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Chordiant: From CIM David to CRM Goliath?

the451, special to searchMiddleware

In an effort to gain market share from full-suite CRM firms like Siebel and PeopleSoft, Chordiant Software is trying to be all things to all people. And, in an increasingly tough market for the smaller CRM vendors, its strategy could point to the means by which smaller firms might survive the current dip in IT spending.

Chordiant is integrating a string of recent acquisitions and product releases with its existing product portfolio. In this way, the Cupertino, California-based firm hopes to turn itself from a point CIM (customer interaction management) company into an enterprise-suite CRM vendor.

The firm's latest product releases are Collaborative Connect, CRM Web-collaboration software (for turning website visits into sales) and Unified Solution Builder (a software application designed to reduce the cost and complexity of CRM installations.) Both products are part of Chordiant's ongoing strategy to centralize customer and product data for the highly distributed business-to-consumer organizations it sells to. Just as importantly, the products broaden the range of customers Chordiant can sell and, subsequently, upsell to.

In March of this year, Chordiant completed the acquisition of marketing automation vendor, PrimeResponse. The result of the integration between Chordiant's CIM platform and PrimeResponse, called Marketing Director, was released in April. Then, in May, Chordiant paid $7.2 million for Java server technology from Action

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Point. Sales and service applications, called Selling Director and Dialog Interaction Server, were released on the back of this acquisition in June.

The idea is to use J2EE and XML to close the gap between CIM and CRM, and lend some real-life credibility to the marketing cliches of a "360-degree" understanding of a company's interaction with its customers. Typically, CIM vendors have tended to rely on a few APIs to major CRM players for this kind of integration. And while many CRM vendors offer inbound email management as part of their Web marketing products, they haven't really made any effort to centralize the data about these different kinds of customer interactions.

Chordiant is addressing this problem with an intensive sales and marketing campaign. CEO Sam Spadafora has set his firm an ambitious target for cash breakeven in the first half of 2002. For the second quarter of 2001, the firm posted net revenues of $18.5 million, up 151% from $7.4 million for the second quarter of 2000, and 42% from the first quarter of 2001. Chordiant had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments worth a total of $62.5 million and deferred revenue worth $29.8 million at the end of the quarter.

CRM market leader Siebel is still selling software in tough market conditions, while smaller competitors bleat about IT-spending postponements. Chordiant obviously believes that a broader product portfolio, married with the ability to integrate those products with customers' existing legacy systems, will help it emulate its biggest competitor. Many smaller CRM players have been pushing the "think big, start small" mantra for CRM installations in a difficult market, but Chordiant now appears to have the technological clout to back this up.

Still, much depends on Chordiant's ability to convince the largely conservative European banking and telecom community on which it relies for so much of its business that its products really do offer a comparatively pain-free installation proposition and return on investment. Chordiant added 12 customers during the second quarter of 2001, and its customer-acquisition rate needs to ramp up significantly to achieve the "me too" critical mass necessary among the industry verticals it addresses. Otherwise, Chordiant's ambitious fiscal targets could prove difficult to reach.


the451 (www.the451.com) is an analyst firm that provides timely, detailed and independent analysis of news in technology, communications and media. To evaluate the service click here.

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