A Customer Relationship Management Solution Aims To Cover all the Bases
Written By: Osman Baig, Shahid Hannan
Published On: August 17 2006
Surado Solutions Inc., founded in 1995, is a privately held company based in Riverside, California (US), and offers a suite of customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.
Surado aims to provide a complete CRM suite, rather than a modularized solution targeted towards departmental delivery. Its goal is to build full-featured, integrated, and multifaceted systems, as well as out-of-the-box solutions. The vendor is a Microsoft Certified Partner and Microsoft Business Solutions Certified Gold Partner, and uses the Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) as the foundation for its product development. It also touts the merits of the Six Sigma methodology and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) as quality improvement philosophies.
Surado targets the small and medium business (SMB) market, namely organizations with annual revenues of $1 million (USD) to $1 billion (USD), and approximately 88 percent of its clients fall into this category. To reinforce its position in this market segment, Surado offers Surado Small Business CRM 5.0, designed for ten users or less. Surado Small Business combines the core Surado CRM suite (Contact & Account Management, Sales Automation, Marketing Automation, and Customer Service/Help Desk) with Integration for Exchange (for e-mail, contacts, and tasks), the Surado Integration Module (for connecting to third party databases or creating custom tables and screens), and Surado CRM Web (a web interface for remote user access to basic functionality.
Although Surado CRM is not vertical-centric, it enjoys a wide installed base in traditionally "vertical CRM"-dominated industries, such as technology, health care, education, banking and finance, and government. The vendor has customers in all fifty US states and in over sixty-four countries worldwide. A sampling of its top clients from those vertical industries includes Blackbox, County Regional Medical Center, California State University, Georgia Student Finance, and the City of Riverside Economic Development Agency.
We'll analyze Surado CRM 5.0 from the perspectives of core CRM functionality, look at some of its distinguishing factors, and discuss some of the challenges users may face when considering Surado CRM for small to midsized businesses.
Core Functionality of Surado CRM 5.0
Core CRM functionality covers five aspects:
- contact and account management
- sales management
- marketing management
- customer service and support
The figure below is a TEC-created table comparing Surado against other vendors and their offerings. Surado performs above other vendors in the areas of marketing automation, sales force automation, customer service and support, and partner management. In the areas of contract management and creation, and project management, Surado's performance is above average, but below the highest-rated competitor.
B2B (Business-to-Business) CRM Module Ratings
Contact and Account Management
This area of CRM typically displays and manages detailed account information, such as information related to the company, contacts within the company review of past activities and history, scheduling, and task management.
This module offers a unified interface for account and contact management functionality, where users can review past communications, upcoming activities, sales opportunities, quotes and purchases, support issues, links to relevant documents, and information from back-end systems. In addition, Surado CRM also captures all customer communications, whether through phone, e-mail, fax, the Internet, or personal contacts. A fully integrated workgroup scheduling and task management features the ability to track activities, participants, and resources, including pop-up reminders. A relationships tab also allows users to track the important relationships that may exist between two or more contacts in the system that otherwise might otherwise be overlooked or poorly managed.
This area of a CRM solution focuses on managing sales opportunities and processes. It provides the features and functionality to define, implement, manage, and execute one or more sales cycles, based on individual opportunity types. This allows users of Surado CRM to configure the system to better fit their unique needs rather than having to conform to a generic sales cycle supplied by the system.
The module includes the basics: contact information, correspondence, opportunity and forecasting data, literature and presentations, quotes, orders, and post-sale service history.
Surado CRM 5.0 allows for multi-source data import from lists, or captured leads from a web site through its eLeads module. It also allows inquiry tracking and intelligent leads routing. Automated process can be initiated to distribute literature, schedule follow-up activities, and set conditions to advance opportunities. Managers can use Surado CRM to monitor team activities across customized sales stages across multiple product pipelines. Sales positioning features and functionalities are also available through competitive intelligence analysis and customer analytics, to identify habits, trends, and potential.
In this area of CRM, the key components to attracting and retaining a customer base are evaluation, design, implementation, and execution of marketing initiatives.
The application can track the results of advertisements, direct mail, and telemarketing, and help design, execute, and manage personalized, permission-based campaigns. Surado CRM 5.0 also allows for the planning, design, execution, and management of multichannel permission-based marketing campaigns. Users can assign tasks and responsibilities according to revenue projections, campaign periods, targeted audiences, and channels. Potential deployment issues can be identified, and resources re-allocated. E-mail and fax campaigns can be set up for automated execution and follow-up.
Surado CRM provides for campaign return on investment (ROI) analysis as a means to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, by comparing potential and actual responses and sales.
Customer Service and Support
This area of a CRM solution is where customer service inquiries and support issues are entered, tracked, and in specific cases, escalated to resolution.
Surado CRM 5.0 features a customer service, help desk, and support knowledge base, with keyword searches. It also provides an integrated system that coordinates and tracks customer interactions across multiple contact points to address customer inquires.
Surado CRM automates support and help procedures, by automatically converting incoming e-mail messages into support tickets (including attachments), responding to support tickets, and notifying customers of soon-to-expire service-level agreements (SLAs). It also handles routing, load balancing, escalation based on multiple criteria, automated response, and ticket updates and deletions.
In addition, Surado's Web Self-Service module provides a channel for clients to access an Internet knowledge base search as well as conduct self-service ticket submission and review.
Key metrics are displayed in graphical form, and can provide managers with the information necessary to make rapid decisions regarding re-deployment of resources to the most urgent support areas. Performance gauges (such as support metrics by urgency, touch point, area, type, and support groups) provide managers with the opportunity to act quickly to prevent potential bottlenecks in providing support. Finally, color-coded alerts for events that fall outside defined parameters provide managers the ability to take a proactive approach, preventing escalation of support issues.
While integration is not traditionally considered to be a functionality, it is nonetheless a critical component of any solution, and needs to be given the same level of consideration as core functionalities. Surado CRM 5.0 is very well designed to run on a Microsoft platform (including operating systems and applications, SQL databases, and Exchange servers), and integrates tightly with front-office programs (Microsoft Office, Outlook, and Project, as well as with mobile devices, scanners and business intelligence [BI] tools) and back-office applications (Great Plains Accounting). Surado CRM 5.0 has also enhanced its level of integration with Intuit QuickBooks. This is in alignment with Surado's focus on the SMB market, where such systems are widespread.
With the optional add-on Surado Integration module, back-office applications like financials, enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM), logistics, manufacturing, shipping and delivery, human resources, e-business, and industry-specific applications can be integrated to give users a unified view of the disparate back-office application environment within a centralized CRM solution. This module also allows system administrators to create unlimited custom detail data tabs to display information from back-office applications directly from within the Surado CRM solution. Finally, administrators can also create stored procedures to automatically write Surado CRM data into other databases using automatic data exchange (ADX).
Distinguishing Features of Surado CRM 5.0
Surado CRM interactive workflows include a graphical user interface (GUI) designer that lets managers design various business processes graphically, to help guide representatives through processes such as handling customer inquiries or complex internal procedures. Many vendors define process automation as workflow. However, Surado CRM interactive workflows are not simply process automation represented through GUIs. Users can drag and drop objects, create links between multiple objects, and then actually use objects to open internal windows, launch external applications, execute automated triggers, and launch other workflows.
An Innovation: Organograms
Surado users can create or view unlimited organizational charts (the Surado Organogram). With this feature, users can see the traditional hierarchy view of the parent company, accounts, departments, and contacts, in addition to the organizational charts belonging to their customers.
The Organogram provides the ability to display contacts within the organization, as well as other relationships, including partners, suppliers, alliances, contractors, and any other customized relationship. The functionality includes color-coded differences between contacts within the organization, relationships, and the ability to launch any contact or relationship with a click, directly from the organizational chart.
This aspect of CRM addresses the need for remote and mobile users to access accurate, timely, and up-to-date information. Surado CRM allows mobile users to access customer information through a separate disconnected laptop solution. The solution can also synchronize contact and schedule data with Palm and Pocket PC devices, including personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile telephones; salespeople can also access information with any Internet connection, through web-enabled modules.
When conducting an enterprise evaluation selection, it is important to thoroughly assess the organization's needs, and create a shortlist of vendors that can best meet them. Based on the features described in this report, Surado appears to cover all of its bases, by offering a complete on-site CRM suite, which is easy to use, highly customizable, quick to implement, and affordable. Innovations like Dynamic Workflow and Organograms have allowed Surado to be a leader in the CRM market.
*To learn more about criteria rating definitions please consult The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Rating Guide
||Surado CRM by Surado Solutions
||Lowest Rated Competitor for Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
||Highest Rated Competitor for Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
|B2B (BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS) CRM
Includes marketing automation; sales-force automation; customer service and support; partner management; contract management and creation; project and team management; and other
|B2C (BUSINESS-TO-CONSUMER) CRM
Includes Internet sales; e-mail response management; business-to-consumer analytics; and BI
|OTHER CRM-RELATED APPLICATION AREAS
Includes e-mail marketing; relationship capital management; survey software; sales proposal software; product and price configuration; web conferencing; and other
|TECHNICAL FUNCTIONALITY AND SUPPORT
Includes business functionality; technical functionality; and ongoing CRM solution support
TEC's analysis shows that Surado is just as feature-rich in the core functional areas (if not more so) than some of the enterprise CRM vendors. However, even though Surado's product lines can support enterprise clients, it does not currently aim to win business in that market segment.
This may be due to Surado's lack in some of the non-core functionalities. For example, while Surado CRM 5.0 is available in English, French, and Spanish, the solution currently does not support a currency conversion feature. This may present a challenge for Surado as it moves towards the large enterprise market where global operations can be a critical factor, and weigh heavily on the CRM selection decision. However, intends to add this feature, along with a host of others, for international business needs in its next release, Surado CRM 5.1 (projected to be available by the fourth quarter of 2006).
Surado CRM Enhancements To Come
A recent upgrade is Surado's "Pick-list Preference," which further enhances the usability of the software by making screens and selections role-based. Relevant or preferred information will be displayed based on the role of the user logged in. This can be configured and customized as needed.
Surado CRM 5.1 provides functionality for power users and enterprise system administrators who need the capability to create sophisticated custom screen and work flows with "programming" level control. The areas of custom screens, integrated work flow, and automated business rules have gone through a major overhaul compared to Surado 5.0, with over 100 new functions. Users will now be able to consolidate other stand-alone applications developed in Microsoft Access or other databases to be fully integrated as part of the Surado CRM system. Functionality includes the ability to create unlimited custom screens, calling procedures to extend the functionality within the custom screen area, and to extend the integration functionality with other back office applications. All of these features also come with security features at the individual, role or group, and application functional levels, as required by any robust enterprise application.
Other upgrades which can be expected in the 5.1 release are extensive project management functionality, where users will be able to handle not only short-term projects, but also long-term projects. In addition, there will be a "manager interface" to help keep track of resource allocation.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, in the small business arena, there is a lot of discussion going on with respect to hosted solutions. When asked about the current buzz about small businesses being won over by hosted solutions such as Salesforce.com, Surado mentioned that web accessibility and features have been enhanced. However, Surado CRM 5.0 is primarily an on-premise solution. For small companies who are unwilling to deal with the overhead of maintaining any form of IT infrastructure, Surado would not be a good fit.. Such companies would also need to deal with the risks of having their data hosted on a system that may not be easily accessible once the service contact is over.
SMBs seeking CRM solutions should consider adding Surado 5.0 to their list of applications for evaluation for its ease of use (which may lead to a quicker and higher adoption rate, a key factor in any successful implementation). Its feature-rich quality and comparatively lower cost allows Surado 5.0 to have higher value per functionality. However, companies considering Surado should also keep in mind that it is not compatible with key platforms such as IBM Mainframe and Unix, and may not be able to meet the requirements for database systems such as IBM DB2, MySQL, or Oracle. Additionally, organizations with more than 2,500 users should consider other options such as Siebel or SAP, as Surado does not support such large organizations. Because Surado does not have a hosted option available, companies considering a fully hosted solution should also consider solutions such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite.