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CRM Software Smackdown (SaaS)

By on Jan 4, 2010 Editor's Pick 6 Comments


Who rules? Photograph by Tim Hipps.

Are you still using ACT, Saleslogix or some other type of technology developed in the 1980s or 1990s? We often hear from sales VPs in that position who say they’re thinking of doing something different. Specifically, they’re wondering if it’s time to embrace SaaS-based CRM in the form of Salesforce.com or Oracle CRM On Demand.

This is a good question, albeit with one caveat: The most important success factor for CRM is not your technology. Nothing is more important than having a good plan, knowing your desired business outcomes in advance and then vigorously pursuing each one in phases.

CRM: Only 3 Choices

On to software: What should you select?

If your organization is not in the pharmaceutical, medical device or biotechnology industry, then there are only three names to consider:

  • Salesforce.com
  • Oracle CRM On Demand
  • Microsoft CRM

Those are the players, and frankly I don’t think it makes any sense to evaluate anything else. The above software is all priced appropriately—based on company size, user base, and so on—although some are more or less expensive than the others.

Pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology companies should also considerCegedim Dendrite, which is very popular with organizations in those industries.

What about using SAP for CRM? Well, if you’re already got SAP, and 1,000 people using it everyday for manufacturing and accounting, and your CRM concerns hew more toward order entry and finance-related activities, then you should probably add SAP to your evaluation list. If you’re not an SAP shop, however, don’t consider it.

FIVE CRM Considerations

When evaluating the above software, factor in—as appropriate—the following concerns:

  • Integration: Both Salesforce.com and Oracle handle integration well, including with smartphones and BlackBerries; Microsoft CRM does not. For specific integration tools, consider Pyxis Mobile.
  • Oracle integration: Oracle offers prebuilt connectors to integrate Oracle CRM On Demand with Oracle Financials, JD Edwards, and so on, which creates an easy path to almost any on-premise Oracle software. For example, Akamai uses on-premise Siebel CRM for its call center, and Oracle CRM On Demand for its sales force, and integrating the two was relatively easy, thanks to their shared data models. (Side note: Oracle CRM On Demand also ships with more prebuilt analytics tools and dashboards than Salesforce.com.)
  • Microsoft tie-ins: Consider Microsoft CRM, a relatively simple, good and lightweight tool, if you want tight integration into the Microsoft framework—namely, Exchange. For example, we helped Epson—which already used SAP on the back end—select Microsoft CRM as a simple tool for managing its partners.
  • Popularity: Adopting Salesforce.com, the most popular CRM software on the market, means you get the advantages of working with the market leader: the largest support network, the greatest number of available third-party add-ons (via AppExchange), the most energetic user community, and so on.
  • User Interface: Most users think that Salesforce.com has the best look and feel, and thus prefer it, even though it also tends to be the most expensive option.

The above considerations won’t cover every need or requirement, but when it comes to evaluating your CRM software options, it will help get you started.

Learn More

For more help in selecting and implementing CRM technology, read our white paper on The Value of Working With Experts, as well as about the economics of selecting CRM software.

Not sold on the value of SaaS-based CRM, or are you considering on-premise CRM software? Read a vendor-neutral review of the positives and negatives of on-premise and SaaS CRM applications.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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6 Responses to CRM Software Smackdown (SaaS)

  1. Gabriel Turk January 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Is this based on SALES only? Salesforce.com does not have a good “Customer Support” solution. Why not include RightNow Technologies since they have the best support integration compared to the other CRM vendors?

  2. B Lloyd January 5, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    I have to say that your statement “there are only three names to consider” is frankly, ridiculous. Just because products are popular or pervasive does not mean that they are right solution for every business.

    We at Junari Ltd strongly recommend to our clients that they investigate which CRM solutions will adapt to their business processes as opposed to vice versa. A “solution” which requires businesses to change their operations to meet software limitations is no solution at all.

    Junari have evaluated in excess of 30 different CRM offerings in the past 12 months and discarded almost all of them because of their inflexibility and cost ineffectiveness. Would you care to hazard a guess as to which 3 products also went into the discard pile as part of the process?

    B Lloyd
    IT Consultant
    Junari Ltd

  3. Kevin O'Brien January 5, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    I agree with your initial baseline for evaluation. I might add that one critical component missing is the ability to integrate business processes into the CRM landscape. RightNow can’t handle much of the process requirements either. I think the value of process integration is high enough that it should be considered as a key evaluation point in any selection process.

    Kevin O’Brien
    Chief Marketing Officer
    RiverStar Software
    http://www.riverstarsoftware.com
    Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/river_star

  4. Adam Honig January 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    Fair point, Gabriel. Even though over half of our work is in the customer service area, most of our clients start thinking of CRM first in the sales automation area. (And by “CRM” I am saying more of an end-to-end approach, not simply an approach for sales or service separately.) Our RightNow projects have been almost exclusively in the support area and never have even really considered expanding to sales or marketing using their platform. With MS CRM and Salesforce.com that is not the case – we have seen organizations starting with them for SFA and move into both marketing and service. There is no doubt that RightNow is superior stand-alone in service, but just not across the board.

  5. Michael Rosmer February 7, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    I strongly disagree with the content of this article, having searched for, tested, and purchased many different CRMs for my multiple businesses we’ve been disappointed because we didn’t realize the core consideration stated by Kevin above, business processes.

    The #1 consideration for any business looking to purchase a CRM should be “what is our business process? and how do we organize information?” Far too many CRM packages lack any real flexibility (or make flexibility difficult) in adapting to variable business information structures and processes.

    Essentially, here’s the shopping process:

    1. Identify your business process, including how information is organized, and map it out

    2. Try the software and see whether you can actually do this process exactly as stated using the software

    Key considerations in my opinion:

    1. Organization & Accessibility of Date – by this I mean the purpose of the software is to organize your data (all of it) and make it accessible

    - Examples of this failing, one of my companies is a recruiting firm where we effectively have three types of contacts: clients, candidates, and other, most recruiting software doesn’t account for the “other” category and therefore fails

    2. Eliminate redundency – this is at the heart of efficiency, it involves simple functions such as eliminating the need to enter client contact information twice, once into an email or CRM database and again into an accounting software suite

    3. Automation & record keeping – many CRMs don’t allow automated trigger based workflow, the key here is to eliminate as many tedious, time consuming tasks as possible (such as data entry where possible, update emails, remove users from lists when they unsubscribe, etc.), the other side is to monitor activity relative to process, being able to track changes to clients, link to phone calls and emails, advance ownership, etc.

    - Returning to the staffing example, resuming parsing is a great example of automation, trigger based email campaigns might be another

    - When it comes to record keeping, this might involve automatically tracking the number of calls, length of calls, numbers called, etc. by tele-marketers and give reports on it

    - Reporting has other important features when it comes to a project management form, keeping managers up to date on the status of projects, etc. and ensuring no balls get dropped as well as delegating resources where necessary to maximize efficiency

    4. Facilitates collaboration – again, frequently CRMs don’t make this easy as they should

    How a CRM achieves these goals will vary from one organization to another. For example, does it require direct email integration (many CRMs don’t, they integrate with outlook and frequently don’t provide cross user tracking as a result), does it require integration into the phone system, what about social media integration, or accounting integration, is project management required (as an aside, Task Management, which is what most CRMs call project management, is NOT project management).

    None of the CRMs listed above offer the flexibility to effectively wrap around our business processes. Better systems include Darwin and Avature, though neither of them has the breadth of features frequently desired. RedHorse or InfusionSoft are other with some impressive functionality, though again, it depends on your business, processes, structures, and needs.

  6. Intelestream September 20, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    I can’t say that I agree with your advice here. Only three to consider… Really? That’s sort of like saying that there are only three brands of cars to consider. And oh, by the way, they happen to be the most expensive. But not necessarily the best. Intelestream has plenty of customers who have seriously evaluated these three and found that none meet their needs. Especially in the case of small businesses. Why should a start up spend 5-10 times more than they need to on CRM? Yeah, we’re biased of course, but intelecrm also handles integrations well. Our Outlook and Quickbooks connectors are examples of this. There are more options out there. If you only consider three, you’re not doing your homework. Take at look at ourCRM instance by visiting http://www.intelestream.net/intelecrm

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