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CRM Idol 2011: The Reviews Still Continue: #4A

The first round of CRM Idol 2011 - The Americas is now officially over with the EMEA competition looming.  We have completed the demos/reviews of 39 companies for the Americas (we lost one due to personal reasons at the last minute) and about 25 of the reviews are completed and published.

The first round of CRM Idol 2011 - The Americas is now officially over with the EMEA competition looming.  We have completed the demos/reviews of 39 companies for the Americas (we lost one due to personal reasons at the last minute) and about 25 of the reviews are completed and published. You've seen 14 of them. You'll see the rest of them over the days to come. Hopefully, by the end of next week, you'll see the announcement of the names of the 12 semi-finalists. For more details on all this, go to the CRM Idol website where we'll be announcing their names. Its gonna get intense.

To start your week off right, here's three more reviews Antharia, LLC; InvisibleCRM; and Aplicor.  Go baby!

Antharia LLC

Fortyfourfish is a very complete CRM tool for not-for-profit organizations.  Featuring an intuitive and easy to navigate interface, a full set of features (including donor-management, development, volunteer management, and an end-to-end relationship data model for non- profit), and a very low entry price.

Indeed, in a market mostly controlled by Blackbaud and Convio, and where starting implementations are bound to cost upwards of $30,000-$40,000 for just the first year, their entry price is a comparatively frugal $1,200.00 per year per person (it is a hosted model, so unless there is an increase in the number of people using it - that price should remain through the rest of the time it is deployed).

fourtyfourfish, the name of the product, is a creation of Antharia - a consulting organization for not-for-profits.  The product's tight integration means that the professional services for the product are provided by Antharia - a well known firm in the not-for-profit world.  One of the most salient features of the product is its flexibility and ability to be customized as needed - which is what Antharia does in addition to traditional business and management consulting.

The CRM product generates low recurring license revenue, and the product generates few other sources of revenue.  The business integration with Antharia gives the combined product and service company a sustainable revenue and business model, solving our concern over viability.

We were impressed by the quantity of features and functions it covers, both as a not-for-profit product and as a general CRM tool.  It covers the basic gamut of functions necessary to identify, contact, interact, track, and retain customers (or in this case, donors and volunteers).  One of the most remarkable features is the development tool, which is not something seen in anything but high-end products.  It seems at first look to be a very complete module and to do its job quite well.

While the interface seems a tad busy and at moments may seem overwhelming - it is easily customized and shrank or expanded (more or less information used, per the needs of the customer) to deliver an intuitive way to capture and incorporate information into specific processes.  We would definitely recommend those interested in adopting this product to think about the experience they want to provide for the volunteers or employees using it and right-size the number of functions (and options for those functions) to deliver a cleaner and more productive interface.

While we like the price point, as we are sure their clients and prospects do, we are concerned over the addressable market.  A combination of not-for-profits traditionally preferring more expensive solutions, a product that is mostly used by smaller non-profit, and a finite number of non-profits in the United States (international expansion is hard due to compliance regulations) yields a low potential client pool.

While we don't foresee Antharia or fortyfourfish needing additional funding - or other sources of income - we are concerned about their potential for growth.  We would like to see more funds invested in marketing and sales to ensure a continuity of the brand by deeper adoption in their market.

InvisibleCRM

InvisibleCRM (Invisible) is a vendor that rose from the "good old days" of CRM with Siebel, PeopleSoft, SAP, and Oracle - their initial product was promoted as a simple, more powerful way to deploy SFA functions for companies who did not want to commit to full-size CRM Suites.  Their product is a series of "bridges" or connectors between different CRM products and an organization's systems.

Invisible's solution is very interesting from the integration perspective.  Working better in situations where two or more organizations need to "integrate", or work together using different CRM solutions.  Acting as a integration layer for CRM tools, Invisible captures the necessary data from both sides and injects in either everyday windows functions (such as file manager, or outlook, or even word), or into the corresponding CRM solution.

The real power of the solution comes down to this: users don't need to learn new interfaces or menus to interact with the solution (as it is tightly integrated into the everyday functions users are already using), and integration between systems is seamless.  In fact, the more systems that reside in the background and that it has to interface with, the more it shows its prowess.

Their demo showed us integration with Salesforce (one of their preferred integration partners) as well as other systems.  The items related to the different contacts, opportunities, and tasks from Salesforce were presented in the Windows Explorer (file manager) application as folders and files, and double-clicking on a file brought the information from Salesforce in a format that was pre-programmed for the demo.  There was no visible latency in these actions and the data seemed to update in real-time directly in the systems in the back.

We can see the value of Invisible in complex situations (e.g. sub-contracting in a project where two consultants need to sell or deliver together).  There is a certain amount of value in being able to integrate the data from the two systems in an easy manner.  It can save time, effort, and resources of building a single-purpose interface and integration; it saves time and money in training users as well - since they continue to use the tools and procedures they already know.

The value that Invisible brings, however, is downplayed by the potential market.  There are limited instances where companies would choose this product, and even then, the agreement and integration work necessary between partners is not an easy thing to agree to.  Even If we were to see Invisible in situations where only one organization needs access to the information - there are still limited situations where navigating through file manager, as opposed to a CRM interface, would be preferred.

We like the technology involved, and we like the speed at which Invisible performs when working; the demos were virtually free of wait time when using or adding data.  We are concerned for their growth potential with the model they use.  A potential future for Invisible is to build an ecosystem of partners to OEM these bridges and embed them in different applications directly. It would extend their reach and make the model easier to adopt.

Aplicor

Aplicor has a cloud-based Business Management solution targeted at small and medium businesses (businesses with 500 or fewer employees). Aplicor is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida with customers in United States and overseas. Their showcased solution is Aplicor CloudSuite7 which provides both CRM and ERP solutions.

One of Aplicor's key differentiators is its ability to be cloud independent. Aplicor's customers can select where the application can run based on their cloud strategies. Aplicor can host on their own cloud, or the customer can host in a traditional IT situation or on external clouds like Windows Azure and Amazon.

Aplicor is built on the Microsoft technology stack and all functionality is included with the solution under one single price - $89/user/month. The price is the same for any cloud model or software delivery alternative such as private hosting, multi-tenant hosting or on-premise.

Aplicor is creating a partner ecosystem with a mix of solutions and cloud partners in order to expand market share, branding and revenue generation. Aplicor provides agility and flexibility as key benefits to its customers via the partner ecosystem.  This adds the ability to provide hybrid solutions to the small and medium market.

Aplicor differentiates in the CRM marketplace on the user experience and tool sets. The user interface looks easy and clean. The system comes with videos and tutorial for self-help, including a central hub to gather information from RSS feeds and customer records. This hub should eventually provide social components with integration to Facebook and other social channels.

Aplicor did a rethink of the traditional GUI and came up with two - a traditional user interface and a panel and tiled view that helps users to set up the system to mirror their work styles.  For example, panels can have views, graphs and objects.

Some key aspects of the CRM functionality and user interface are:

  1. Drag and drop fields to group and sub-group list of customers in order to drill down on specific customers.
  2. A Google-like search is provided to quickly jump to customer records and objects.
  3. Customer records and views can be bookmarked under a Favorite Menu to quickly jump back and forward between different places in the application.
  4. Ability to perform LinkedIn, Google and Twitter searches from within account record.
  5. Drag and drop any screen, graph, object or view into the workspace.

The administration and setup of the application is also drag and drop driven which provides a very easy interface for administrator and business users to configure the application.  Workflow is part of the application using a graphical interface to create business rules using Microsoft's workflow foundation. With the workflow you can perform inserts, updates, alerts and monitor changes based on the business rules.

Aplicor Airwaves is their mobile application platform where forms can be created via the CRM application admin tools. These forms can then be deployed on any mobile device. However, the look and feel is like a Blackberry interface no matter the device. Part of the Aplicor's roadmap includes the creation of CRM apps for iPhone and Androids devices.

Overall, Aplicor CloudSuite7 is a good CRM system with a clean and easy to use interface that comes with an all-inclusive pricing that is very attractive to small and medium business. This positions Aplicor to be an interesting alternative to other CRM solution like Salesforce.com and SugarCRM.

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