Wheelhouse chairman Frank Ingari talks up the managed-services provider approach to CRM

By Michael Vizard, InfoWorld |  Software

BEST KNOWN AS a senior executive with Lotus during its heyday and later as the CEO of Shiva, Frank Ingari is back at the helm of a new company. As founder and chairman, Ingari is the driving force behind Wheelhouse, a managed-services provider for CRM (customer relationship management) applications. Unlike other companies in this space, Wheelhouse is not wedded to any particular application. Instead, Wheelhouse uses its expertise to host and run a variety of e-business applications. In an interview with InfoWorld Editor-in-Chief Michael Vizard, Ingari talks about why he thinks the managed-services provider model makes the most sense today for deploying CRM applications.

InfoWorld: What exactly does Wheelhouse do?

Ingari: Wheelhouse is a new kind of company. The best way to describe us is that we are a marketing technology solutions provider. We help Fortune 1000 companies interact with their customers in new and better ways. We help people deploy marketing-led CRM systems using E.piphany systems and Vignette systems and MarketSoft systems.

InfoWorld: Does Wheelhouse develop any software of its own?

Ingari: The software that we're building is at the platform layer [to] help us to do a better job of specifying, developing, deploying, and upgrading our customers systems. We tend to be involved in building an integrated view of the customer and an integrated set of policies that help you direct the activities of various systems. We provide remote management of those systems, so we're partnered with Exodus, and we also work with companies that have these applications running right in their own glass house. We actually have a very sophisticated data-center operation and service-bureau operation.

InfoWorld: What is it about CRM applications that make them a good fit for a managed-services provider?

Ingari: The databases and the applications are both very specifically constructed. The systems are complex; they require typically lots and lots of database tables with very specific interactions. And they're very performance sensitive.

InfoWorld: In your view, why is the managed-services provider approach better than just relying on a traditional hosted-services model?

Ingari: The problem with the hosting model is that Fortune 1000 companies are not likely to put strategic data and strategic applications at someone else's facility. The data and the applications are considered to be too valuable, and the CIO typically wants to control the performance and the bandwidth access to the applications. Hosting services introduce an indeterminate latency that makes it hard to determine whose problem it is if the application is running slowly. Typically the CIO wants these applications within his intranet.

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