The Market Customer case management remained "core to support operations" in 2014, according to John Ragsdale, president of technology and research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA). It's even finding its way into small and midsized businesses. Offerings from the likes of Zendesk, TeamSupport, and Salesforce's Desk.com have proven this by introducing low-cost alternatives for smaller contact centers. For these awards, our focus remains on companies that offer solutions for larger contact centers, which have benefited from advancements in cloud offerings. As cloud integration becomes commonplace, the customer case management market has seen an overall improvement in functionality, analysts concur. The Leaders Kana (a Verint Systems company) received its highest score (4.0) in depth of functionality. "Expanding beyond their KM and multichannel roots, Kana is gaining market share with their process-centric desktop tools for service, with growing integrations into Verint's excellent voice-of-the-customer platform," Ragsdale stated. "Kana has a very strong product," said Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, in an email toCRM magazine, though she noted that it's hard to see where the company will be headed under Verint's direction. Microsoft Dynamics CRM maintains its reputation as one of the more affordable solutions, earning an overall rating of 4.1 for cost effectiveness. Leggett called this solution "one of the best cost-to-value propositions," adding, "Usability and Office 365 integration continue to be strong differentiators for Microsoft CRM in the case management space." Though the company ranked on the lower end for customer satisfaction, at 3.8, analysts agreed that with the acquisition of Parature, Microsoft has an opportunity to leverage the smaller company's strengths. "With the Parature acquisition, [Microsoft] gained credibility around the customer service side of CRM, and adoption by large enterprises is rising," Ragsdale stated. Salesforce.com's highest score was for company direction, at 4.6. "What Salesforce has done overall is really smart, providing support options at pretty much every level," Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials, says. He points out that most tangential CRM applications integrate into Salesforce.com's offerings, and "that's why their company direction and depth of functionality merit scores are a little higher than some of the others." Analysts agreed that the addition of the Service Cloud bolstered Salesforce.com's functionality score to 4.0. Mitch Kramer, senior vice president and analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, said in an email that Salesforce.com "provides very rich and very flexible case management capabilities" and that its "capabilities have a strong social and mobile flavor." Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, noted in an email that the Service Cloud "continues to advance its case management capabilities, and communities will be a strong factor in that moving forward." The Winner Though Parature was acquired by Microsoft last June, analysts elected to rate it independently since it has managed to maintain its own distinct identity. Lo and behold, Parature replaced its parent company as the top vendor in the category this year. Ragsdale pointed out that Parature's attachment to Microsoft gives the company a "much bigger audience for [its] social-savvy approach to support." Wettemann agreed that "integration with Microsoft looks very promising" and that it has given Parature an opportunity for continued growth. Of the leaders, Parature scored the highest in customer satisfaction, with an average rating of 4.3. "Parature is smaller and still heavily focused on the customer service side. That gives them the ability to stay connected to their customers in a way that is a little more difficult for [a larger company such as] Salesforce," Leary says. "In talking with Parature customers," Wettemann noted, "we find the knowledge base capabilities and configurable workflows [are] real benefits of the product. Parature is also expanding its thought leadership role [by] helping its existing customer base take advantage of capabilities and process changes that will drive greater value." One to Watch Oracle was bumped off the leaderboard this year, partly because the company scored lowest of all the finalists in cost, at 3.1. It's worth noting, however, that it ranked highly for depth of functionality, with an average rating of 4.0. Ragsdale stated that it "continues to be the standard for functionality and user interface customization capabilities." Meanwhile, Leggett called the company's Siebel offering a "lightweight, modern, and mobile-first multichannel case management solution," and singled out its Service Cloud as a "mature, feature-full product, focused on the enterprise," with "deeply verticalized solutions."