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Making the argument that existing CRM (customer relationship management) software applications have ignored the strategic role of partners in the sales process, TightLink today launched a Web-based application that promises to support collaborative sales processes across multiple companies.

TightLink Service 3 is a Web-based application that allows multiple companies to share information about a customer through a single view using a browser, which means IT organizations do not have to deploy software across multiple servers in different organizations.

Instead, organizations using TightLink can provide their business partners with shared case management, workflow, reports, and knowledge management applications. In addition, TightLink offers companies a unified view of their customers by keeping track of all customer phone, e-mail, and Web interactions.

David Marshak, a principal consultant and senior vice president at Patricia Seybold Group Inc., a consultancy based in Boston, said that a collaboration service such as TightLink will be useful across the supply, value, and distribution chains.

One example he pointed to is if a company buys an HP printer at BestBuy and has a problem with it, it benefits all parties if they can share data about that problem and potentially reuse the solution.

"One of the problems with collaboration today is that it's too informal and cannot effectively be reused," Marshak said.

He said that providing visibility into a customer from multiple parties and the ability to share the information and workflows can advance the entire process.

TightLink is the latest in a series of e-business applications that specifically target channel distribution. Initially the province of partnership relationship management applications, e-commerce applications from companies such as Comergent and Tavant now specifically target multi-company transactions. But although the goal of automating channel sales has been longstanding, success has proven elusive.

Marshak said that collaboration such as what TopLink offers has thus far been done primarily in a homegrown and ad hoc fashion.

"The collaboration needs to be embedded with the major business process, and the major business process in this case is customer support," Marshak added.

Pricing for TightLink starts at US$60,000 for a 10-user license. Acessing data stored in TightLink through a browser is free. TightLink is located in Berkeley, California.

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