The best CRM suite is...

Summary:What's the best customer relationship management suite? We put six of the top vendors to the test to find out in our no holds barred face-off.


A significant player in the big end of town, SAP's offerings are SAP CRM, which is part of the on-premise SAP Business Suite, and SAP CRM On-Demand, a fully-hosted subscription-based service.

SAP CRM is geared to provide real-time collaborative data to various enterprise departments — sales, marketing, customer service, call centre and internal/external e-commerce. As with the rest of the Business Suite, SAP CRM is platform-agnostic and can be implemented and supported on a wide variety of operating systems and databases to best fit in with the customer's existing infrastructure.

SAP CRM On-Demand is designed to facilitate rapid deployment of CRM solutions. Using a per-user subscription licensing model and fully integrated with on-premise CRM ERP installations, CRM On-Demand allows enterprises to deploy within weeks rather than months, and is particularly suitable for difficult geographical locations or for enabling a highly-mobile workforce to hit the market quickly. The product isn't as fully-featured as SAP CRM and is only suitable for sales, marketing and customer service lines of business, so customers requiring more functionality will either have to look at an on-premise solution or engage consultants to achieve the necessary customisations.

When we tested, we particularly liked the clean, stripped-back user interface. A mistake some CRM products make is to assume that users want access to all the information available to them, not realising this can make for a cluttered and intrusive UI with the result that it takes users longer to become familiar with the product which results in a drop in productivity. Although fully customisable with the ability to be as complex as you like, SAP's products are minimalist and intuitive out of the box, and accessible across a wide range of mobile platforms for road warriors.

An interesting emergent feature of complex products like SAP Business Suite is departmental sandboxing — products which are heavily designed and customised to meet a particular business need have a tendency to, over time, effectively become stand-alone entities. Individual products may enable disparate lines of business to collaborate on a particular business process, which has cross-department implications, but the data is not available to the wider context of enterprise practises. SAP is looking to reverse this silo effect in the upcoming release of Business Suite, which will be an interesting development for both existing and prospective SAP customers.

SAP is very much coming to market as a business solution architect, not a software vendor. This approach has certain implications for the type of customer SAP tends to deal with, which is (depending on your definition) definitely not SME. SAP's customer base is centred around enterprises with a $200+ million annual turnover. This is not to say that smaller businesses would not receive a great deal of benefit from SAP's product range, and the low entry-level cost of SAP CRM On-Demand is an attractive proposition as long as customisation costs can be avoided. Having said that, global financial crisis or not, you still get what you pay for, and SAP's CRM solutions are undeniably robust.

Overall: 4/5
Product: SAP CRM and SAP CRM On-Demand
Price: Available on request
Vendor: SAP
Phone: +61 2 9935 4500
Interoperability: 4/5 — cross-platform
Future-proofing: 5/5 — SAP is a massive market player and will stay that way
ROI: 3.5/5 — biggest returns to be seen by the biggest customers
Service: 4/5 — SAP Active Global Support, various support models available

(Credit: SAP)

(Credit: SAP)

(Credit: SAP)

Topics: SAP, Enterprise Software, Oracle

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