Friday, December 14

Corporate Name Changes Done Right

By The VAR Guy

Generally speaking, tech companies that change their name are heading for disaster. But in the cases of Centric CRM (an open source company that has renamed itself Concursive) and SWsoft (the company behind Parallels for the Mac), The VAR Guy thinks corporate name changes are exactly what the doctor ordered.

First, let’s look at some name-change disasters. Two prime examples: Borland in 1998 changed its name to Inprise amid fierce competition from Microsoft. The change also attempted to distance Borland from founder and former CEO Philippe Kahn’s legacy. The move proved horrendous — and Inprise ultimately retreated back to the Borland brand.

Another prime example: Banyan Systems in 1999 changed its name to ePresence. The company’s flagship VINES network operating system business was getting crushed by Windows NT. And e-consulting was the rage at the time. But the name change didn’t pull ePresence out of a steep nosedive, and the company quietly sold its remaining assets to Unisys.

Fast-forward to the present. At first glance, Centric CRM is perfectly positioned for success. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is in high-demand. And open source is the rage. Put the two together, and Centric CRM should be on its way to long-term success. But there are three big problems with Centric CRM’s position:

  • SugarCRM: They enjoy “first mover” advantage in the open source CRM space. They’re growing fast. And SugarCRM’s location near Silicon Valley allows the company to work closely with open source peers. Centric CRM is on the opposite side of the country — though not far from Red Hat.
  • Fast-growing, publicly held software-as-a-service company. And their stock ticker is CRM. So Wall Street equates CRM with
  • Microsoft: Moving into the CRM market. Aggressively.

With those three factors in mind, Centric CRM had to change its name and reposition its brand. The new name — Concursive — didn’t catch my ear at first. But then again, neither did “Accenture” (formerly Arthur Andersen) a few years back. Concursive’s goal is to evangelize software that “goes way beyond traditional CRM.” We’ll see if the company delivers on that promise. But at least “Centric CRM” has been put to rest. With a new name, Concursive doesn’t have to compare itself to SugarCRM during every customer meeting.

Meanwhile, SWsoft has changed its name to Parallels. This is a “no brainer” move The VAR Guy has been expecting. As you likely know, Parallels is a piece of software that lets you run Mac OS and Windows on Mac hardware. It has a strong brand and a loyal following — with 650,000 licenses sold through September 2007. In this case, the product has a stronger brand than the parent company — SWsoft. So moving everything under the Parallels brand made perfect sense.

The VAR Guy has high expectations for Parallels in 2008. Strong brand, strong product, growing market. The future is less clear for Concursive. Even if they maintain a strong product in a growing market, Concursive still needs to establish its corporate brand, polish its web site (can you find any contact info on it?) and compete with nimble rivals as well as software giants. That won’t be easy. But it’s hard to question dumping the Centric CRM name.
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