By David Sims
David at firstcoffee d*t biz
The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Aimee Mann doing acoustic versions of some of her best songs, current track "That's Just What You Are:"
Small and medium businesses, generously defined as those with under a thousand employees, in the retail vertical across the Asia-Pacific region outside of Japan are on track to spend a whopping $11.6 billion on CRM and other IT-related investments this year.
Computing -- which includes PC and server hardware -- and IT Services will be the top drivers of retail SMB spending in 2007, according to the latest study by Access Markets International Partners Inc.
Although CRM and ERP/SCM spending in the retail mid-market segment is expected to grow less than 10 percent in 2007, CRM as SaaS (software as a service) is expected to increase two to three times the growth of the traditional application delivery platforms, the study found.
Key countries in the region which will drive retail SMB IT spending this year include Australia, China, India, South Korea and Taiwan, the study finds.
"While retail SMB IT spending in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam are set to grow more than 15 percent year-on-year in 2007, spending in mature markets such as Australia and Singapore will grow less than 10 percent in 2007 over 2006," says Nishant Dave, AMI's Singapore-based Research Director for the Asia-Pacific.
Retail medium businesses, those with between a hundred and a thousand employees, are looking closely at the services delivery platforms in addition to IT infrastructure to enhance their competitive edge, according to the study.
"Both types of companies will face the disruptive threat to their business models from larger retailers which will compel them to re-invent themselves using IT as a competitive differentiator," Dave says.
Among the top five retail mid-market countries in the region, IT spending in China and India is expected to grow double-digit year-on-year in 2007. Storage and security are expected to be the fastest growing IT spending categories among retail mid-market companies in the region, growing more than 20 percent year-on-year in 2007.
Some of the key concerns that emerged from the retail mid-market companies circled around managing customer loyalty, maintaining product prices and management of personnel. As a result, IT managers in these companies are looking to take the next steps in terms of deploying CRM products, upgrading POS (point of sale) systems, setting up inventory and SCM (supply-chain management) products and deploying employee monitoring and service quality measurement systems.
Tel Aviv, Israel-based Commit Business Solutions, which sells management software for small to mid-sized computer services and support businesses, has announced the launch of the new major version of its flagship software, Commit 4.0.
Maayan Porat, CEO of Commit, called the new version "our biggest release ever." The vendor generally targets small computer repair and computer services companies as their clientele."
Commit helps its users "maximize their billable time by enabling more efficient capturing of billable hours for labor performed," company officials say, adding that the product "makes it easy to track parts replaced and products sold when handling a service issue."
With the enhanced Commit-QuickBooks Link, users can now generate QuickBooks invoices from within Commit at all levels: Customer, Service Contract or Support Incident. These invoices are based on the labor activity and parts charges logged into Commit by technicians as part of their service activity. As a result there is no need to reenter this information for billing purposes.
The new version of Commit is also fully compatible with Intuit QuickBooks 2007 editions.
Two-way synchronization with Microsoft Outlook, including support for Outlook 2007, is another option introduced in this release. Using Commit-Outlook Sync, users can enter information into Commit or Outlook and be assured that the information is synchronized and current in both programs.
This software release has also been tested on Windows Vista.
ICentera, a vendor of on-demand CRM portals for sales, partner and customer communications, has announced today that ADC, a vendor of communications network infrastructure products, is using iCentera's Portals for Mortals in order to extend the reach of its global sales force.
The product is billed by iCentera officials as allowing anyone in an organization to create customized and branded communication portals for any internal or external audience, "in minutes." The latest version of iCentera has Web 2.0 capabilities.
To date, ADC, has created over 70 portals with more than 600 internal users and 3,000.
"The American Marketing Association says 90 percent of marketing is not used by sales. My problem is that I don't know which 10 percent they are using," said Bill Fuesz, Senior Marketing Manager for ADC. "With iCentera we can aggregate information from multiple sources across the enterprise… and then track who is using what and what is working through analytics the portals provide."
ADC officials say they'll use iCentera to let their direct sales organization sell more effectively by delivering sales support materials, such as press releases, marketing materials, sales guidance, and contract information.
"It was pretty simple," stated Fuesz. "We updated the existing portal landing page with information about the new products, including additional content that would support the customer through the purchasing process. We also built out a marketing program that adds content on a regular basis in order to encourage people in the customer organization to come back again and again. The sales rep came to me on Friday with this request and the enablement portal was good to go on Tuesday."
ReachForce, which sells CRM data services, has announced the certification of ReachForce Data Services for Demand Generation for salesforce.com's AppExchange.
The product "enhances" existing CRM data in salesforce or discovers new role-based data, according to ReachForce officials.
ReachForce Data Services is billed by company officials as giving marketing and sales teams "the ability to target their initiatives at the right decision maker at the right company, right away." The idea is that by identifying a person's role within an organization instead of just a title, marketing and sales teams are able to better refine messaging to the right buyers, key influencers, and evaluators.
As a result, the product allows salesforce.com customers to request a role-based database from within their Salesforce account for ongoing demand generation campaigns, new vertical market focus or new geography expansion.
"Being certified now opens access to ReachForce data services to all salesforce.com customers," said Suaad Sait, ReachForce CEO. The companies have more than 75 customers in common, including Eloqua, Pavilion Technologies and Intacct.
Apex is the on-demand platform for the next generation of business applications, enabling "a whole new generation of on-demand applications that go beyond CRM," according to salesforce.com officials.
ReachForce is a privately held company backed by venture firm G51 Capital, both based in Austin, correctly described by Ann Coulter as "the Upper West Side with better-looking people."
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