Oh, the irony. The wonderful, wonderful irony of it. SSA, that arch gobbler up of ill-considered software trifles, has itself been gobbled up by its arch rival Infor.

The end result? A new ERP giant that might rattle the cages of Oracle and SAP as well as perhaps the most interesting example to date of consolidation in the applications marketplace. Interesting because it came out of left field. No one saw it coming. SSA was still in the process of digesting its CRM acquisition Epiphany and now it’s being absorbed itself.

There are some exciting next moves relating to this latest deal. For a start, Infor is privately-held and looks most likely to take SSA off the public market into private ownership. In stark contrast to Oracle and SAP, this creates an ERP behemoth that is not at the beck and call of Wall Street investors, but instead could cut its own path pretty much freely. Whether this will make it a more agile and formidable competitor remains to be seen of course, but I’d wager that the takeover hasn’t gone down well in Redwood Shores or Walldorf.

But how much longer can all this consolidation carry on? Oracle still hasn’t stopped. SAP hasn’t really started. There are still outstanding deals to be done. Onyx is currently on the receiving end of the unwanted attentions of CDC, China’s biggest software company. As we go to press, that’s still up in the air, but I really can’t see how this one can turn out any other way than with Onyx falling to the Eastern advance. Onyx CEO Janice Anderson admits that the uncertainty is damaging to new sales prospects and CDC has indicated that it is determined to push this through... and there comes a point when something has to give.

From a customer point of view, this leaves CIOs with an industry in a state of flux. The safe bets are getting less clear every day. We can say SAP is safe bet, but then we remember the merger discussions with Microsoft of a couple of years ago and suddenly you realise that the only certainty is uncertainty. Customers are left with fewer, but bigger companies at the high end, but even then there is product uncertainty.

What form will Oracle Fusion take? When will it appear? What to do in the meantime? It’s a great sales opportunity for the on-demand vendors like Salesforce.com and NetSuite which can poach departmental level business while corporate decisions are put on hold until the landscape stabilises.

So hold on to your hats. It’s been a bumpy ride and we’re not out of the turbulence yet. My own personal portent of doom would come in the very unlikely event of Computer Associates being taken over.

If the Borg of the software industry was itself assimilated, it would be akin to the ravens leaving the Tower of London. In the meantime, buyer beware...

Is it any wonder that customer service is so bad and that CRM doesn’t solve the problem?

The latest group to have their poor track record of customer interaction exposed is.... CRM vendors themselves. According to new research from The Customer Respect Group, CRM vendors rank below average compared to other industries with none of them cited as excellent and a few of them listed as downright poor.

The findings are pretty shocking: no company consistently responded with helpful responses to online questions within a day; only 31 per cent of email enquiries were acknowledged with an auto response – which is pretty much a standard function in most CRM packages these days. Most astonishingly, CRM vendors simply ignore 27 per cent of email enquiries. The phrase ‘physician, heal thyself’ comes to mind.