is, while multi-faceted, made up essentially of front office stuff” and back office stuff. The front office tools consist of user interface components, desktop tools … the technology users need to provide a cohesive and consistent front end to the whole system … the 'Point of Interaction' with the customer.

The back office 'stuff' encompasses ERP applications, database management systems, data mining tools, the data warehouse, application servers and so forth. In between are tools and glue technologies that managers and consultants will use to integrate everything.”

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Millhouse, who admits that being a frustrated customer helps fire her drive to tackle this subject, offers the following as her take at an official definition. CRM is a concept, and a management discipline, concerned with how organizations can best retain their most profitable customers while containing costs, increasing the value of interactions and thus increasing profits,” she says.

Organizations use a range of technologies and processes when managing relationships with customers. One of the most important of these is CRM software for the front office.

Vantive

800-VANTIVE/408-982-5700www.vantive.com

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — The Electronic Device Group of Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc. today announced a sound processor that bundles QSound Labs' technology into the chip's tone-control circuitry. The QSurround licensing fee is bundled into the price of the chip so that customers don't have to license the technology themselves.

The first in a new family of QSurround-based sound processor chips, the M61500FP provides a more cost-effective solution for use in audio applications such as stereo television, audio system and home theater, according to Mitsubishi.

This family will provide customers with outstanding and cost-effective 'virtual surround' 3-D sound performance for a wide range of audio applications,” said George Riehm, senior product marketing manager at Mitsubishi Electronics America (Sunnyvale, Calif.).

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