- Windows 7
2010 CRM Comparison Article - Los Angeles, California
By Michael Burns published in the CAmagazine April 2010
Welcome to our latest vendor survey on customer relationship management. The accompanying chart (see www.camagazine.com/crmsurvey2010) includes 13 systems from some of the leading CRM providers, as well as some that are not yet as well known.
CRM is still very popular. Analyst firm Forrester predicts the CRM market for software and services will reach $10.9 billion by 2010, up from $8.4 billion in 2007.
According to Larry Ritter, senior vice president, global product management and marketing, Sage CRM Solutions, there are two major trends in CRM: social networks (such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and cloud computing. Facebook boasts more than 350 million users, who use the program to build up their personal networks, send messages to friends and update their personal profiles. LinkedIn has more than 50 million registered users and is used mainly for professional networking. Twitter enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets -- text-based posts of up to 140 characters.
Some readers might think social networking tools are for young people with time on their hands. But Sage and others see them as a great tool for building relationships – which is also one of the objectives of CRM systems. Imagine you want to prepare for a meeting with someone you don’t know very well. You might find useful information about that person and others on these networks. Sage lets you extract information automatically from Facebook and load it into one of its CRM systems. You can also launch a direct search into one of the social networks such as LinkedIn to find information about a specific person. And you can have the CRM system launch a search against Twitter for news about a contact's company or products -- even one of his or her hobbies.
Gathering information about other people could be seen as a little creepy; in fact, this kind of search is called “creeping” in Facebook circles. But if people post personal information on the Net, is it not there to be read?
The other big trend is cloud computing – a way of accessing business applications (ERP, CRM, business intelligence, etc.) over the Internet with just a browser. The software and data are stored on a service provider’s computers, so you just pay for the use of the software. And you don’t need to maintain your own infrastructure to support the applications. This setup might sound familiar: last year it was referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service) and a few years ago, as ASP (Application Services Provider). Some acronyms stick even when they make little sense, while others evolve. Blame it on marketing specialists who figure their technologies need a little push every now and then.
Sage and others are sending their products to the clouds. Sage is offering a hybrid approach in some cases by allowing customers to license the core functionality using the traditional model and to use the clouds for extensions of the system. One example is eMarketing, which could be used to blast emails to thousands of contacts. By using another company’s server for email blasts, you can avoid blacklisting by some companies. Email blacklists are a common way of reducing spam.
Sage has also taken a different approach than salesforce.com, NetSuite and some other vendors that are normally associated with SaaS or cloud computing. Sage will offer its cloud solution using Amazon’s EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud). Amazon is to store and protect the data on its own servers. This makes a lot of sense, because Amazon already has the infrastructure to support cloud computing. Sage will also allow its customers to choose whether and when to upgrade to the latest version – something that is not always possible with other cloud systems.
One trend Sage did not mention is open source. With this technology, the program can be downloaded for free but there is a cost for implementation and support. Open source programs are often enhanced by a community of developers rather than just the company that created the program. SugarCRM calls itself the leading open source CRM solution with more than 12,000 companies .
Although not a trend, ERP integration is still a big factor to consider when in the market for a new CRM system. There are many integration points between CRM and ERP and an integrated solution just might be what you need.
We hope you find our survey useful. If you have suggestions for improvement, please let us know.
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