Software for Business Intelligence


Taking a look at CRM solutions

Gartner analysts reported that new customer relationship management software implementations accounted for more than $3.5 billion over the last year; however, only 38% of this total represented the top-tier CRM vendors such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP, and Siebel. The remaining 62% of the CRM market consists of smaller, best-of-breed solutions.

Organizations are taking a closer look at CRM software to increase sales and improve their operations. By employing a combination of technologies to facilitate communications and business processes, CRM solutions serve to maximize relationships between sales, service, marketing, accounting, and management.

However, CSO Insights reports only 26% of companies surveyed registered a significant impact within their operational performance after implementing CRM in their organizations. The big stumbling blocks they routinely encounter are data population, user acceptance, and a lack of return on investment.

One Size Does Not Fit All


One of the biggest mistakes made when deploying CRM software is buying the wrong product. Many CRM software solutions are targeted to specific business needs. Most large enterprises turn to the major vendors (SAP, Oracle, etc.), so they can integrate their CRM with their ERP (enterprise resource planning), accounting, and human resources systems. Small to medium-sized enterprises often do not have the budget, time, or need for a powerful full-scale CRM solution featuring sales and contact management, customer history, and reporting and forecasting tools designed for tracking thousands of transactions and customer information at every level.

Therefore, they turn to small-scale, best-of-breed CRM products, which are less expensive. These solutions tend to offer more sales/contact management features, focusing on integrating with sales and service processes. They provide SMEs with the ability to manage and share sales and contact information, create reports, and identify trends with their sales and customers.

Tigerpaw Software CEO Dave Foxall points out that today CRM covers everything from lead, to a quote, to installation and support, to contracts, billing, collections, and everything on the backside after the sale instead of simple contact management.

Tigerpaw’s CRM+ software offers a comprehensive solution for the SME market. Designed to appeal to a wide range of industries, CRM+ offers management for contact, sales, marketing, and service, as well as inventory control all in a single package.

Other CRM software aimed at the SME is Oncontact V (aka ONCV). Built on the Microsoft .NET platform, ONCV’s three modules—Account Management, Marketing, and Customer Service—give users instant access to critical information through a customizable interface.

One of the frustrating aspects about launching a CRM product can be the learning curve for users to effectively utilize all the features. ONCV’s centralized screen has a Microsoft-style tabbed environment, so users will be more familiar when viewing, editing, searching for information, and generating reports.

Additionally, ONCV offers a Toolkit for additional customization of its software to fit individual needs. The Customizer tool offers functionalities, including creating new screens and tab controls, integrating existing database fields and third-party applications (email, fax, accounting) into ONCV, adding drop-down data windows, and requiring that fields be completed to avoid incomplete data sets. The Navigator tool inserts workflow and logic for the automation of customer service, sales, and marketing.

With a global user base of 250,000 in 7,000 companies, the most comprehensive CRM software in the SME market is Sage Software’s SalesLogix. In its latest version, 6.2, SalesLogix offers an easier installation process, enhanced customer service features such as ticket and service contract management; improved opportunity management; more ability for customization; and support for multiple currencies, global date and time calendars, and Microsoft Windows Single Sign On.

SalesLogix software modules include sales, marketing, customer service, support, business alerts and workflows, reporting and analysis—even support for mobile solutions—that offer SMEs the ability to tailor a CRM solution to their specific business requirements.

Still More Options


For those at the lower spectrum of the SME market who don’t need or don’t have the budget for the extensive features offered by SalesLogix, Oncontact, and Tigerpaw, Multima’s NetKeeper CRM software offers integrated sales, marketing, and help desk support. As with its more expensive counterparts, NetKeeper offers customization to best fit the needs of specific business processes such as tracking service calls and orders.

The two most powerful features of NetKeeper are the Tech Access via the Web, which gives mobile technicians access to the help desk while on the road, and the HD Mail program for the automation of incoming email service and sales requests. Replies can be instantly sent back depending on the type of request made.

In addition to large-scale and best-of-breed CRM software products, a third solution exists for organizations that want to integrate CRM into existing enterprise systems such as data sources, EMC systems, print and mailing factories, and email delivery. Instead of deploying an entire standalone CRM product and having to succumb to redundant data population, companies such as Exstream Software have developed CRM solutions as bolt-on features for their existing products. Exstream’s Dialogue offers over 50 different modules to create highly customized communications in batch, real-time, and interactive environments.

There are six core components to Dialogue: document creation, marketing, data and content integration, production workflow, output, and interactive. As another example of how CRM solutions can be specific to particular industries, Exstream provides a single platform for organizations to create and manage personalized customer communications of all types for delivery through both print and electronic channels.

New Trend


Paul Greenberg, author of “CRM at the Speed of Light: Capturing and Keeping Customers in Internet Real Time” and president of The 56 Group, a consulting company specializing in CRM, sees a new trend emerging—Customer Experience Management, or CEM—that will become a vital aspect of the CRM suite. Greenberg cites his evidence in the comparison of the customer experience today vs. a decade ago. Consumers yearning for a customized experience are plunking down their money with companies that offer individualized service.

CRM’s basic function is to segment customer information for analysis, but the CEM facet drills down into each customer’s level of satisfaction. Customers are being put in the driver’s seat when it comes to dictating their experience. Whether it is being able to contact a service representative via telephone, email, Web form, or real-time chat, customers are determining how they want to interface with businesses, and businesses are realizing how critical it now is to track and manage their customers’ experiences at each touch point of their organization.

CEM empowers companies to leverage CRM for qualitative as well as quantitative business intelligence leading to more opportunities for customer loyalty and new sales. “CEM is a part of CRM; it’s not separate and distinct,” says Joel Wecksell, vice president at Gartner.

According to Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone, CRM tools that SMEs are looking for are lead management, email marketing, and multichannel campaign execution. The bottom line is regardless of the CRM solution chosen, the goal is to empower organizations to work more efficiently among their employees, vendors, and most importantly, with their customers.


Sandra Kay Miller