ALERT: You're reading the ancient 2004 version of this article! There's a new one, published in July 2009.
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CRM packages are everywhere these days. Which one is right for your organisation?
CRM solutions have either been the driving force or a disaster for many businesses over the years. The earliest implementations were little more than a database of supplier and customer addresses and contact information with limited notation/tracking functionality. The latest applications seem to have all the bells and whistles (and then some) to make access of information easier than ever for employees within an organisation.
There are many various flavours of what can be termed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications mdash; from entry-level contact management solutions, to salesforce automation, all the way up to full-blown packages that interface with inventory systems and back-end accounting packages to give the users full "at-a-glance" histories of their entire transaction with suppliers, customers, staff, and production/assembly plants.
Interestingly, vendors have submitted a variety of applications that pretty much cover all the above categories for this CRM roundup. Four of them fall into the off-the-shelf product category: Maximizer, Legrand CRM, GoldMine, and ACT. Two other applications that submitted were a bit higher end: Co-ordimax (a large-scale application that runs on a Domino server with a custom Lotus Notes client front end) and salesforce.com, an online CRM application aimed at salesforce automation.
How we tested
Because many of these applications are so feature rich we looked at the most commonly used tasks such as import, export, data management (ie, how to create a record, manipulate records, and how the application handles duplicate record identification etc), and integration with document and communications systems such as e-mail, phone, fax, and external calandar/scheduling systems such as Outlook. If during our evaluation any handy or interesting features came to light we noted these down too.
We set up four identical systems, Compaq Deskpros, and installed Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional on each before installing and configuring each vendors application. We used several exported Outlook databases as the foundation data.
What office applications, accounting packages, and databases is the application compatible with?
How long will it take before your employees exhaust its capabilities and start asking for more?
Comparing features, price and the value each package can provide to the business.
What support is provided as standard and how much will ongoing support end up costing you?