"These products are saving companies from having to integrate the front and back office," Shahnam says. "Companies today want a tightly integrated suite to deal with the customer across the customer life cycle and provide customers with a seamless experience regardless of whether they are dealing with their order management system, their customer service system, or other business processes.
Sharif Elhilali, associate director of database marketing at Bell Canada in Toronto, says his firm is currently installing the Siebel eBusiness 2000 software to manage consumer marketing campaigns, including direct mail, telemarketing, and e-mail, and to act as a single, central repository of customer information.
"We have a skilled base of analysts who spend a lot of time manipulating data when they should be spending more time analyzing the data," he notes. "We're hoping to minimize the number of steps required for conducting campaigns."
Rounding out the category were E.piphany E.5 System from E.piphany Inc., San Mateo, Calif., with nearly 9 percent of the vote and BusinessWare Transformer 2.0 from Vitria Technology Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., with close to six percent. A mix of other applications made up the rest of the votes.
Products in this category should gain more functionality this year, META's Sholler predicts. These include timesheet capture, travel expense reporting, and more built-in externalization capabilities, he says. "Many of the in this category are also going to add significant amounts of operational controls and the kind of features you need to implement a true high-availability system," he adds.
In addition, both CRM and business intelligence products should achieve easier implementation and greater functionality in the front office as products mature, META's Shahnam notes.
"I expect to see many of these applications mature in much the same way SAP had to mature three or four years ago," she says. "That means gaining functionality across the front office footprint instead of spending time integrating the front and back office at the expense of some functionality in the front office."
Karen D. Schwartz is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, she can be reached at email@example.com.
Links to all Product of the Year 2000 articles:The Internet on Overdrive