The best-publicized activities in the customer analytics market are the numerous recent acquisitions among software vendors of packaged analytic applications. The "holy grail" that most vendors seek is a large, comprehensive application suite that covers the full range of customer-oriented business tasks. This includes customer relationship management (both operational and analytic CRM), e-commerce customer analysis (whether real time or offline) and marketing campaign management and analysis, possibly mixed with other Internet- oriented business tasks such as Web site administration and content management. For example:

  • Accrue (analysis of system operations) acquired Neovista (customer analytics).
  • Broadbase (customer analytics platform) acquired Rubric (operational CRM).
  • E.piphany (operational CRM and customer analytic applications) acquired RightPoint (real-time customer analytics).
  • Siebel (operational CRM) acquired Paragren (customer analytics for marketing campaign management).
  • Vignette (Web site content management) acquired DataSage (customer analytics).

Packaged analytic applications aside, other recent acquisitions involve tools for data movement and data mining. For instance, the point of Oracle Corporation's acquisition of Thinking Machines and Carlton was to acquire mining and cleansing capabilities, respectively, for customer data. Similarly, Sagent is in the process of acquiring Qualitative Marketing Software (QMS), which will add for the ability to cleanse customer data to Sagent's data-mart- building products.

New Products

Despite the consolidation that seems rampant among vendors of packaged analytic applications for customer analytics, a few new applications have recently entered the segment, including e-CRM from SAS Institute and Customer Relationship Analytics from Gentia. Furthermore, prominent business intelligence software vendors – including Business Objects, Cognos and Hyperion Solutions – have recently set up new corporate divisions to produce analytic applications, many focused on customer analytics.

Since data integration is a prerequisite for many customer analytic applications, some data movement vendors now offer packaged solutions specifically for collecting customer data (or related business entities like outstanding orders), as seen in Acta's e2e product line and certain functionality in Informatica's e.PowerCenter. Similarly, extranet-based data marts for customer and order data are available from Brio Technology and Business Objects.

THE HURWITZ TAKE: Many companies are currently shifting their business practices to be customer-centric instead of using older product-centric approaches. These companies are looking for better operational and analytic software to further their cause. However, acquisitions of packaged applications complicate the evaluation process because it's tough to determine which vendor has the ideal mix of operational and analytic capabilities that an organization requires. Furthermore, these suites of customer-oriented applications are suddenly bigger and more feature-rich, but integrating technologies under a single brand will be an issue for many vendors for some time to come.

IT organizations and others evaluating customer analytic software should carefully assess the content of each application suite, question vendors about integration issues and keep in mind that these applications are ineffective without data movement capabilities, especially for customer data.

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