FrontRange beats Microsoft for Ford Health

Last year, Brisbane-based corporate health provider Ford Health had to choose between FrontRange's Goldmine PE and Microsoft's eponymous CRM system. The company ended up going with Goldmine, but even after the deal was done, Microsoft still wasn't taking no for an answer.

Last year, Brisbane-based corporate health provider Ford Health had to choose between FrontRange's Goldmine PE and Microsoft's eponymous CRM system. The company ended up going with Goldmine, but even after the deal was done, Microsoft still wasn't taking no for an answer.

On the same day that IT manager Daiken Pacey was making a media presentation about the success of the implementation, he received a call from a Microsoft software engineer in Brisbane asking if the company would reconsider.

Asked why he thought Microsoft was so reluctant to give up, Pacey, who helps manage Ford Health's system via his consultancy Micrologix, said he imagined the company didn't want to lose out on a potential AU$70,000 contract.

While Ford Health had been using Goldmine SE for some time, the decision whether to continue with the product was not an automatic one when the company decided to upgrade its systems in 2007. The biggest drawback, Pacey said, was SE's reliance on a Borland backend database.

The two main contenders for the upgrade were Microsoft's CRM package and the new Premium Edition (PE) of Goldmine, which offered a choice of backend database systems and a revamped, Microsoft-Office inspired interface.

"We were going to go from SE to Microsoft until we found the benefits from PE," Pacey said. "We did get close [to choosing Microsoft], but Goldmine had some really key factors."

The user interface improvements to Goldmine helped minimise training times, as did general stability when interacting with other systems. "It could do so many interfaces that Microsoft CRM either lacked or was a bit too buggy [in use] for our needs."

Despite anticipating problems in moving "from a six-year old package to one that was dated today", Pacey said the eventual migration went very smoothly. "It took us a weekend. It went really well -- we were over the moon."

Future plans include integration with Ford Health's phone systems and making the software available on mobile devices.

Competition between Microsoft's CRM division and FrontRange has something of a chequered history.

"We were in Microsoft's Vista launch as the CRM implementation of choice," said FrontRange Asia Pacific vice president John O'Brien, adding that "quite a flow of leads" came from the cross-promotion. Subsequently and unexpectedly, however, the application shifted to the "back page" of Microsoft's site, he said.

Despite the occasional scuffles, "we are a significant application population for that company," O'Brien said.