CRM Systems Go Head to Head

 
 
By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-05-12 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Labs tests ability of 5 midmarket solutions to integrate with corporate frameworks.

Midmarket companies take a hard line on technology spending, just like everyone else: Vendors have to prove to these companies that the technology they offer will cut costs or boost top-line growth. Nothing else will be considered. Realizing this, CRM (customer relationship management) vendors still do what theyve always done—waffle. They see the potential volume of sales they could realize by selling to midmarket organizations, so they claim their CRM systems will reduce costs and add to top-line revenue.

To be able to reach these lofty goals, a CRM system must be able to tightly integrate with existing systems and processes. Therefore, instead of focusing on across-the-board functionality in this review, eWEEK Labs concentrated on how well the systems we tested—from NetLedger Inc., Microsoft Corp., Salesforce.com Inc., Salesnet Inc. and UpShot Corp.—can be integrated with an organizations existing framework.

After all, although there are functional differences among CRM packages, the critical buying decision in the midmarket should be based on how quickly a solution can be implemented and made usable.

Integration can be a particularly messy topic with hosted solutions because many of them focus simply on developing an ASP (application service provider) model rather than on how that model might tie into other packages. (With the exception of Microsofts MS-CRM, all the applications we tested were hosted. We did, however, also examine a demo of MS-CRM as hosted by Surebridge Inc., for comparison purposes.)

Because hosted solutions are services, the connections into and out of the systems are not controlled by an IT department, as they would be in installable solutions. This means that there are connections between an organizations private network and the public Internet that must be made secure and capable of processing transactions in real time. Some vendors offer virtual private network access, while others use Web services and communicate over secure HTTP connections.

There are dozens of companies in the CRM space that call themselves midmarket solutions. At the low end are companies such as Commence Corp., FrontRange Solutions Inc. and Maximizer Software Inc., all of which grew from the contact management realm; at the high end are Onyx Software Corp. and Pivotal Corp., among others. The sweet spot—and the focus of this evaluation—is what lies between.

See how the five systems fared when put to the test:
 
 
 
 
As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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