J.D. Edwards says CRM is about You

After a failed attempt to partner its way into the CRM market through Siebel Systems, J.D. Edwards has opted to buy its way in.

David Siebert, group vice president of WorldSoftware and channel operations for Denver-based J.D. Edwards, was in Toronto Wednesday to deliver a keynote address at the company’s Central and Atlantic Canada user conference.

Before he was whisked away to speak to users, he spoke to Computing Canada about the company’s CRM platform and its latest acquisition, U.S. CRM vendor Youcentric Inc.

Before the Youcentric deal was announced in August, J.D. Edwards had pursued a two-year partnership with CRM leader Siebel which yielded only 50 customer wins globally. “Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback,” waxed Siebert on the demise of the partnership.

He attributed the failed experiment to a fundamental difference in market approach: J.D. Edwards’ core market is small- to medium-sized businesses, whereas Siebel typically addresses large enterprise-size customers.

“What we found was the Siebel offering for the markets that we serve was not a very good offering,” he said. “We probably should have learned quicker. We are very different companies culturally.”

“The Siebel relationship didn’t fit very well,” added Canada country manager for J.D. Edwards Ron Reed. “Customers came back to us and said, ‘This is overkill.'”

Youcentric’s software is a better fit into J.D. Edwards’ product line-up, according to Don DeLoach, president and CEO of the Charlotte, N.C.-based vendor, who was also in Toronto to speak at the user conference. The software takes an object-relational mapping approach built on Java and can be delivered native on an IBM AS/400 server, he said.

Like its new owner, Youcentric addresses the small and medium-sized market, with some penetration in the enterprise space through the likes of FedEx Corp. However, its customer engagements are limited to the United States. To convince Canadian and foreign markets of Youcentric’s viability, “first and foremost, we will speak to the integration,” said DeLoach. “Very quickly, I think they will recognize the value.”

In contrast to the 18 months it took to come up with integrators for Siebel’s CRM offerings Youcentric’s solutions will be brought to market before the end of the year, said Reed.

Three years ago, J.D. Edwards undertook a similar enterprise when it acquired Toronto-based supply chain management (SCM) vendor Numetrix. SCM solutions were offered mere months later, but the challenges came from sales strategy rather than technology, according to Edward Sitarski.

Sitarski, now vice-president of advanced planning for J.D. Edwards’ Canadian office, spent 10 years building applications with Numetrix before the 1999 acquisition. The task before J.D. Edwards was “knowledge transfer,” said Sitarski — trying to get the company’s sales force up to speed on new technology and encouraging a traditional ERP vendor to sell supply solutions. “That was something we had the biggest struggles with.”

Now 40 per cent of J.D. Edwards’ global sales include an SCM portion and Siebert feels there will be substantial opportunities for CRM, particularly in the company’s existing customer base — only three per cent of its customers have installed CRM software.

Gartner Inc. analyst Esteban Kolsky agrees that existing customers will be J.D. Edwards’ best opportunity for CRM sales, however he doubts that a viable solution can be brought to market before the end of 2001.

“To have the level of integration that other companies like PeopleSoft and Oracle have across the platform for all the different products, I think that’s going to take a little longer than three months,” he said. It may be a year or more before J.D. Edwards can get all the kinks worked out, but they will have a good chance of going head-to-head with former partner Siebel, he added, since they have a much better grasp of the mid-market.

The Central and Atlantic Canada user conference will continue until Friday, Sept. 21. Don DeLoach will not become part of J.D. Edwards once the acquisition is complete, and instead will pursue other interests.

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