By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-07-17 Print this article Print

As a Web-based application, BizAutomation doesnt integrate as tightly at the client level as Prophet 3.0 Enterprise does. However, BizAutomation runs on an Exchange server and captures e-mail traffic between sales and support staff and customers to help log and retain communications. From the user perspective, Biz-Automation appears as a top-level folder within the Outlook Web Access folder structure.

We liked that BizAutomation tackles more than just sales and support, with integrated marketing automation, project management, a self-service portal, and a survey tool and questionnaire system.

Click here to read a review of Prophet 3.0 Enterprise.
BizAutomations integration with Outlook Web Access happens largely behind the scenes by capturing e-mail on the Exchange server. Users also can capture contacts, tasks and events from BizAutomation and make them available in Outlook.

The ability to capture e-mail communications isnt unique; competing CRM systems—such as Salesforce.com, SalesLogix and Maximizer—also have tools for capturing e-mail communications. However, the ability to capture tasks and put them in a calendar typically requires a dedicated client or Outlook plug-in, so the calendar integration sets BizAutomation apart.

The BizAutomation model has value, but there are a couple of issues to consider. First, theres some risk in running BizAutomation on the same server as Exchange—if the Exchange server goes down, you also lose access to your CRM system. Also, the fact that BizAutomation is accessed through Outlook Web Access means that e-mail, calendar and tasks are close at hand, but at the cost of the left pane navigation interface that CRM users have come to expect.

BizAutomation bucks the trend of putting multiple lists of sales metrics in front of the user. (These dashboards are available in the reporting tool set.) Instead, when we logged on to the system, we were presented with a tickler view that organized lists of current tasks, support cases, projects and opportunities, and calendar items under tabs. The tickler view may lack the kinds of metrics that can motivate salespeople, such as pipeline data, but we found it well-suited to busy groups that need to quickly organize time and act on upcoming and outstanding issues. Managers also can view tickler information for direct reports and entire teams.

In fact, BizAutomation does a good job of organizing information across the application and within individual elements, such as the lead management workflow. The application has four main navigational elements, with application components—such as relationships, opportunities and forecasting—organized in pull-down menus across the top of the screen. We liked the efficient use of space across the top of the screen—the application groups the most commonly accessed forms as well as the most common tasks in a single row at the top of the screen. Search and import functions also are always available on any screen.

Forms for the various application components are generally well-organized, with a tendency to segment form workflow into digestible chunks using tabs. One interface element is a little jarring: When creating a new opportunity, BizAutomation opens an unmovable dialog box in the middle of the browser session.

The application is highly customizable beyond forms and fields, down to the workflow level. We generally liked the way the product ties elements together, but we were easily able to change workflow to suit our needs in testing.

A few elements of the opportunity workflow differ from what we typically see in sales automation tools. The quoting tool integrates a number of costing elements that usually require some customization, such as the ability to amend documents to a quote directly from within BizAutomations document management repository.

One aspect of the opportunity workflow we particularly liked was the flexibility involved in finalizing a deal: We could easily amend in-place deals with additional products and services without having to create an entirely new opportunity. Because all the quoting elements, such as shipping, are already built into the opportunity workflow, amending quotes as part of a deal amendment is relatively simple.

BizAutomation includes only 24 prebuilt reports in addition to the six prebuilt dashboard metrics. We did like the custom report builder, which makes it easy to create reports based on standard and custom fields. We could also add any custom report we created to a list of favorite reports.

Founded in 2001, Biz-Automation is a relatively new player in the CRM space, so the product doesnt have the same number of third-party add-ins or services that more established alternatives do. The company is working to establish a partner network, according to officials, particularly with Exchange hosting vendors. BizAutomation does include an API for linking to Intuits QuickBooks accounting applications.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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