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on demand crm CRM Software Review

CRM Software Functionality

The SaaS CRM software suite consists of the following primary modules:

  • Marketing Management
  • Sales Force Automation (SFA)
  • Customer Support CRM software feature sets are often considered broad but not deep across the three CRM components of marketing, SFA and customer support. The core SaaS application provides a relatively simple and intuitive interface to do most things at a basic level. The company's AppExchange strategy and third party directory supports additional depth where required by encouraging clients to use AppExchange partners to meet gaps or deficits in the core CRM software solution. The simplicity of the user interface is appealing on first look and reduces lengthy learning curves. The interface is similar to an ebay or yahoo web page which operates by lots of movement between screens and scrolling up and down pages. This familiar user experience makes the CRM application appealing to many users, and in particular, users who are new to CRM software. The interface is generally responsive and in most areas intuitive. In the testing conducted to research this paper, it was only necessary to access the excellent online help system a limited number of events.

Marketing Management
Marketing management is one of the weakest areas of the hosted solution. The marketing solution is included at the Enterprise edition level and above (or available as an extra fee with other editions). The marketing application however provides very limited capability for performing e-mail based marketing campaigns. Indeed, the help guide (page 1632 – yes it’s long!) notes “Mass email is designed for small-scale sales and support mailings, not for marketing purposes. We recommend that you use a third-party email-execution vendor to send emails for marketing campaigns.” These add-on third party software solutions are available through the AppExchange at additional (sometimes significant) expense. A similar challenge is the integration of a third party solution back to for centralized record keeping (e.g. to ensure that your sales organization is aware of which campaigns your contacts have been exposed to.)

There is an alternate option is to use’s mass email utility. This tool is fairly basic however and does not support the depth of functionality that is generally necessary for marketing professionals (link tracking, bounce management, read tracking, etc) and the number of e-mail communications that can be sent daily using the solution depends on the CRM software edition:

Professional Edition: 250 e-mail limit
Enterprise Edition: 500 e-mail limit
Unlimited Edition: 1000 e-mail limit

It is essential to verify whether these limits are adequate for the frequency and target population of campaigns that you plan on conducting.’s marketing partnership with Google is available with the Google AdWords support being offered in all editions - including the Group Edition. The Google partnership promotes the capability to track the effectiveness of Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns whereby the user pays for placement on Google’s search engine results pages.

Sales Force Automation
The Sales force Automation (SFA) module is the strongest component in the CRM software solution. The SFA application includes account, contact, activity and opportunity management. Depending on the software edition, the functionality becomes increasingly sophisticated for even the largest of companies. SFA capabilities such as territory management and multiple recurring revenues are available, however, reserved for the higher level editions. It is therefore quite important to have a clear understanding of your sales requirements in order to avoid subsequent up charges through ‘edition creep’. What are sometimes referred to as advanced functions, such as revenue scheduling or revenue management, where support the set up specific schedules of revenue recognition for an opportunity based on defined time periods or even a user defined pattern, are reserved for Enterprise and Unlimited subscribers. Overall, the SFA software provides a solid foundation for most SMB (small and midsize business) companies.

Customer Support (aka Case Management)
Case Management was added to the company CRM suite in a prior release. Not considered a strength in the overall CRM suite, the case management module offers limited support for case management, automated assignment, case queues and escalation. This part of the CRM software offering was strengthened by the acquisition of InStranet in August 2008. This acquisition has provided with an improved customer support knowledgebase. It is unclear from the initial press releases to whom InStranet will be available and at what expense.

Industry Solutions offers templates to promote vertical market industries through the AppExchange. Examples include financial services, government and public sector, high tech and media and communications. As an example is the “Public Sector – Law Enforcement Edition”, where the CRM application has been appended with a tab called “Suspects” (shown below): government

This is a creative use by using their own software customization utilities. While these quickly assembled industry applications lack functional depth, they may provide a good jump start for companies seeking relatively quick industry solutions. Software pricing for these industry templates is often (not always) free. Real depth in any industry may otherwise be acquired from AppExchange partners (usually at a cost).

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