Icertis partners with Microsoft to take on its Salesforce ecosystem competitors

Interesting times in the contract management space as vendors play a high-stakes game of musical chairs.

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Late last year there was surprise among commentators and vendors alike as Salesforce announced its acquisition of SteelBrick. SteelBrick is a vendor that offers contract life cycle services. Eessentially what that means is that all of the tasks that sales and procurement organizations need to do their work -- pricing, contract negotiation and workflow -- is offloaded to the SteelBrick platform. It sounds like a boring function, but it's increasingly important as organizations need to move ever-faster on their contract-based operations.

When SteelBrick was acquired, one of the major victims of collateral damage was Apttus. Apttus is in the same space and had put the vast majority of its eggs in the Salesforce basket -- it is primarily a Salesforce partner, and hence, the SteelBrick deal could be seen to cause it a not insignificant amount of pain.

One vendor that has followed an agnostic approach toward integrating with CRM platforms is Icertis. The company is a smaller player but has been cross-platform since day one, integrating, as it does, with both Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

The company is furthering that Microsoft angle and is announcing today a stronger partnership with Microsoft that offers a deep integration between Icertis' own platform and Microsoft Dynamics. The integration covers Dynamics CRM Online as well as Dynamics AX.

Utilizing the partnership, joint customers of Icertis and Microsoft will be able to automate many of their processes in order to make the process from sales lead to cash receipt ever easier.

The partnership comes at an interesting time for Microsoft. Its Dynamics CRM solutions had been seen as lagging behind Salesforce in terms of being leading-edge and cloud-first tools. in recent months, however, Microsoft has unveiled new releases of its products to close the gap between itself and Salesforce. That in itself was interesting, given the strong rumors last year around Microsoft's interest in acquiring Salesforce.

MyPOV

The Salesforce acquisition of SteelBrick showed the risks of third-party vendors tying themselves too closely to a single platform vendor. While Apttus remains bullish about its Salesforce-centric opportunity, the reality is that its world got a little more difficult after the deal. And with suggestions that Salesforce is going to continue to invest in SteelBrick in order to help it move up the food chain, that pain isn't going to go away anytime soon.

Icertis has avoided those difficulties by following a vendor-neutral strategy. Of course, that vendor neutrality is limited somewhat by the fact that Salesforce and Dynamics are the two platforms currently supported by Icertis -- the company's position would be much more compelling were it to integrate with all of the other CRM platforms that exist out there. One imagines that, given the crowded landscape that is Salesforce-integrated contract management platforms, a good portion of Icertis' opportunities comes from the Microsoft world -- thus creating a quasi single-vendor situation.

It will be interesting to watch Icertis' moves in the coming months and years. I suspect we're going to see a fair amount of consolidation in this space as vendors of every type start to feel the squeeze.

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