The best CRM suite is...

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, Software

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  • let me summarise this article

    7 pages of ad impressions for a conclusion of "well, it depends..."
  • your summary

    To be fair it is a decent summary of the products, but gutlessly fails to answer the main headline.
    I am sure Salesforce are happy that they paid for the feature to be written (at least they weren't given 5/5!)
  • Salesforce

    Well Salesforce didn't know whether they were going to be in the feature or not, and neither the writer or editor (me) knew who was advertising on it ;-)

    But will take the "gutless" comment on board for next time!


    Renai LeMay
    News Editor
  • Why no Australian products?

    As a precursor - I have a vested interest in this market. However, why do articles on CRM systems automatically all line up the same foreign based options? There must be hundreds already out there comparing, Oracle, etc. How about stacking up some Australian systems to see how they go? And systems that are really for SME's!
  • and you're surprised??

    What were you expecting. See every review on zdnet
  • Australian products

    hey Darren,

    we were targeting the biggest players for this roundup, with one open source alternative. However we are indeed keen to review Aussie stuff :) Which vendors are you suggesting?


    Renai LeMay
    News Editor
  • Salesforce

    Why not display the listing of CRM vendors in Alphabetical order? This would remove any question that the fact advertising has influenced the article. Aside from this, the article was a decent high-level view of the main players in this space.
  • interesting

    Overall I found the article interesting as I am currently looking at developing a CRM utilising PHP/MySQL as the platform (obviously it will be web based). Like others have said, it's an interesting look at the big players - I especially liked the information on the Infor system and Siebel, a platform I am familiar with - However, I think Darren Jones is on to something when he talks about an aussie roundup, both closed and open source. I'm sure there are many Australian companies who deserve and would appreciate the exposer.

    Interesting article overall.
  • ugh

    Obviously I meant exposure, not exposer. That'll teach me ;-)
  • Hopeless review

    This is review is useless. What a joke. You have compared the non-commercial SugarCRM Community version against the Commercial vendors. Why not try out the full Commercial SugarCRM. You will find that many of the "features" are not missing.
  • I'd like you to look at our Aussie CRM

    Hi Renai,

    We launched our CRM at CEBIT 2009. Would you like to take a look at it? How should I contact you (or can you get access to my email address?)
  • Email

    hi Mike,

    just drop me a line at

    Kind regards,

  • See How Good ACT! CRM is....

    Hey, sorry i forgot to add the link from my below post.

    Enjoy! and Good luck...
  • Intelestream CRM Solution

    Good article. Finding the right CRM is tough and depends on your business and use case. We published a white paper that compares the online version of SugarCRM with Salesforce.
    You can read it by visiting the Intelestream University at
  • I agree that some Australian CRM's should be included for evaluation. I would like to throw my hat in the ring and recommend the CRM from LeadMaster. We have found a lot of clients switching over from Sugar and SalesForce to The LeadMaster CRM ( If you got the chance to evaluate this product I believe you would agree it offers fantastic value, service and quality to SMB's in the Asia Pacific Region.
  • Hi,

    Well, since this is ZDNet Australia, it's worthwhile mentioning that one of the people who run Apollo is Australian, living in Perth (myself).

    Apollo is not quite a CRM. It does project and contact management though and can be a good solution in some cases. It supports cases&deals. Its contact section is more comparable to 37signals' Highrise than a full-blown CRM.

    It's also a fully online solution that looks incredibly native.

    Maybe give it a go!