CRM Announcements and Analysis

By Geoffrey James
Sage (aka Best) Software introduced Sage CRM for small and mid-sized businesses available both as a hosted service at SageCRM.com and for on-premises deployment. In addition, an ACCPAC edition provides bidirectional front-office/back-office integration.
Our take: Sage understands clearly that the decision to go with a hosted CRM application need not determine the entire future of the application. By providing customers with an upgrade path to an on-premise deployment, Sage is increasing significantly the value of its hosted implementation.
 
Pragmatech Software announced Version 6.1 of its CRM software. Enhancements include management reporting capabilities with predefined reports for sales management and content managers. Standard reports are intended to provide insight into the document and presentation creation activity each salesperson is engaged in – and exactly what these deliverables contain.
Our take: As much as we like the Pragmatech product, there isn’t all that much new in this version, as evidenced by the fact that the first two paragraphs of the press release are essentially a generic description of CRM. The idea of standard reports is nothing new and although Pragmatech’s implementation will no doubt be elegant and easy to use, we’re not talking about a must-have feature.
 
Salesforce.com announced Customforce 2.0, an on-demand CRM customization toolkit. Key features include a packaged set of 100 business functions, embedded business logic and calculations, and special functions such as lead scoring, case aging and commission calculations. Other features are real-time analysis of business data, customized business formulas, prebuilt processes, enhanced forecasting and list management.
Our take: Salesforce.com realizes that hosted CRM can only be a long-term solution if CRM users can integrate their CRM data and working environment with other applications. Since the hosted model makes it impossible to accomplish that level of integration in the back end, Salesforce.com has built in a powerful front-end integration. While that’s not going to solve the problem of multiple databases – one for CRM, another for shipping, another for billing – it does give sales reps a more consistent environment in which to do their CRM-related work.
 
Research In Motion announced the availability of the Sprint PCS Smart Device, which is a BlackBerry 7250 on the Sprint Nationwide PCS Network. The device integrates email, text messaging, Internet, organizer and corporate data applications as well as high-clarity wireless phone functionality. It has 32 MB of flash memory, 4 MB of SRAM and a backlit and highlighted numeric keypad.
Our take: Originally we thought the smartphones were too big and clunky to be really useful. Now that their functionality goes beyond that of handheld computers and they have shrunk to the size of a regular cell phone, however, we believe such devices will soon become an essential part of the road warrior’s bag of equipment.
 
Microsoft announced features that will be available in the upcoming release of its CRM solution, including a user interface that’s consistent with Microsoft Office and Outlook; new configuration, customization and integration capabilities; subscription-based licensing for customers that prefer a hosted offering; and a Small Business Edition (SBE) designed for (what else?) small businesses.

Our take: Microsoft is rapidly increasing the power and capabilities of its CRM offering. This future release looks attractive, but what’s the deal with announcing something that’s not yet available? When we see a list of features we want, it’s frustrating to know we’re not going to be able to use them until sometime in the future.