iEnterprises CRM Goes On-Demand with Help from IBM
February 24, 2009 Alex Woodie
Hope springs anew in the IT business. For the last five to 10 years, there’s been plenty of hope in the areas of software as a service (SaaS), open source software, service oriented architecture (SOA), CRM, and mobile computing, but it mostly failed to live up to the hype. Now, as a result of a partnership between iEnterprises and IBM, System i shops may gain access to advanced CRM software that utilize these technologies, without incurring the costs of building it themselves.
iEnterprises is a Murray Hill, New Jersey-based CRM software developer that was founded by John Carini, who once worked as an RPG programmer for several AS/400 shops. As the CEO and chief software architect of iEnterprises, Carini doesn’t do a lot of RPG programming these days. But his company and its various CRM products–which are developed and utilize a modern mix of PHP, Java, Domino, WebSphere, Linux, and SQL–do have a fair share of AS/400 customers.
Several months ago, iEnterprises launched its second major CRM product, called Empower. The software covers all the basics you would expect to find in a CRM product, including the capability to manage accounts, contacts, projects, and sales and marketing activities. It helps users capture leads, generate quotes; connects to Outlook or Lotus Notes for e-mail and calendaring; and integrates with ERP systems. The product is also highly customizable, enabling customers to add fields and business logic to satisfy their specific requirements, and it also features so-called “smart client” interfaces for the major mobile phone platforms, iPhone, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile.
The capability to access an enterprise CRM system from a smart phone is definitely cool. But the speedy and flexible deployment options offered by iEnterprises’ Empower CRM software is probably the most unique aspect of this particular offering. As a result of the partnership with IBM and its SaaS business partner program, customers can be up and running with their own Empower installation with just a few clicks of a mouse in a Web browser.
The SaaS offering makes a wonderful sales tool, CEO Carini tells IT Jungle. “We actually find the SaaS program a great way to reach either smaller customer or customers or prospects that don’t want to make a commitment without seeing what they’re going to get,” he says. “Maybe we have a System i prospect, but they don’t want to jump right in. Maybe they want to try the application and see if it really fits their needs. They can sign up for it, get it as a SaaS offering, and if they like it, they can take it and deploy it behind their firewall, either in their private cloud or on their System i.”
As one of only 200 designated SaaS specialty partners in IBM’s SaaS partner program, iEnterprises enjoys the considerable backing and access to resources that only Big Blue can provide. To be designated a SaaS specialty partner, a vendor must use IBM exclusively for two out of the following three requirements: hardware, middleware, or hosting services. In iEnterprises’ case, it uses IBM hardware and IBM middleware; it contracts with a different company to actually host its customers’ Empower installations, which run on xSeries hardware and the LAMP stack.
SaaS is hot for IBM at the moment. The company doubled the number of SaaS specialty partners last year, and is looking for more ISVs to join its overall SaaS community, which numbers more than 3,000. Working with IBM to SaaS-ify applications can be a strategic move for ISVs, according to Dave Mitchell, IBM’s director of strategy and emerging business for ISVs and developer relations and the head of the SaaS specialty program.
IBM helps ISVs with SaaS in four areas, Mitchell says. First, the ISVs bring the business applications. Secondly, ISVs get assistance from IBM to design, build, deliver, and market their SaaS solutions. “The third area we play is helping our clients to integrate SaaS into their business,” he says. “In recent years we’ve seen integration become the number one concern around the adoption of SasS solutions.” The fourth area is building private “clouds” for customers.
Carini expects the poor economy to bolster demand for SaaS applications such as Empower. “Any time you can give somebody a solution that has less risk, they’re more apt to look at it,” he says. “The administrator and the entire IT department don’t have to spend days figuring out how to get infrastructure set up and how to get an application off the ground. They can literally just click a button and get going with it.”
iEnterprises Empower runs on the LAMP stack, and can run on System i servers equipped with Zend Technology‘s Zend Core PHP environment. The SaaS version of Empower starts at $40 per month, and is about one-tenth of the cost of the on-premise version of Empower. For more information, visit www.ienterprises.com.