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Who Is King in CRM Software?

For two years now, SAP (SAP ) has been trumpeting that it has overtaken Siebel Systems (SEBL ) as the No. 1 seller of customer relationships management (CRM) software. Investors seem to be persuaded -- SAP's share price has climbed 41% over that span, to $42.38 a share as of Aug. 23. And at long last, some industry analysts are starting to agree.

On Aug. 23, independent analysis outfit AMR Research released its annual state-of-CRM-software business report, declaring SAP the new top vendor of such programs, which helps companies manage their customer leads, orders, and call centers.


SAP's revenues from this product group grew 30% year-over-year, triple the growth of the industry at large, the report says. The figure contrasts with a 1% decline in revenue for Siebel, which specializes in CRM software and has been the market leader since the category became established about 10 years ago, according to AMR.


Frustrated with shelling out millions of dollars for programs that don't work well together, big companies are increasingly turning their backs on so-called best-of-breed businesses like Siebel, in favor of vendors that can deliver it all, like SAP or Oracle.

Or at least that has been the contention from the SAP camp. Siebel is refusing to grant the victory, and some analysts are on its side. In July, IDC issued a research report showing that Siebel was still No. 1 in revenue -- its advantage over SAP and Oracle is more than $300 million.


No matter who crunches the numbers, Siebel maintains an edge in actual users of the software. It has 4,000 corporate customers, while AMR counts 300 companies broadly using SAP's CRM offering. What's more, Siebel has 3.4 million end users of its product, while most estimates peg SAP's end users at well under 1 million.


Still, the study has one observation that all players love: CRM is finally healthy again, after a long post-bubble slump. From 2003 to 2004, sales of customer relationship software grew 10%, to $11 billion -- the first double-digit increase in five years, according to AMR. IDC's July report tallied growth at 8% but was equally ebullient, saying the industry had "finally found the solid ground for which it has been searching."

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