Peace passes but none's a clear winner

Peace Software is doing well on the international stage, but neither it nor any of its competitors are covering their patch of the customer relationship management (CRM) software market for energy firms as well as they might.

Peace Software is doing well on the international stage, but neither it nor any of its competitors are covering their patch of the customer relationship management (CRM) software market for energy firms as well as they might.

That’s the verdict of Seattle-based Meta Group executive Dr Zarko Sumic, who spent a couple of days in the country last week gathering more information on Peace; he’s already spent a year and a half casting an eye over the local pretender to the energy software throne, along with seven others it rates in what it calls the CIS, or customer information system, part of the CRM market.

It’s tough passing muster on the international front. Not only must a vendor raise sufficient capital, hire quality staff and please investors; clearly much rides on convincing analysts such as Sumic, who both advises and critiques multiple vendors such as Peace (requiring “firewalls” in his brain, he says), that they have, for example, the strategy, distribution channel and geographic coverage, reputation, investments, technology and personnel to service energy firms.

Deregulation of energy markets around the world has been a catalyst for overhauling legacy systems, Sumic says, apart from some remedial and replacement work done for Y2K. Instead of a regulated, cost-plus business with guaranteed revenue and simple interaction with customers largely to do with billing and faults, energy companies suddenly required customer systems that could handle complex new tasks, he says.

They needed flexible customer management which could handle complex rating and billing systems and cope with the different energy market structures around the world, Sumic says. CIS systems must then deliver real-time analysis of revenue and customer behaviour for management.

Despite CRM vendors showing early enthusiasm for vertical markets like energy, he says, their obvious strengths in areas like analytics and sales force automation were not quite what energy traders needed. None of the CRM vendors fully cover all of the needs of energy providers, he says.

Sumic brought up on his notebook an analysis of Peace that comprised a series of “goods” and “very goods” (no “poors” or “excellents” were visible) among the wealth of criteria and sub-criteria, resulting in the software company sitting high on Meta’s rating chart.

This it calls the MetaSpectrum, a Balanced Scorecard-based system which cross-rates market presence against performance and determines whether a software vendor is a leader, challenger or follower. Peace sat high on the challenger sector of the CIS chart; none were in the leader sector. SAP and Lodestar are other challengers. Sumic believes smaller vendors in particular are suffering with the US economic slowdown and slimmer access to capital, and of the 50 vendors currently in the CIS market 25% to 30% will exit within the next 24 months.

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