Sammamish, Wash.-based Knouen Technologies (www.knouen.com) recently announced a new, web-based CRM software which synchronizes Microsoft Outlook and Oracle Siebel CRM. We spoke with Meetul Shah, the firm's CEO, on what the firm does and why he started the company.
Meetul, thanks for the interview. For those who aren't familiar with your company, what is your software used for?
Meetul Shah: Our software solves the disconnect between expensive backend CRM systems and the way frontline employees live and work. With Knouen OfficeSync, information workers can access, manage and share information from enterprise CRM applications like Siebel through desktop productivity applications such as Microsoft Outlook.
OfficeSync automatically synchronizes Microsoft Outlook data such as contacts and appointments with Siebel data records, ensuring accuracy and improving efficiency by eliminating the need for duplicate data entry. Users can create Siebel items such as opportunity, order, service request, etc., from within Outlook, and can access Siebel data offline from mobile devices. Moreover, OfficeSync promotes cross-functional collaboration by creating a platform for linking Siebel and non-Siebel users within the organization.
How big a problem is the synchronization of Microsoft and Siebel software, and what's the big pain point of your customers?
Meetul Shah: The pain point for our customers is that they have made very large investments in CRM systems, yet research data shows that more than 50 percent of CRM investments consistently fail to deliver the desired ROI. Fewer than 30 percent of Fortune 1000 companies can even identify their most valuable customers. And when it comes to selling, reports show that only about 70 percent of an average large enterprise sales professional's time is spent selling, while the rest of the time is spent on administrative tasks such as data entry.
A large part of the problem is the fact that back-office CRM systems frequently do not relate to frontline employee activities, applications and data. As a result, employees have to routinely re-enter data into the CRM system, discard otherwise valuable information that canít readily relate to a particular CRM record and fail to access valuable customer information out in the field. There has been no simple platform for collaboration between Siebel and non-Siebel users.
For enterprises that have put millions into a Siebel deployment, moving to an on-demand CRM offering like Salesforce.com is not an easy option. We're focused on helping these companies better maximize their existing investment.
How did you decide to start the company, and can you tell us the story behind the firm?
Meetul Shah: Jeff Nordlund and I spent about 14 years combined at Microsoft and part of that time was spent working on CRM alliances, so we were able to see a lot of the challenges related to CRM adoption within large customer accounts. As a CRM user myself, I also experienced these issues firsthand. I also saw lot of my colleagues and friends face the similar issues where their Sunday evenings were often literally spent entering data into the CRM system - data that has already stored in Outlook, Excel or PDA. Pipeline meetings were always fun to watch Ė where everyone is bickering over who had the most up-to-date information. My co-founder Jeff Nordlund who is the brain behind this product and I decided to create Knouen to address the opportunity we saw around making CRM systems something that would increase worker productivity.
How is the company backed?
Meetul Shah: Knouen is privately funded. We are currently in discussions with investors for a next round that will allow us to aggressively go after market share and respond in near real-time to a high customer demand.
How far along are your products, and are you delivering products to customers?
Meetul Shah: Our flagship product, OfficeSync for Siebel, launched on September 24, 2007. Prior to this, we'd been developing and testing three primary betas, all of which recently endured a rigorous three month preview program. Numerous customers, systems integrators and solution providers that participated in the preview program are now rolling out the mature production version of OfficeSync.
Finally, when you raise your next round of capital, what are you going to use it for?
Meetul Shah: When we raise our next round of capital, we will utilize it for rapid market expansion, professional resource development, and the direct and indirect enhancement of our sales team.