Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Onyx Reinvents Itself as a Process Manager

Onyx Software (www.onyx.com) is a veteran player in mid-market CRM. It’s been years since I looked at their software. When they were purchased earlier this year by M2M Holdings, which already owned mid-market ERP vendor Made2Manage Systems, it seemed like still further evidence that traditional on-premise CRM software is a dying breed.

But my never-ending quest for white papers did turn up a piece from Onyx entitled “Customer Process Management: The Real-time Enterprise depends on the merging of CRM and BPM”, available here. This title includes many of my favorite buzz words, and in particular the conjunction of CRM and BPM (business process management), a particular interest around Client X Client. (In fact, we own the domain www.crmbpm.com, which you can visit to see one of the ugliest Web sites ever created. No, I don’t know who the guy in the picture is.)

The Onyx paper itself turns out to be quite good. It argues, under nice big headings so you don’t have to work very hard, that (a) processes involving a customer are demanding, (b) customer-facing process management requires a new approach to BPM, and (c) customer process management optimizes business results. Specifically, Onyx says, customer-facing processes are different because they are constantly changing and integrate with data and other processes throughout the company.

I’m not sure those characteristics are really unique to customer-facing processes, but they’re certainly important. The paper also shoehorns in the need for well-documented processes to comply with government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley—a valid if somewhat peripheral argument.

This is a classic white paper strategy: define a need readers may not have realized they had, create a bit of urgency, and offer a solution. What was intriguing given my outdated knowledge of Onyx was that they would consider themselves the answer to this problem. But it turns out the product has been totally rebuilt while I wasn't looking, using XML for both data storage and business rules. Per their Web site:

“Onyx software uses a unique Dispatch Object Model. The Onyx Transaction Manager is the dispatch engine which queries The Onyx Enterprise Dictionary (the metadata repository) to determine the series of standard and custom steps to execute for any given business transaction. This model provides the abstraction layer necessary for true flexibility and eliminates the need to modify or replace source code to change workflow, extend the logical object model or change the physical schema.”


What the white paper does, of course, is play to the strength of on-premise solutions, as systems that are more easily customized and integrated than their hosted competitors. (See my posts of November 30 through December 4, 2006 for more on this subject.) The positioning also means Onyx continues to be an option for companies that are not using the M2M ERP system.

By coincidence, Onyx parent M2M Holdings announced yesterday that it is acquiring KNOVA (www.knova.com), a leader in knowledge management systems for customer service. That’s a reasonable extension of their product line, and another sign that there’s still some life in the old Onyx business.

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