CRM & the Mac is Oranges to, Uh, Apple

I have two Macs and 2 PCs at home. I have a MacBook Pro laptop which I love and an iMac which I like.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

I have two Macs and 2 PCs at home. I have a MacBook Pro laptop which I love and an iMac which I like. While I'm not a fanboy, I'm at least an applecore who thinks that Apple products are not only cool but actually useful and important - especially to small businesses and self-employed and consultants and old guys who want to look cool (that would be me).

But as a spawning ground for CRM, Apple and the Mac ain't pretty.  And there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in doing anything about that either. For example, there is a forum that is devoted to CRM on the MAC that has a total of six entries/responses and has been up since mid 2008.  The discussions elsewhere of what to do about Mac OSX  based CRM range from using Filemaker and Bento (a database-driven Personal Information Manager) to a product called People - which is a HGH-driven contact management solution.  Most of them pretty much fall in the range of things that handle contacts, accounts, calendars, tasks, notes and can sync one way or the other.  At best contact management.  Weak to say the least.  Pity too.  If Apple was being smart (which when it comes to style they are incredibly smart, same with consumer thinking, the enterprise not as much - though getting a little better), they'd be providing tools and deals to ISVs to build enterprise level applications for Leopard and the upcoming Snow Leopard that would provide CRM capabilities for small businesses. They could pick up even more hardware market share if they made the SMB value proposition more compelling than it is currently.  Just for the fanboys: I KNOW they are gaining some marketshare and goodie, goodie, but they could do considerably if they actually invested some time and money into supporting partner development of CRM applications that did what good CRM apps do.

I took an initial look at the CRM applications for the Mac that are out there - or those that claimed to be CRM. There is very little to see.  Many of the applications that claim to be CRM are devoid of things like opportunity, lead management and pipeline management features in their attempts at SFA, much less any other pieces of the CRM suite like marketing and/or customer service.  While a few carry workflow capabilities, they are all in all mediocre when it comes to process and workflow. They don't even meet anyone's standard for sales force automation (except their own) though I have no doubt they make fine contact management applications.  A few of them fall for the Etelos CRM syndrome which is to include project management applications as part of CRM - which while not horrible and devastating or anything like that, just muddy the already difficult waters of what should be in a customer facing application.

I'm not speaking to the quality of the application since I don't know that. I'm speaking to their claims of being CRM for the Mac which most of the ones out there are NOT unless Mac users are living in a parallel universe. Hmmmm.....

There are a few that are intriguing though not as good as Windows or Linux based CRM solutions. These are the better I've found from a feature/function standpoint. I have no idea how technically sound they are.  They might be sufficient for small businesses with a few users. I'd love for someone to let me know which Mac CRM apps they are using and how it fits the criteria for CRM  beyond the marketing person at the company calling it that.

  1. Daylite 3.0 - This might be the best of the lot with integrated email, lead and opportunity tracking and some marketing functionality though it adds the headscratching project management capabilities also. Through its simple workflow functionality it allows you to build in some sales methodology rules if you care to and all in all to be about as good as the Mac apps get.
  2. Elements SBM - this one from Ntractive is intriguing. But despite all its potential it doesn't have a lot of breadth. It leaves out fundamental SFA functionality - lead and opportunity management -  and has, also that...thing - project management - which I just don't see as part of the CRM  pantheon though they obviously can include it if they want. But minimally they should have incorporated standard stuff like opportunity and lead management before project management.  Even so, this one has a lot of deep workflow capabilities and what really distinguishes it, a GREAT interface. Its iTunes like so if you use an iPhone or iPod, then you're going to be comfortable immediately. This is the kind of interface that anyone can use -and that's what makes this terribly intriguing.  Other CRM companies can learn a lesson here. They go further with what seems to be a strong mobile platform, data storage in the cloud and several other advanced architectural features. But there is no getting around the missing functionality.

I looked at several others including Redlien's Account Executive, Nighthawk, Jumsoft's Relationship, Bento 2, and Soho. They seem to all be capable contact managers or PIM software - but not CRM in particular.  Sadly, because this is an area that could be a huge win for someone who had the smarts enough to get in the game - and if Apple were smart - they aren't always smart, fanboys - they would invest some serious moolah into CRM with a partner or two.

Smart SaaS

Not surprisingly, the strongest "Mac-compatible" CRM applications are SaaS applications that have been adopted for Safari - the Mac browser. That would be both salesforce.com, SugarCRM, and Netsuite - with Netsuite getting the edge in this one.

Several years ago when I spoke at the Netsuite partner conference I met a rep from Apple and found out that they had been a partner of Netsuite from the get go. Netsuite has been Mac-friendly since Panther as far as I can tell. Long time and continues on through Leopard. That said, salesforce.com and SugarCRM also claim Mac compatibility and are listed in the Apple product catalog.

Note, I'm not covering the iPhone platform CRM apps. I did that already at PGreenblog here and here.  Plus Oracle has made a serious commitment to the iPhone as a Social CRM platform. But that's not the same as Mac OSX-based applications - which is what I'm looking at.

All in all, Mac OSX CRM is either a big disappointment or a huge opportunity for either a new Apple partner or one of the two existing apps that I think work to own this niche in the market.  If Apple is gaining OSX and hardware market share, this is the time for Apple to not just be smart-cool, but smart-enterprise and grab that CRM building partner and dance.

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