CRM's Customer Connect Gets Microsoft Gold Partner Status, Advent's Asset and Compensation Study, Bluewolf and Big Machines, Cincom, CRM OnTarget

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CRM's Customer Connect Gets Microsoft Gold Partner Status, Advent's Asset and Compensation Study, Bluewolf and Big Machines, Cincom, CRM OnTarget

The news as of the second cup of coffee this morning, and the music is Deep Purple's Machine Head. For a classic album and all it really rises or falls on two songs -- "Highway Star" and, of course, "Smoke On the Water," the greatest guitar riff ever:

Advent Software, a vendor of software and services to the investment management industry, has released the results of a 2007 Asset Management Operations and Compensation Study, showing what it calls "trends in technology and operations spending and employee compensation."

More than a third of surveyed firms are installing new systems and applications, and more than two-thirds of firms surveyed expect investment operations spending to increase in 2008. The most popular anticipated IT investments include those for customer relationship management (CRM), portfolio accounting, and disaster recovery and business continuity.

While the study revealed almost universal increases in 2007 spending, small to mid-size firms generally saw the highest increases in costs. The survey respondents expected total IT and operations spending in 2007 to rise 13 percent on average.

The 2007 survey found that on average, the largest firms spent almost $1.4 million on IT and operations during 2006. Portfolio accounting generally accounts for the highest proportion of costs, averaging 29 percent of the total IT and operations budget.

Trading accounts for just more than 13 percent of the IT and operations budget, with CRM making up nearly 8 percent of the total. And over 95 percent of portfolio accounting systems are developed by outside vendors, with the vast majority of trading and order management systems and reporting systems also developed externally.

27 percent of firms surveyed responded that all of their trades are executed electronically.

The Advent Asset Management Operations and Compensation Study is conducted annually by Advent in collaboration with the independent Advent Users Group. The results are based on a survey of 100 investment firms that range in size from $100 million to nearly $25 billion in assets under management, with an average employee headcount of 34 and average managed assets per employee of $75 million.

The findings indicate that "a significant number" of firms participating in the study plan to continue making substantial investments in IT and operations, including personnel, hardware, software, systems and outsourcing, in part to comply with increasingly stringent regulatory demands.

The continued increase in alternative investment products is another cause of rising technology spending, the study found: "Of the largest firms surveyed that do not currently manage these instruments, half said they plan to introduce such products over the coming year.”

A significant amount of detailed compensation data was collected for nearly 900 individuals, ranging from chief executives to receptionists. Findings from the survey include the fact that nearly all firms (97 percent) in the survey incorporate variable annual bonuses in their compensation plans, and profit sharing is offered to employees by 67 percent of the firms surveyed, while 28 percent offer stock options.

Total cash compensation for a chief executive/president/managing director averaged $856,000, with a median of $380,000. Total cash compensation for a chief investment officer/director or researcher averaged $696,000, with a median of $284,000.

The survey is available on the Advent Web site at Advent Software sells financial services software.

Bluewolf, an on-demand consulting firm, and BigMachines, which sells on-demand configuration and quoting software, have announced an alliance to provide SaaS configuration and quoting products and services.

Under the terms of the alliance, Bluewolf and BigMachines have agreed to participate in joint marketing and consulting to better automate the quote-to-cash process. Bluewolf will train and deploy a team of BigMachines experts to rapidly deploy the BigMachines Lean Front-End and "to ensure that customers are successfully automating their quote-to-cash processes," according to Bluewolf officials.

In addition, Bluewolf will expand its Customer Success Guarantee deployment methodology to include the specific deliverables associated with a successful Big Machines deployment, including integration to such CRM apps as

According to Doug Timmel, Bluewolf's Director of Industry Solutions, "the SaaS market has moved beyond just Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and is now offering products for verticals such as manufacturing. Bluewolf's ability to provide vertical consulting services to manufacturers for their quote-to-cash processes is enhanced by our partnership with BigMachines."

The alliance will cover business in North America and EMEA, where both Bluewolf and BigMachines have local presences.

Cornelius, North Carolina-based Customer Connect Associates, long affiliated with Microsoft, has recently become a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Customer Connect has grown from Microsoft Registered, Certified and finally Gold Certified Status since their founding in 2000. The firm hired a Microsoft MVP for Dynamics CRM 3.0 to its staff, along with several other Microsoft certified experts.

"This is an incredibly important moment in our history," says Customer Connect President Geoff Ables. "When we first became a Certified Partner with Microsoft in March of 2007, our goal was to reach the Gold level within twelve months."

New Delhi-based software provider Cincom Systems has announced the first release of its new selling and business acquisition software, Cincom Acquire. The product suite is described by company officials as an "end-to-end selling and business acquisition product for companies that sell complex products and services," designed to "fill the gaps in traditional CRM- and ERP-based systems strategies."

Built on the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server architecture, the product supports collaborative selling processes. "Our customers' product management, engineering and marketing divisions can now align information and strategies, and move that information closer to the sales cycle," company officials say.

The product integrates with "out-of-the-box" Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and integrates with other Microsoft Dynamics ERP systems.

Cincom Acquire's core components are used by manufacturers selling complex engineer-to-order or configure-to-order products to streamline their sales, design, and proposal processes. Cincom officials say their products can reduce proposal generation time from five days to 15 minutes, and decrease time to close a sale by 80 percent.

Cincom Acquire is currently nominated for Microsoft's Office Business Application of the Year.

CRM OnTarget, a seller of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 and sponsor of Microsoft Convergence 2008 in Orlando, has announced that business intelligence dashboards will become part of its base hosted Dynamics CRM service this week.

Microsoft Practice Manager for CRM OnTarget, Randal Southam, will announce in a session on the opening day of Microsoft Convergence 2008 that CRM OnTarget has "upped the ante" in the hosted Dynamics CRM space. "Dashboards that can summarize key performance indicators across teams, geographies, and verticals are not unique to any business -- it is a feature all businesses require and we're going to meet those base requirements," he'll say, according to company officials.

The types of dashboards being deployed to all hosted customers are based on the out-of-the-box and best practices use of Dynamics CRM 4.0. Sales-related charts include sales lead volume, sales lead by lead source, pipeline revenue by territory, and pipeline revenue by user. Service charts include customer service case volume, case distribution count by user, customer satisfaction rating, and case status.

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