When software lacks some type of functionality prospective customers need to run their businesses, resellers have a choice: develop a module themselves or resell a product someone else already built. That’s where c360 Solutions excels. CDC Software acquired the company, which provides a slew of add-ons and development tools for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, in April 2006 and has since boosted the number of products on c360’s roster to 25, all of which are sold exclusively through resellers.
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Popular items include email marketing tools, CRM search capabilities, SharePoint integration, field-level security, a partner portal and group calendaring, according to the company—a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Microsoft’s 2005 Partner Choice ISV.
CDC as a parent company is not known for its channel, however.
CDC Software is a wholly owned subsidiary of CDC Corp., a China-based company that owns Ross Systems, CDC Mobile and Microsoft reseller Vis.Align, among others, and has its roots in the gaming business through China.com.
Out of CDC’s roughly 850 resellers, 800 sell c360 products. The remainder sell its enterprise software applications in areas where CDC does not have a direct sales presence or offices.
With c360, the direct sales force has more incentive to give partners business than to close the deal themselves, explains John Gravely, general manager and cofounder of c360 Solutions.
About 10 partner account managers scope their territories for Microsoft CRM resellers who are proving themselves successful and try to entice them to add c360 Solutions to their offerings.
“If a customer comes to us, we call a reseller and basically say there’s a check waiting for them,” Gravely says. “If we can befriend a reseller by introducing them to a customer, that’s a good business plan for us. We bring you into one deal and you bring us into the rest of your base.
“We’re in no way competing with our reseller channel. We don’t say they need our services,” Gravely adds. “We don’t interfere with their money because their money is mostly in the services of these products and providing vertical expertise. You can’t live on margin.”
The channel program is a tiered model in which resellers gain margin as they sell more. They can request co-op marketing dollars, which Gravely says can be used for anything promoting Microsoft CRM and the 360 product set, including having a CDC employee present at a conference or play in a golf tournament.
Membership is free and signing up basically consists of proving they sell Microsoft CRM and that they are going to bring more deals to the table.
“Microsoft CRM is fairly generic. We provide a real value to the channel because if they sell CRM to a prospect, we can help them check off more requirements and close the deal,” Gravely says.
Irvine, Calif.-based Spinnaker, a 2007 Microsoft Dynamics President’s Club member with roughly 300 customers, started selling c360 products in early 2006 and today almost every proposal the company presents includes a c360 quote, according to Mitch Cannady, Spinnaker’s president.
Spinnaker, a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner, also sells Sage SalesLogix and topped Sage’s reseller list for sales achievement for several years, including earning its 2005 Million Dollar Achiever Award and the West Coast Partner of the Year Award in 2004 and 2005.
Spinnaker started selling Microsoft CRM in December 2005, with the 3.0 release, which Cannady says solved a bulk of the problems that stemmed from the holes in version 1. Now Microsoft deals account for 90 percent of his new business.
Yacov Wrocherinsky, founder and CEO of New York City-based Infinity Info Systems, Sage Software’s Business Partner of the Year for five consecutive years, sees a similar trend. Wrocherinsky has worked with Sage products for a decade and has been heavily involved with Microsoft for the past four years.
“Microsoft CRM has become a viable option. Now customers are coming to us and asking whether they can leverage this and we can say ‘Yes,’ especially with these add-on products,” Wrocherinsky says. “C360 (offers) more technology to allow you to craft the creative stuff,” such as super verticalized customer relationship management systems for businesses including casinos, hedge funds and pharmaceutical companies.
Wrocherinsky and Cannady agree that c360’s mission has always been to fill in the holes in the core product.
“Microsoft’s weaknesses are c360’s strengths. Their (mission) was always to be a half step ahead of where Microsoft was, filling in the gaps to make it effective in the market,” Cannady says. “One of the challenges with all the great ideas is Microsoft always has them in the next product at no extra charge.”
As a result, c360 is branching out, carving niches and creating things like relationship charts between each CRM record, something Wrocherinsky says allows resellers like himself to customize even further, mapping buyers and sellers on Wall Street, for example.
Since its acquisition by CDC, product development has been faster for c360, Gravely says. In addition to c360 Relationship Exploration and Charting, some of the latest features in the c360 Core Productivity Pack that are meant to accompany Microsoft CRM 4.0 include c360 Explorer CRM Search Engine, which allows for keyword searches across CRM and SharePoint, and upgrades to c360 Alerts, a particular favorite of Cannady. Users can flag records of VIPs or unhappy customers so anyone opening them can know their status before engaging in a conversation.
One concern Cannady has about all the new offerings — especially those acquired from other companies — is a lack of consistency when it comes to things like product knowledge bases, language that appears in error messages and appropriate training. He advises new resellers to take the time to develop a strong knowledge of all the applications so they are better prepared when picking which ones to offer to which prospects.
Potential new partners also should note that CDC is far more open in welcoming c360 resellers than it is with those selling its other products. Finding strategic channel partners outside the United States in “high-growth” geographies, such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, India and China, is important to CDC, which invested $20 million in a Franchise Partner Program in mid-2006.
The money is meant to help organizations with successful records in CRM, ERP and supply chain management grow their businesses through expanded marketing and sales programs and accelerated product localization and support.
Three companies have signed on as franchise partners so far, including India-based CDC CRM Solutions, which entered into an exclusive deal with CDC in September to address CRM requirements in that country, where a bulk of the businesses are retail outlets with multiple branches.
“You need a CRM application that can be made available to this complex network of customers, distributors and employees,” says Shubho Bhattacharya, CEO of CDC CRM Solutions. “Pivotal provides anywhere access over the Web. If you don’t have regular Web connectivity—which can be the case with some of the remote branches—the solution can work in a disconnected mode. Access to crucial customer information during the moment of truth is the most critical factor for success.”
Pivotal’s strengths in financial services and real estate also were attractive, given those are the areas on which Bhattacharya’s company plans to focus, along with securities, wealth management, asset management and commercial banking.
The company announced its first customer win in December and in January was in the advanced stages of finalizing a couple more contracts in select verticals.
He plans to build a team of 20 Pivotal consultants and implementers by the end of this year and hopes to utilize CDC’s presence in India, thereby avoiding the need to build a large services and support team in the near future.
“CDC’s strong focus on partners and their track record of living up to their commitment of continued support of the partners was a major factor in deciding to be their franchise partner,” Bhattacharya says. “We could see that CDC has a very strong partner model in which they work jointly with selected partners and support them in every way possible.”
Alexandra DeFelice is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at email@example.com.
CDC Software Snapshot
Phone: (888) 929-3670
Web site: www.c360.com/Partners.aspx
Revenue: $346 million to $349 million (projected 2007)
Key Products: c360 Solutions, Pivotal CRM, Ross Systems