Focus Speaks: Top Enterprise CRM Solutions and Vendors

Updated: December 03, 2009

CRM and Customer Service Management: Focus contributor Ben Holland recently asked about the top CRM systems that include customer service management features. In his paper entitled "How to Pick the Right CRM, Helpdesk or BPM Vendor," Focus Expert Simon Gantley cites several such solutions, including those from EnterpriseWizard, Microsoft, NetSuite, RightNow Technologies, Salesforce.com, SAP, Siebel and SugarCRM.

"All of the systems listed in [the paper] include customer service management. Of this group, the vendors that really focus on customer service are Right Now Technologies and EnterpriseWizard. (Remedy is still a contender but their technology is looking rather dated now). If you are a B2B company, you will probably need sophisticated functionality like multi-level [service level agreement] support, customer satisfaction surveys, timer-based escalation rules that are driven by complex criteria [and] automated issue re-assignments, [features that] really stretch the limits of some CRM systems. So ask potential vendors for a demo that proves they can do exactly what you need before you buy," Gantley said.

Focus contributor Jonathan Rowley cites additional strengths of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The solution "has full customer service capabilities out of the box. [It deals] with contacts, accounts, service cases [and] service scheduling. [Version] 4.0 has a full knowledge base and inbuilt queue system for agents and inbound e-mail handling. [It is also] integrated with Outlook and can be used over the Web. Ignore it at your peril," Rowley admonished.

Open Source CRM: Focus participant Tim Weaver recently asked about leading open source CRM solution vendors. Contributor Kevin Jordan responded with the winners of CRM Magazine's 2009 CRM Market Awards. The magazine selected SugarCRM as the top open source CRM solution. Other leaders cited were Compiere, Concursive, SplendidCRM and xTuple. The magazine also cited vTiger as "One to Watch."

"I used to work for SugarCRM and they definitely have the most users since they were first to market. They most resemble Salesforce.com functionally. Their two biggest open source competitors, in my opinion, are SplendidCRM and vTiger," Mr. Weaver said. "vTiger has the purest open source licensing model since all the software is free but you pay for support. Compiere and xTuple are primarily ERP [solutions] with some CRM functionality [while] Concursive is more of a social networking tool," Mr. Weaver added.

Other open source CRM and hybrid CRM/ERP solutions mentioned by Focus contributors include ADempiere, Fuze, OfBiz, OpenBravo and Opentaps. "All these CRMs or ERPs come with excellent features and support and [have] lots of companies providing commercial support and customization according to your requirements," said Focus contributor Anjum Niaz. However, like other Focus community members, Mr. Niaz believes SugarCRM is the leading open source CRM solution.

"[SugarCRM] comes in community (free) and somewhat expensive commercial flavors. It's the best of the breed and even [the] community edition is better than many expensive commercial [alternatives]. If you are a small to medium-sized company, you shouldn't even look at commercial editions," Mr. Niaz asserted. He added that the only major difference in functionality between SugarCRM's community and other editions is that those other editions support features designed for use by teams of people collaborating on single tasks or opportunities.

Another advantage of SugarCRM is the large community of developers building add-on applications and other enhancements. These projects can be explored and obtained online at http://www.sugarforge.org/. In addition, unlike other Web- and cloud-based CRM offerings, SugarCRM can be deployed as a remotely hosted, premises-based or hybrid solution. This may offer greater flexibility to companies that prefer or require that some or all of their IT resources be premises-based.

How Best to Choose: Focus contributor Julie Turner recently asked the community for advice on what type of CRM system to consider in order to make CRM a viable investment for her business. Contributor David Morad responded that hosted CRM solutions such as those from RightNow, Salesforce.com and SugarCRM offer significant advantages. "Hosting is much cheaper and able to scale to your needs as you grow. In addition, you have no infrastructure costs (or very little) on your end," Mr. Morad said.

To make the best possible choice, "[t]he type of system you should consider should be determined by your unique needs," said contributor Jason Bland. "What are you goals? Do you want to consolidate customer information into a single database or do you want to leverage the tools that come with a full CRM [solution, including] account management, sales automation, marketing automation, customer service & support, etc.? What is your IT bandwidth? What does you network/infrastructure look like? Do you have a budget? Do you have a dedicated project team? There are a lot of different CRM Solutions in the marketplace and probably 90% of them are the same but it's the 10% that will make the difference for your business," Mr. Bland said.

Other community members also stressed the importance of using business needs to drive CRM decisions. "You should start with a needs analysis, then find out what CRM systems do, then revisit and refine your needs analysis. A little research involving users and stakeholders in your business will help you refine your needs before you commit, and get buy in to use the system. Then you can begin a more rigorous process of sorting out your long list of wants into must-haves and would-be-nice-to-haves," said contributor Francis Buttle.

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