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on demand crm CRM Software Review

By Nuria Rojas

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Company History
Products and Pricing
Software Functionality
Workflow Automation
Business Intelligence (BI)
Customization and Integration
Data Center Uptime and Security
Services Support and Training
Customer Support CRM Software Summary
Other Comparable Solutions To Consider

Executive Summary

Founded in 1999 on Market Street in San Francisco, has become the CRM software-as-a-Service (SaaS) poster child. SaaS applications are remotely delivered over the Web to users’ browsers from centrally hosted data centers. SaaS eliminates many of the expenses related to procuring, installing and maintaining CRM software systems within the customer’s information technology environment. SaaS or on-demand CRM applications are usually licensed on an annual subscription fee and forego the much larger up front capital expenditures required of the more traditional on-premise or packaged software systems. As a result, SaaS applications require substantially less initial and ongoing financial investment in software, hardware, implementation services and continual IT staffing.

The CRM system subscription service comes in multiple editions: Group Edition, Professional, Enterprise and Unlimited. Some users have commented that they were unexpectedly up-sold after the initial software purchase decision, primarily driven by needed software functionality which is only available in higher level editions. This is often the case with Team Edition which has a very limited software feature set. The Professional Edition provides a reasonable baseline but still has basic limitations in many customer facing areas. For example, Professional Edition has no marketing campaign management, product catalog, offline or mobile access and one of the main complaints of this software edition is that the company does not provide its application integration web services API ( There are also limitations on the degree to which the solution can be customized, even in basic areas such as adding simple fields to forms. A number of other application features such as data integration through web services, territory management and basic workflow are simply not available without moving to the more expensive Enterprise or Unlimited Editions . A number of user respondents have indicated that these limitations resulted in them ultimately acquiring the more expensive versions of's popular solution, either immediately, or overtime. At the time of writing Unlimited Edition is priced at approximately £170 ($199) per user per month, Enterprise Edition is £85 ($125) per user per month and Professional Edition is £45 ($69) per user per month (, 2008). Several concerning comments have been echoed on industry blogs and social media networks:

”They’ll Nickel & Dime you to Death”: “… One of my biggest complaints with is how they seem focused on ways to nickel and dime their customers …”

InfoWorld Article, Howard Brown – Bait & Switch: “… the 'help' pages all make mention of exporting MY data--they just won't let me do it. This is so obnoxious and offensive to me as a user that I can't wait to get off this platform. The worst part of this is that I can't actually get MY DATA until a sales person writes me back and sets me up to pay for it! What a joke, and what a terrible customer experience.”

In terms of company direction and evolution, appears far more focused on the concept of delivering a platform for SaaS (aka Platform as a Service or PaaS) as opposed to a customer relationship management system or any other business application. The company's AppExchange provides over 800 applications that can be added to a Enterprise or Unlimited Edition installations. AppExchange is central to the company's Wall Street driven growth model and has management and board room focus on Market Street in San Francisco.

Company History

Since the company's inception, has preached its mantra of “no software” representing the “on demand” nature of its application delivery approach. Initial investors in were Marc Benioff, Larry Ellison, Halsey Minor (Minor was the founder of CNET and also the largest investor as well as a silent contributor in the development of, Magdelana Yelsil and Igor Siller. In June 2004, the company achieved an IPO (initial public offering) on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol CRM. The stock has performed well even during the trying economic times of late 2008 and early 2009. SFDC’s 2008 revenues (at the time of writing) are estimated at $USD 748M and it expects to earn $US 12M in net income.

The company's heritage is with its SaaS based CRM (customer relationship management) software application. The primary CRM software modules include sales force automation (SFA), marketing and customer support. Each successive software version release adds new capabilities to support customization and integration with other business software applications. More recently, has focused on expanding its market share through a series of initiatives under the banner of “”. attempts to package the company's enabled services into an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and includes a user interface technology called VisualForce. also supports this initiative through a series of solutions provided through the AppExchange third party directory. Applications that are available run the gamut from vertical market solutions to back office applications and everything in between. Partners such as Tibco & Informatica (Integration), Appirio (Sync), Intacct (accounting software), clickNconnect for Telephony are common examples. These applications have been built by independent software developers using or integrating with the platform. The applications vary in scope, sophistication and price depending on the specific solution. AppExchange solutions are not supported directly by and therefore it is of strategic importance to recognize that your overall solution will have multiple points of varying accountability under this model. Some industry observers have criticized the AppExchange as simply a method to bridge gaps in the core solution set. The future AppExchange is uncertain and will be determined in part based on the ability of the applications to seamlessly (dynamically) integrate as changes the core solution and with each upgrade. is based in San Francisco, California, with regional headquarters in Dublin (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), Singapore (Asia Pacific less Japan), and Tokyo (Japan). At the time of this CRM software review, the company retained 43,600 customers and over 1,000,000 online users. Published documentation does not disclose the average number of subscribers per customer. It is however recognized that while touting some large implementations, the predominance of customer base remains within the Small and Medium business sector (SMB).

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