ISM Identifies CRM Trends and Top 15 Software Solutions

By Heather Baldwin

The winners of ISM’s Top 15 CRM software awards this year rode several significant industry trends to the top of this annual list of the most comprehensive CRM products on the market. For the first time since the awards debuted in 1992, the list was divided into two categories – Enterprise and Small & Medium Business (SMB) – to reflect the changing CRM marketplace. Barton Goldenberg, president of Bethesda, Maryland-based ISM, Inc., said all products were evaluated according to the same 202 criteria, but certain criteria were weighted more heavily depending on whether the software was being evaluated in the Enterprise or SMB category. Regardless of the category in which it won, following trends are what propelled most of the winners to the top.

Real-time analytics. Analytics became hot in the early 2000s, says Goldenberg, but the real-time component came in vogue during the past year. Today it’s not enough for software to provide reports in a format users can interpret easily, now those reports must be available in real time. The real-time component enables companies to make adjustments to their business daily, not just once or twice a month. About 75% of the Enterprise Top 15 winners have this capability, as do roughly half of the SMB winners, where real-time analytics isn’t as critical an issue.

ASP model/ease of use. The ASP model is hot right now, says Goldenberg, and players such as and NetSuite are penetrating more new business and taking sales away from the big players. One reason: there’s been a huge push towards quicker installations, quicker implementations and minimal hassle – all areas in which the ASP model excels. Software that meets all those criteria, says Goldenberg, had an almost guaranteed ticket to the Top 15.

Computer telephony integration (CTI). As calls are received, CTI capabilities can accomplish tasks such as identifying the caller and placing customer and historical data at the disposal of the responding support rep. The ability to integrate the telephone and computer is pervasive now, says Goldenberg. On the Enterprise side, more than 80% of the Top 15 winners are doing CTI with excellence, as are roughly 50% of the winners on the SMB side.

Wireless and mobile field applications. People want to stay untethered, says Goldenberg, noting that the best CRM solutions enable them to do that. About 70% of the Enterprise Top 15 winners offer this capability. Goldenberg predicts it will be 90% by next year and 100% by 2006. On the SMB side, about 40% of the Top 15 winners offer a wireless/mobile component and Goldenberg predicts that percentage will grow to 60% by the end of the year, 70% by the end of 2005 and 100% by yearend 2006.

The bottom line, Goldenberg concludes, is that the overall quality of CRM software has reached a new high and the humility of the CRM vendor has never been greater. “For me, that adds up to a banner year,” he says. “Everyone’s competing better and will finish better with better prices and happier customers.”

For a list of Top 15 winners, visit