"Best" of the Three CRM Solutions

Event Summary

The recent product innovations offered by SalesLogix v6.2, along with the acquisition of ACCPAC by the UK-based Sage Group, position the vendor in a wide range of buyer profiles. Best Software, Sage's US-based subsidiary, can now offer to its North American partners the opportunity to provide comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) solutions designed to fit the assorted needs of the ever-expanding small and medium enterprises (SME) marketplace (see Will Sage Group Cement Its SME Leadership with ACCPAC).

The realization of revenues over one half billion dollars (USD), in addition to a host of newly installed customers, are Sage's most recent successes. Best, if it effectively leverages this resource, will no doubt render the competitive climate among Onyx Software, Pivotal, and Salesforce.com more interesting.

Best Software can most certainly leverage its parent company's recent success in realizing revenues of over half a billion dollars (USD), in addition to a host of newly installed customers made available via acquisitions. To render life more interesting for its competitors, Best Software provides not only CRM solutions but also an array of accounting and back-office systems. This presents opportunities to offer existing non-CRM clients full and comprehensive solutions across the enterprise which complement and integrate with their existing products.

To have a direct competitive impact against the major SME players, Best Software needs to offer a product that could be entirely web-based to take advantage of the new trend for application service providers (ASPs). ACCPAC fills this role and complements the existing product mix with its trendier technology. However, some of the newly announced modules and features of SalesLogix are definitely closing the gap between the markets expectations and product capabilities.

Product Definition and Market Impact

According to Jon Van Duyne, senior vice president and general manager of Best Software Mid-Market CRM, version 6.2 is due to be released during the later half of 2004 and will encompass entirely new modules in customer service and opportunity management. Generally speaking, the tool will be more user-friendly.

SalesLogix started out as a Sales Force Automation tool and it is still viewed as serving primarily in a sales support role. This is where the firm is challenged: to show the full CRM capabilities of the solution. The customer service component of version 6.2 delivers vital features such as ticket management, service contract management, and a Web customer portal. This new release, intended for August 2004, enhances the existing family of SalesLogix Sales, Marketing and Support modules and should further demonstrate the full CRM capacity of the product. While SalesLogix already has a reputation as a user-friendly and easily customizable solution, Chris Reich, SalesLogix's director of product management, emphasizes increased usability thanks to a more efficient workflow for adding new contacts and sharing data among users. In so far as customization goes, version 6.2 provides the means to further customize views, sales processes, and work groups. Best Software intends to further consolidate its market share in the SME market by getting closer to its requirements. The question today is how many sales people are eager to customize their application views versus a centrally managed administration? However, what is certain is that administrators would appreciate it.

SalesLogix's new customer service module is completely integrated with the existing modules and will enable data visibility throughout the company, most notably for sales people. The customer service Web portal is another means for customers to search and access their trouble tickets and enter into a dialogue with an agent.

A second major focus area for version 6.2 is on opportunity management. The new version features a better usability of the opportunity manager functions for sales representatives. According to Reich, there will be a tighter control as well over the data quality. When importing data, a greater emphasis is put on checking for duplicates.

Reich also highlights the integration between SalesLogix and the other Best family products such as Abra Payroll and the MAS 90 / 200 accounting solutions.

Strategy and User Recommendations

Best Software has so far relied rather heavily on the professional services of the systems integration partners to assist in meeting industry-specific needs for functionality in customizing the general-purpose CRM applications. Despite the fact that SalesLogix has been marketed to a large array of industries, it is in the services that it has been most successful. In order to penetrate the market evenly across all sectors, and achieve a uniform market penetration that spans all sectors, SalesLogix needs to offer vertical versions. As partners have already built vertical solutions as customizations for individual customers or customer groups, the company is further considering this option for the flexible CRM platform.

With its hosting capability, the recent ACCPAC CRM addition to the Best Software product family is poised to take additional market share directly from higher-end SME players such as Salesforce.com. While SalesLogix is Best's high-end, customizable solution for SMEs and divisions of larger enterprises, the market tends to consider the product a mid-range solution under ACCPAC, which is configurable over the packaged ACT! solution.

As far as SalesLogix is concerned, Best has built a strong network of channel business partners that provide front-office services, CRM implementation, back-office integration, and other services. Both ACCPAC and SalesLogix would certainly benefit from their combined partner forces given that both groups will remain distributors of combined product lines. Clearly, only a SalesLogix version 7, with promises of real web architecture combined with features of 6.2, should boost the application to the high spheres occupied by hosted and on-demand solution providers. In the meantime, ACCPAC CRM will fill this role.

The high-end SME market place is a competitive panorama where both traditional SME players and the new enterprise players are contemplating the leadership position.

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