Review: UpShot

 
 
By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-05-09
 
 
 

Review: UpShot


Of all the midmarket CRM packages we tested, UpShot is the only one that provides seamless integration with desktop applications, its own modules and back-office applications. Were it not for a moderately kludgy interface and some suspect performance numbers, UpShot would be about as perfect a solution as one can get in the hosted CRM space.

There is nothing inherently wrong with UpShots GUI: The systems designers have allowed an enormous amount of data to be displayed (see screen), and the buttons have been simplified to reduce performance drag on upload. Overall, every button does what it says it will do, and the menu items are most often well-thought-out.

Whats quirky is that UpShot mixes and matches at least four types of navigation items on single pages, and then doesnt carry them through in each section. For example, accessing the Calendar tab will display icons for the day, week and month. And in the same location on Whats Up (a generic task list) are Delete Selected and Delete All. In that same vicinity on the Task, Contacts and Deals tab are Info To Go, Search and Communicate. The interface forces users to continually focus on different parts of the screen to figure out what theyre doing.

However, UpShot is the CRM package that is best designed for integration. UpShot actually has three integration strategies: a wireless development framework that allows developers to build connections between wireless devices and the UpShot system; a desktop integration strategy that connects Microsoft Office products to the UpShot service; and an enterprise integration strategy based on XML and SOAP.

UpShot is based completely on Microsoft Windows technology—using SQL Server 7 and SQL Server 2000 as the core database and Internet Information Services as its Web server. UpShot requires IE on Windows or the Macintosh for full functionality. UpShot also offers a "modem view" that provides a simplified but functional view into the CRM data from any browser on any operating system. However, the modem view is displayed over an unsecured connection.

Architecturally, UpShot uses separate systems for secure log-in, core CRM functionality and XML API activity. Changes made during customization are automatically detected and replicated across to the other application servers.

This multitier architecture provides a high degree of flexibility. The sacrifice may be performance, however. It took UpShot significantly longer to do record lookups than its core competitors, according to our Keynote benchmark. However, while there is a significant performance gap between UpShot and the fastest hosted CRM application, the performance is satisfactory across the board.

Where UpShot is clearly better than its competitors is in the area of desktop integration. UpShot includes downloads for Outlook e-mail integration; a nicely designed, fat offline client; a template for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint; and some syncing capabilities between Outlook and UpShot. In fact, UpShots desktop integration is better in some ways than Microsofts own MS-CRM, which uses Outlook as its client access software.

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One area in which UpShot is clearly ahead of Microsoft is PDA integration. While Salesforce.com has a relationship with Dejima Inc. to provide PDA access into the system, MS-CRM currently has no PDA technology. We expect that to change soon, either through partners or with technology based on .Net Compact Framework. UpShot, however, has it now, and it includes support—albeit minimal at times—for Palm OS-based devices, Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerry devices and Pocket PC-based systems.

Back-end integration, meanwhile, is handled using the XML APIs. UpShot exposes every object in the CRM system via the API, which makes it easy to connect to other systems—including financial and manufacturing packages.

In general, UpShot maintains consistency between the actual UpShot fields and XML objects, making coding a fairly straightforward process. Where integrators may have some trouble is with mapping fields from other systems into the UpShot system. UpShot has no concept of accounting or inventory, for example, so those fields must be created and mapped on the UpShot system.

Executive Summary

Usability Good
Capability Good
Performance Fair
Interoperability Fair
Manageability Good
Scalability Good
Security Good

UpShot (www.upshot.com) is the most well-rounded CRM solution we tested. It offers tight integration with desktop applications, has ample reporting capabilities and a well-structured API for connecting to back-end applications. The service is slower than others, however, and it needs an interface update.

(+) Highly secure architecture; feature-rich; very well-defined integration strategy; best-of-class desktop and PDA support.

(-) Performance could use improvement; mixes and matches interface navigation buttons; limited browser support except in "modem" view; modem view is displayed over unsecured connection.

Price $115 per user per month for XE.

CRM Systems Go Head to Head:

Labs Director John Taschek can be reached at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.

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