Over the years, I've been quietly following the progress that Nimble has been making in the CRM world. In 2013 for instance I said:
Using publicly available ways to acquire information from services like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google, Nimble builds a picture of what is happening with your contacts.
At the time, Nimble positioned itself as a conversational CRM solution as a way of differentiating against the somewhat crowded space of transactional, sales team management that defined early CRM. That conversational idea still lies at the heart of what Nimble offers but in the intervening years, Nimble has undergone significant engineering development.
Most recently it pivoted towards Microsoft and its bazillion channel network of resellers and ISVs. The reason is obvious: in the last five years, Microsoft has rediscovered its love of developers and the channel network through which it achieved desktop domination. Today's name of the game is Azure and mobile but with Office 365 at the center and mostly for desk jockeys.
Microsoft is pouring many millions of marketing and tools dollars into both the channel and developer communities in support fo their hard push of both Office 365 and Azure. This is a smart play given that an estimated 90% of the world and his dog are Office users while Azure offers a competitive cloud platform play upon which to develop 'Softy apps.
And so it was with that in mind I spoke with Eamon Moore, founder of Dublin, Ireland based Hikari Data Solutions. Once an MSP, Moore sold out his pure reseller business to focus on developing vertical market solution bundles that include tools like PowerBI, Nimble, Office365 and Azure.
We all once lived in email but that's changed. You have to go where your customers are going and that could be on any channel. So how am I going to pull all of that essential data together in one single pane of glass? Nimble provides that but equally importantly, it has the means of integrating to many other applications. Its integration with Office 365 is a huge boost - it's something with which customers can easily identify.
So far, so good but what else?
Traditionally, SMEs have found it difficult to bring all the data they accumulate to best understand what works and what doesn't. The kinds of analytical bundles we can build today - at relatively low cost - give those same customers opportunities to build valuable differentiated data repositories on which they can take action.
Moore went on to explain that the common data services model across all the applications that are supported by Microsoft technology:
Represents the most exciting technology development for me. When you look at reporting in general, it no longer sits on single data sources but on top of multiple data sources. But for anyone today, pulling bundles together across the vast amount of choice is hard. That's why we see the better opportunity comes from addressing vertical markets. That vertical focus will come quite quickly. I see a common theme around professional services in general but then each sub-marklet has its own requirements. We have to see where the demand is greatest. right now that's in the legal profession but it could be across adjacent markets.
All of which sounds like good news for industries but why should Nimble be the solution that sits at the center? Referencing the new contact app which has been completely redesigned for mobile first use but which also works equally well on the desktop, Moore said:
It's much slicker and we can take more actions more easily. That of itself is OK but in my world, we've got partner to partner relationships that become quite complex both with partners and the individuals involved. Seeing exactly who the stakeholders are, seeing the communications between them and who is truly important matters. Being able to readily identify those pieces makes for much smoother interactions. But I keep coming back to data so you want to know what factors led to success, what kind of deal was it, what actions made the deal work.
Thinking broader, I wondered how Moore squared the frequent movement of people between different sales and marketing roles and across organizations:
No one likes to see their main contact move on but the ability to track them through Sales Navigator means that you don't have to lose contact. Being able to track that in Nimble remains invaluable.
On another tack, I wondered whether the recent Salesforce acquisition of Tableau creates fresh opportunity and how that plays out in bundled environments. Moore agreed that the halo effect of this transaction certainly raises the question but believes customers will need plenty of support at least for the time being. He said for example that the power Excel user may well understand pivot tables and the like but visual storytelling via PowerBI and similar tools is different.
Where once Nimble relied on Google Apps and the social channels to build out relationship profiles, the product has moved on considerably.
Pivoting towards Microsoft while recognizing that it can both benefit and be the beneficiary of many data sources should prove attractive as a way of demonstrating how modern CRM solutions focus on what matters - the people at the center of B2B business decisions.
Aligning with Microsoft's north star should also mean that Nimble benefits from Microsoft's ability to scale applications, reaching much larger organizations than has been the case in the past.
Hikari clearly believes there is value to be delivered, but it knows that bundling brings its own challenges, not least of which is the problem of managing multiple apps and their attendant UIs. How that is parsed across multiple devices is an open question but one that every ISV and service provider needs to answer.