Maximizer Enterprise 8: A Strong Competitor on the SMB Front Line

Product Background

Maximizer Software Inc. is a provider of customer relationship management (CRM) and contact management solutions designed for small to medium enterprises. A worldwide organization with business partners and offices in the Americas; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and the Asia Pacific, the company once known as Multiactive Software Inc. launched and shipped Maximizer Enterprise 7 in early 2002. Two years later, with the successful execution of a sales growth strategy, the company has adopted the Maximizer brand as a corporate name, as well as a new ticker symbol, and they have introduced version 8, a more enhanced version of Maximizer Enterprise. Even though a large portion of Maximizer Software's current customer base is between 2550 users, Maximizer Enterprise 8 can also serve the needs of larger organizations. The installed customer base currently includes leading companies such as Siemens, Ipsos-Reid, Nestle Clinical, Ericsson, HSBC, Singapore Airlines, and the Bank of New York.

Maximizer Software's modus operandi is contingent upon the software's user-friendliness, ease of installation, and affordable pricing with license price tags between $499 and $699 for the CRM and eCRM suites; as a Canadian company, Maximizer's policy is to price the product offering in Canadian currency locally, and in USD internationally. Maximizer Software covers the spectrum from the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses, to divisions of large enterprises with two different products: Maximizer Enterprise 8 (the complete CRM package), and Maximizer 8 (the contact manager). Maximizer Enterprise 8 is available in two flavors: the CRM suite that uses a traditional Windows client and an e-CRM suite that relies on browsers. TEC has recently reviewed the Windows-based Microsoft SQL enterprise version and found that it offers a comprehensive array of functionality covering areas such as sales force automation, marketing, customer service, and e-commerce. For over a decade, Maximizer Software has been renowned for its affordable, small business-oriented sales force automation tools. Today, Maximizer Enterprise 8 is a full CRM offering, capable of covering a much broader spectrum of business needs. Peter Callaghan, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Maximizer Software cites Maximizer Enterprise 8's five key success factors that satisfy customer wants: affordability, fast results, magnetic user interface, integrated suite, as well as powerful administration and a modern architecture. Callaghan says that Maximizer Enterprise 8's offering overall represents the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

The company has maintained a very aggressive pricing strategy to gain market share and, according to Callaghan, both the Maximizer" contact manager and the "Maximizer Enterprise" CRM package represent the best prices for out-of-the-box solutions." Maximizer 8s contact management solution includes an account manager, opportunity tracking, and an e-store manager and is sold at the retail price of $199. The CRM suite is offered under $500, while the e-CRM suite is only $200 more.

Product Strengths and Challenges

Maximizer Enterprise 8 is an integrated CRM suite with functionality encompassing direct and indirect sales, customer service, and marketing processes. In other words, all the modules are sold together out-of-the-box. Like version 7, Maximizer Enterprise 8 is based on a SQL database that supports both Microsoft and Pervasive SQL, which allows larger workgroups to collaborate.

Improved features in Maximizer Enterprise 8 include Microsoft. NET platform; analytics and reporting features that use Crystal Reports; improved workflow automation using the KnowledgeSync workflow engine; and a QuickBooks accounting link.

TEC has reviewed the sales, marketing, and customer service components of the CRM suite offering and how its features and functionalities might respond to company requirements in accounts, opportunities, marketing campaigns, and customer care management. Below is a summary of TEC's findings.

The Sales Module

An order and inquiry feature presents users with a comprehensive space to process customer orders or inquiries, in addition to accessing a product catalogue with an automated price per item listing. In the OrderDesk view, users can filter customer orders and inquiries based on types. Orders are individually processed and a multicurrency drop down menu includes an exhaustive list of international currencies. However, the summary listing on the order desk doesn't appear to convert this part of the order and this view lists the order currency as dollars.

In creating inquiries, users can filter these and distinguish them from orders, in addition to replying to clients or forwarding inquiries to other employees for follow up. The inquiry function could be improved with a drill down to customer details. To reach the customer detail and access customer information, the user is forced to change the screen to the address book.

A 360 degree view provides information on all customers with related contacts and activities, history, notes, opportunities, and logs, which can also be filtered from a drop down menu. This view provides plenty of information, but due to a lack of sufficient space, the navigation can become slightly confusing.

From task creation to opportunity definition, the sales module enables users to proceed with their daily activities following preset sales strategies for team selling. Opportunities are shown and scrutinized in a variety of ways. The product is bundled for business intelligence reporting with Crystal Reports and while there are a myriad of report choices that display information, including showing and scrutinizing opportunities, the industry standard sales funnel graphical display is not available.

The Marketing Automation Module

The marketing automation is a wizard-based module with functions to create both traditional and automated campaigns. The "Campaign Opened Email Tracking URL" feature tracks the number of e-mails that are opened under an automated campaign and the "Campaign Redirect URL" feature tracks the number of customers that hit the web site in response to an automated campaign URL. This is a valuable feature because it allows marketing professionals to closely monitor the results after a campaign and facilitates return on investment (ROI) calculation. The solution also complies with both US and Canadian public privacy acts by having a remove subscriber URL used to unsubscribe customers from an automated e-mail campaign and a "do not solicit" field that can be updated in the customer detail screen. Campaigns are created around teams for which campaign designers can assign roles and automatically distribute work to different members of the team. All roles are associated with relevant process steps and are assigned to work team members. However, in order to do this, the user must navigate through a multitude of unrelated screens.

The Customer Service and Support Module

The customer service module allows customer cases to be created and resolved by referring to similar cases and their solutions in a searchable knowledge base. However, the navigation requires the user to exit the case context and review similar cases and case solutions in the knowledge base sub-module. Some workflow automation is already built into the module, which is particularly suited for a customer service unit where rules regarding case resolution can serve to reinforce escalations and notifications.

Maximizer Enterprise 8 is available with preconfigured reports, designed specifically to help customer service and support managers in monitoring overdue cases, in addition to providing case workload analysis and case queue analysis, which permit managers to optimize and monitor the productivity of their customer service reps. Customer support issues can be tracked more efficiently via the generation of trouble tickets. Maximizer Software feels this makes it easier for customer service representatives to find the information they need to more quickly respond to customer questions.

Additional Components

Maximizer Enterprise 8 also comes with KnowledgeSync, which automates responses to critical business activities. KnowledgeSynch was created by Vineyardsoft, the provider of Maximizer Software's workflow automation engine, and this appears to be a popular choice among other CRM solutions such as GoldMine, SalesLogix, and Siebel.

Maximizer Enterprise 8 is also available as an e-CRM suite providing accessibility to employees, suppliers, and customers through specialized portals. These portals appear identical to the Maximizer Enterprise 8 desktop interface and employees therefore have only to learn one application. These portals are built on .NET technology and supported features include viewing all address book information; adding notes and tasks; viewing all aspects of opportunities; and viewing, adding, and making modifications in the address book or hot list, as well as a host of configuration capabilities.

A part of this new release includes an improved QuickBooks accounting link where users can create quotes, invoices, and view a customer's credit history. The link can be configured locally as well as through a client/server mode. Users are not required to be licensed QuickBooks users.

Vendor and User Recommendations

Despite the past four years of IT economic downturn, the SMB competitive environment, and the countless mergers and acquisitions, Maximizer Software has succeeded in sustaining its corporate independence and horizontal product development in addition to maintaining profitability over the last six consecutive quarters. While some big conglomerates representing what used to be known as independent, SMB solutions have brought in massive marketing budgets leaving marginal space for direct competitors, other independent vendors have chosen a specific niche, exploited it through specialization, and experienced some success.

As far as the horizontal solution (mass market) providers are concerned, differences between offerings have become marginal. The vendor reputation among the user community is what is left to differentiate one solution from another. Maximizer Software still needs to strengthen its US presence through strategic alliances with VARs and channel resellers.

While Maximizer Enterprise 8 does offer industry templates and is well known for its ease of customization, buyers today are very demanding and require "best fit" solutions that call for minimum customization to accommodate their workflow. An option could be to follow in the footsteps of MS CRM, which allows independent software vendors (ISV) to build flavors and industry specifics on top of the core MS CRM application platform, thereby satisfying specific market demands.

The Maximizer Enterprise 8 offering directly competes with ACT! Premium, GoldMine Corporate Edition, SalesLogix, and Onyx. When compared with ACT! and GoldMine, Maximizer Software's products boast richer functionality, while offering a lower total cost of ownership, based on a lower price and ease of customization than SalesLogix and Onyx.

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