On one of those preternaturally warm spring afternoons, when many of their colleagues had forsaken them for the beach, around 500 conference attendees packed themselves into a hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center to hear about Customer Relationship Management. A group of high-profile experts was assembling to deliver a heralded panel discussion on the current and future state of the CRM market. Attendance swelled to standing room only.

On the panel were executives from both established and emerging CRM vendors. One panelist headed a company that sold an Internet storefront product. Another ran a sales-force automation company. A third represented a major database vendor. There was a call center system vice president and, to ...

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