CA rolling out customer relationship management software

Computer Associates International Inc. today announced its first entry into the customer relationship management (CRM) software market, detailing plans to deliver a Web-based package of tools for managing interactions between companies and their customers.

The new Intelligent CRM Suite brings together several new products and other applications that have been acquired by Islandia, N.Y.-based CA. During a teleconference, Jacob Lamm, CA's senior vice president of CRM applications, said the new tools include a "Human Touch" component that provides capabilities such as real-time Web chat.

The CRM suite also makes use of Neugents, a neural-network-based technology developed by CA that uses advanced pattern-recognition and neural network techniques to find patterns within large amounts of information (see story). The resulting data can then be used by the CRM software to detect changes in customer behavior and predict trends.

Sharon Ward, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., said CA's new suite offers promise for companies seeking a ready-to-use CRM package that they don't have to assemble themselves from a wide assortment of separate applications. CA has "pulled together a lot of the different pieces that a [user] needs," she said.

The built-in integration could ease deployment worries for some companies, according to Ward. But she said the technology that CA is offering is "not going to make a major change" in an already crowded CRM marketplace that's populated by heavyweight vendors such as Siebel Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp.

Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif., said he's skeptical about CA's attempt to jump into the CRM fray largely by plugging together several of its existing applications.

"This is yet another entry into a relatively crowded market from a company that's not well known for its high-touch customer care itself," Greenbaum said. CRM functionality typically is best supported by vendors "that focus on these issues," he added.

The Human Touch feature is one high point for CA because of its support for capabilities such as online voice chat between companies and their customers, Ward said. Another key feature, she said, is the suite's remote-control technology, which is supposed to let corporate help desks assist users with problems online.

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