Talismas Scaled-Down eCRM Suite Is Solid

Version 4.1 of Talisma Corp.'s eCRM Suite offers an improved GUI and strong analytics that make it easy for users in any part of a company to get an accurate view of customers with the click of a mouse.

Version 4.1 of Talisma Corp.s eCRM Suite offers an improved GUI and strong analytics that make it easy for users in any part of a company to get an accurate view of customers with the click of a mouse.

However, other e-customer relationship management products offer more services and perform better in fields such as marketing and sales force automation.

For Windows-centric shops, eCRM Suite 4.1 is a solid choice, but companies running Unix, Linux or Solaris servers should consider alternative e-CRM products from CRM heavyweights such as Siebel Systems Inc.s eService or PeopleSoft Inc.s PeopleSoft 8, which offer systems for more diverse environments.

Talisma eCRM Suite 4.1, which shipped last month, is easier to install and less expensive than Siebels and PeopleSofts offerings. However, these products offer more services, such as automation for sales and marketing, so implementation can be expected to take longer.

Prices for eCRM Suite 4.1 range from $20,000 to more than $100,000. The overall cost of an eCRM Suite installation depends on the number of customer touch point connections, the number of users and the bundle of eCRM Suite services that a company wants to implement.

Talisma also markets an outsourcing service, called Talisma Online. The initial setup for the service is priced at $25,000 for five users, with a monthly fee of $4,500.

In addition, Talisma offers its QuickStart program, where company technicians go to an organization, set up and install the eCRM Suite, and train employees. QuickStart prices are also based on the services a company implements and the number of users; costs for the program generally range from 75 percent to 200 percent of the eCRM Suite.

By comparison, customer relationship management systems from larger players range to $250,000. We believe eCRM Suites lower cost, quicker implementation and strong services will be incentive enough for Windows-based organizations to investigate the product.

Talisma eCRM Suites more intuitive user interface and faster integration and uptime give it the edge over Nortel Networks Corp.s Clarify CRM system and E.piphany Inc.s E.5 e-CRM package, which offer competitive prices and similar automation and collaboration features.

eWeek Labs tested Talisma eCRM Suite 4.1 on a Windows 2000 server with a client environment consisting of five Windows 98 boxes and five Windows 2000 Professional boxes. Installation of software on server and clients was fast and without a hitch.

Systems must be running Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 with Service Pack 1 and must have Microsofts Excel and Internet Explorer 5.0 or later installed. The software comes with a scaled-down version of Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, but we recommend running the full version of SQL Server 7.0, mainly because it allows replication of data to relieve stress on the server. Likewise, Microsofts Exchange Server is needed to fully exploit eCRM Suites powerful analytics and data storage.

A central administrator

eCRM Suite 4.1 installs a Talisma Database Administrator that provides centralized maintenance of users, rules and systems. We installed the Web components, including Talisma Business Administrator, a browser-based utility for creating users, roles and teams; and Chat Server, which integrates into the network to enable sales reps and customers to have real-time text conversations.

We created multiple databases for sales, service and marketing on a single server for easier access for administrators. The analytical database and the media or Web components databases can be attached. This allows organizations to distribute administration duties to each department without losing data.

The softwares flexibility and scalability is notable; we could isolate mission-critical databases and very busy ones on separate servers to get better performance. This is an important advantage when top performance is a must, as in large-scale environments.

Database separation can be done on the initial installation or when necessary via the Talisma Database Administrator. The user interface allows easy configuration of separate databases on multiple servers.

Setup and manipulation of data were easy using the eCRM Suite user interface. We used the Talisma Business Administrator to create users and roles and to separate users into teams representing different categories in a company hierarchy. Next, we created rules enabling the routing of requests and automated workflow and set properties for users to log in through client machines.

Go with the flow

All administration is centralized for easy access to all databases, and many drag-and-drop routines can be used to generate graphical workflows and create customized campaigns and sales reports.

The client interface is more simplistic, showing users only what is necessary in their designated roles (as defined by the administrator). Clients can read, write, and change or adjust data based on the capabilities the administrator assigns to them. Users throughout a company can harness the data to gain a better understanding of customers and to interact with any department in the company via the collaboration tools.

We could profile, segment and target customers based on information in the Talisma database. We had full integration with Microsoft Outlook to view account information and to manage schedules and tasks. Talisma extends desktop functions to Wireless Application Protocol-enabled devices, so mobile users can have 24-by-7 access to the data they need.

The updated eCRM Suite includes 200 formats for generating reports in a variety of styles based on the data that is gathered from sales, marketing and the Web.