CRM and Semantra 2.0, Kana and IBM, IFS, Sage in Kuwait, ASK Software

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David Sims
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CRM and Semantra 2.0, Kana and IBM, IFS, Sage in Kuwait, ASK Software

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is one of First Coffee's favorites, Aimee Mann's Live At St. Ann's Warehouse:

I know we all had Davidson and Villanova on our Sweet Sixteen brackets, but hey, how about Western Kentucky?

Semantra, a Dallas-based software company, has announced the launch of Semantra 2.0 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The product is described by company officials as "a business intelligence tool designed to make it easy for all types of business users, including non-technical users, to access data from existing databases via common language commands and requests."

Semantra 2.0 was specifically created to extend the value of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, "enabling users to make ad hoc inquiries to retrieve precise results from any Microsoft Dynamics CRM database," the Semantrians say: "With little to no training, Microsoft Dynamics CRM users can turn questions into information via a familiar search box and the terms and concepts of their CRM system."

"With Semantra 2.0, an executive or front-line employee can access their CRM data in terms they commonly use," said Chris Davis, CEO, Semantra. "Until now, the market has been missing an analytics application for ad hoc CRM data inquiries."

"Companies are often frustrated with the inability to access information from their CRM systems. Finally, a BI tool for the masses," said Alan Hopp, general manager, ePartners.

General availability of Semantra 2.0 for Microsoft CRM Dynamics Solution will be in April 2008.  Future releases will follow in 2008 and 2009 to address a variety of ERP and CRM applications, including Dynamics AX.

ASK Software has launched QoS-IT version 2, according to company officials, introducing the Microsoft Dynamic CRM service module plug-in for Managed Service Providers.

ASK officials explain that QoS-IT is a process-based software product developed to "manage IT services on agreed Service Level Agreement signed between MSP and customer and managed by the Service Level Management process."

SLM is the process of measuring and monitoring service quality, using metrics such as performance, availability and customer satisfaction, relative to customer expectations, and "reporting results and taking action to ensure the quality stays within agreed upon parameters as defined by the SLA," ASK officials say.

"Market researches show that for IT MSPs to manage and support the IT infrastructure of their customers, maintain long term relationships with customers and be profitable and efficient, they must adopt the best practices and guidance set out in well known standards such as ITIL & Microsoft MOF," says Ged Ellis, CEO of ASK.

"As most MSPs are Microsoft Partners, they have an access to Microsoft Dynamics CRM via Action Pack," says Ellis, "for less than $3,000. That includes 10 users license for QoS-IT and 12-month maintenance and support of the application."

Ellis compared the QoS-IT Service Catalog to a restaurant's menu, with a "list of all IT services the organization provides. Clients select from the Service Catalog the right mix of services that suit their needs based on their network infrastructure, response time and the hours and days of the week they wish to be serviced, which is then defined in the SLA Contract and recorded in QoS-IT."

Following on efforts from the Kuwaiti Government to diversify the country's economy, Sage Software will address government business leaders on the benefits of using technology to develop emerging sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and services.

Sage's Kuwait Solutions Day will see over 80 decision makers and channel partners gather for a vision of how technology developments will affect their industries. European and regional technology experts from Sage will brief Kuwaiti officials on how the company's products can be used, explained Marc Van der Ven, Managing Director, Sage Software, Middle East.

"Despite its size, Kuwait has been able to punch above its weight for some time in terms of developing businesses that have gone on to become multinationals. We want to appeal to this strong entrepreneurial spirit to further empower Kuwaiti firms as they look to spread beyond the country and into the rest of the Middle East," he said.

Joined by its in-country partners Bader Al Mulla & Bros, SECOITS, and Arabesque, the main Sponsor for Sage Solutions Day, Sage will be hosting a number of its present Kuwaiti customers as well as other companies.

Sage sells Human Resource Management, Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship Management software for medium and large organizations. The company counts over 5 million customers worldwide, and over 1500 customers, 10,000 users and 45 partners in the Middle East.

Kana Software and IBM have announced that the two companies will "significantly expand" their Global Strategic Alliance agreement to jointly market sell and support Service Oriented Architecture-based customer service products built on open technologies from both companies.

As part of the news, Kana has also signed a new original equipment management agreement designed, in company officials' words, to "capture a larger piece of the growing customer service and support segment of the customer relationship management (CRM) market."

Kana will embed IBM middleware including WebSphere and DB2 in its next-generation enterprise customer service products.

The agreement is designed to let clients resolve customer inquiries "taking advantage of IBMs SOA and Information on Demand capabilities to share data across multiple applications, across all channels, including call center Web e-mail chat kiosk agent and branch," Kana officials say.

Kana and IBM will bring to market a new Service Experience Management product engineered to help drive customer loyalty and retention by "creating service experiences across all channels within the business." This product will be built upon IBM's SOA Foundation and DB2s capabilities, and include Kana's customer service capabilities.

IBM SOA Foundation is an integrated open-standards-based set of software best practices and patterns for SOA.

"Customer service organizations are transitioning from cost centers to loyalty centers charged with the strategic mission of enhancing the value of each customer relationship," said Michael Fields, CEO Kana.

IFS is announcing what company officials characterize as "major functional enhancements" supporting project-centric industries.

The enhanced product, developed with customers including Aker Yards and First Engineering, supports businesses operating in industries such as construction and contracting, EPCI, project-based manufacturing, as well as asset-oriented companies.

IFS' components for project-centric industries support the complete process from estimating through to decommissioning, covering the whole project and contract lifecycle. The technology focuses on managing projects, contracting and subcontracting, risk management, cost management, resource allocation and payment processes.

"There's a huge demand in the market from companies who are tired of trying to force-fit applications designed with a product focus into project-driven work," said Ian Fleming, Managing Director, IFS, Middle East, Africa and South Asia. "Since the mid-90s we've been developing components for customers in the project-based industries."

"Project professionals remain challenged by business products that force-fit production and manufacturing applications to meet the needs of knowledge-based information workers," wrote Forrester Principal Analyst Ray Wang in the May 2007 report, "Introducing Project-Based Solutions," adding that project-based products "transcend traditional functional boundaries of project management, ERP, CRM, and supply chain management."

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