e-Synergy Aces Business Basics

 
 
By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2005-04-04
 
 
 

e-Synergy Aces Business Basics


With modules to manage CRM, human resources, projects, financials, logistics and workflow, Exact Softwares e-Synergy delivers more than the sum of its parts. e-Synergy provides midsize companies with a Web-based business management suite that is affordable and relatively flexible.



Click here to read the full review of e-Synergy.

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With modules to manage CRM, human resources, projects, financials, logistics and workflow, Exact Softwares e-Synergy delivers more than the sum of its parts. e-Synergy provides midsize companies with a Web-based business management suite that is affordable and relatively flexible.

In eWEEK Labs tests, we found that e-Synergy does a good job of integrating a core workflow system with components for managing customer, financial and HR data in a way that gives companies a good tool for creating internal and external-facing applications.

The management approach for pricing and revisions hits a good middle ground between perpetual-license and subscription models. Pricing starts at $1,000 per user for a perpetual license, with maintenance and support each costing 10 percent of the purchase price per year.

Exact Software has the product on a long-track development process, with no major version releases in the past three years. But any customer with a maintenance subscription has access to the functions that have been introduced at regular intervals during that time.

We looked at the latest build, which was introduced in January. Although most feature improvements arent as large-scale as the quarterly releases found with hosted applications such as Salesforce.com Inc.s Salesforce.com or NetSuite Inc.s NetSuite, the e-Synergy revisions generally have been more digestible when it comes to getting users up to speed.

Modules define the core functionality of e-Synergy. The applications underlying security model and its focus on workflow and document and content management enabled us to build broad customer- and business-partner-facing applications.

In tests, we could manage a corporate Web site, build and manage programs for developing leads, and manage an extranet for business partners that provided access to core application capabilities. e-Synergy requires Microsoft Corp.s Internet Information Services and SQL Server 2000.

The workflow engine has a good set of tools for building workflows and forms in the framework of the application, and we particularly liked the ease with which we could repurpose existing workflows for new ones.

Although e-Synergy can provide a bevy of capabilities, it has some inherent limitations that companies will need to work around. For example, the workflow engine supports only four steps within a process. For more complex processes, we had to divide the process into a couple of separate stages.

Furthermore, the application doesnt include a graphical modeling engine, although it does provide a good linear view of workflows. These tools are common in dedicated BPM (business process management) packages such as Ultimus Inc.s BPM Suite.

Click here to read Labs review of the Ultimus BPM Suite 7.0.

Workflow is the critical component of both e-HRM, the HR management module, and e-CRM, the customer relationship management module. The e-HRM module is also a core component for managing security levels throughout the organization because the module manages roles within an organization. We found both e-HRM and e-CRM easy to manage in tests because they share the same forms and user interface.

Next page: Two levels of administration.

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Administration takes place on two levels in e-Synergy: at the system level and in each module. System-level administration took a little getting used to in tests, particularly because many core features are controlled by roles and organizational structures within the e-HRM module.

e-Synergys security model limits who has access to what kind of information, so it does not really matter that configuring back-office connectivity for divisions happens in the e-HRM module rather than in the system module. (We expected that information to reside in the system module.)

e-Synergy natively supports other Exact Software back-end systems, such as the companys accounting systems. Otherwise, the system supports connections to accounting and other back-office applications through XML. XML also controls data exchange with client applications such as Microsoft Word and Outlook.

The e-HRM and e-CRM components have a common look and feel, and the major forms within each application have a common design. This made it easy for us to repurpose some of these elements in applications we designed using the form and workflow tools.

In general, we liked the way we could manage processes extensively from within each module. For example, the e-HRM module controls the whole process of managing employees, beginning with hiring. The HR system can then manage the process, from posting a job description on the Web site to budgeting and hiring.

The hiring workflow provides a good model of e-Synergys workflow capabilities. We needed to follow the logical steps of associating a job requisition to a role within an organization. After that was done, it was possible to associate a particular job with a candidate who had applied for it via the Web—and, in the process, we could save an HR manager the trouble of filling out employee record information.

The e-CRM module manages customer and partner data. We found that e-CRM provides good tools for users charged with managing customer data. The main screen (as well as the left-hand pane) is search-driven to give sales and customer service staff quick access to customer or partner data. We liked the customization capabilities and the ease with which we could manage workflow from within the e-CRM module.

The e-CRM module works well with the e-Logistics module, which is a combination product management tool and supplier management system. In addition, we could easily tap into the e-Projects project management application and the e-Documents document management system.

On the financial side, the e-Financials module provides budgeting, an executive view and reporting tools for consolidated company financials. Accounting must be managed in an external application, and data must be imported through native connectors or through an XML connector for Exact Software accounting applications.

Another feature that we thought worked particularly well is e-Synergys support for synchronizing the users Outlook calendar with his or her e-Synergy calendar, as well as the document integration with Microsoft Word. If we needed to create a document to associate with a particular customer account, we could create and upload the document directly from Word by providing customer account information.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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Evaluation Shortlist

iCode Inc.s Everest Client/server and Web-based all-in-one business management suite that offers more accounting features (www.icode.com)

NetSuites NetSuite Hosted application that has broader accounting features but lacks HR and budgeting capabilities (www.netsuite.com)

Salesforce.coms Salesforce.com Sales- and customer-service-focused hosted application that has similar XML-based connectivity to other back-end applications (www.salesforce.com)

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

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