Important Industry Announcements

By Geoffrey James

Sage Software announced BusinessVision 7.0, which includes more than 100 enhancements to the application, such as expanded database tables and fields, a new user interface, a new database, better data management capabilities and easier third-party application integration, plus extensive new reporting features. The intent is to give small businesses a comprehensive suite of business management functions to automate processes throughout business operations, including receivables, payables, inventory, payroll, job costing and point of sale.
Our take: Sage’s main advantage is that, unlike many vendors, the company is focused on offering something useful to small businesses. One of the main complaints about the CRM that comes from vendors who are focused on large enterprises is that it forces small businesses to cope with features that simply don’t apply to the small business environment. Sage is trying to strike a balance between offering a rich set of functionality and drowning small businesses in technical complexity.

NetSuite announced a set of translation and multilanguage capabilities to accommodate the needs of businesses with employees and customers in multiple countries. Languages available in this release are Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German and French with Simplified Chinese to be available shortly. NetSuite also introduced a new, flexible tax engine and corresponding financial reporting capabilities to allow businesses to configure NetSuite applications for local and international financial reporting standards (IFRS), as well as unique local tax requirements for compliance in any country.
Our take: This is one area of CRM that many packages neglect. Working with and selling to multinational corporations is one of the most complicated functions of large organizations, especially when it comes to accounting and tax compliance. NetSuite’s movement into this aspect of CRM shows a strong understanding on the part of NetSuite’s executives of the macrotrends driving the economy.

Oncontact announced the release of its Client Management Software (CMS), version 9.0. Features have been enhanced throughout the sales, marketing, customer service, opportunity management and call center modules of the application suite. New features include a redesigned user interface with a Windows XP look and feel, expanded functionality with frame-based navigation tree controls, new interactive dashboard views that are configurable at a user level, expanded functionality for on-the-fly opportunity funnel reporting and improved features within the knowledgebase area of the customer support module.
Our take: Oncontact continues to fill out its suite of products, which are the most Microsoft-like of the major offerings. If we have any complaints, it’s that it’s hard to see exactly how Oncontact is differentiating itself from the packages offered by other CRM vendors. With the CRM market consolidating around an ever-smaller number of vendors, Oncontact will need to better hone its value proposition to continue to thrive.

SugarCRM announced that it secured $18.77 million in Series C funding that it will use to continue developing Sugar Suite, its commercial open source CRM solution. The lead investor in the round is New Enterprise Associates (NEA), a venture capital firm that has funded more than 500 companies since 1978 with a focus on early-stage investments. Previous SugarCRM investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Walden International also participated.
Our take: We don’t usually report on financial developments in the CRM world because they’re not usually of interest to the sales managers who make up the bulk of our readers. In this case, however, the size of the round reflects the fact that commercial open source enterprise is being more widely accepted as a potentially profitable business model. If that trend continues, we expect to see applications such as Sugar Suite play a larger role in the industry and become a factor in many companies’ CRM decision-making process.