and ACT! Officially Branded As Best Software
- July 30, 2002
Part 2: Challenges and User Recommendations
the beginning of July, Best Software, one of the leading business
management products and services providers for small and mid-size organizations,
announced that Interact Commerce Corporation's popular ACT! contact
management and SalesLogix customer relationship management (CRM)
solutions will join Best Software thereby creating its CRM Division.
The company believes the move should further strengthen its position as
a leading provider of front-office/back-office business management solutions
for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). Interact Commerce Corporation
and Best Software were operating as sister organizations in the US under
their the UK-based parent company, The Sage Group plc (LSE: SGE.L),
one of the leading worldwide suppliers of business management solutions
and services for small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs). The new division
joins Best's four existing Mid-Market, Small Business, Specialty
Products and Nonprofit/Government Divisions.
is Part Two of a two-part analysis of Best Software. Part
One discussed the Market Impact of recent announcements.
at positioning, about less than one fifth of the entire Sage client base
is in the manufacturing industry, while the rest of its business and products
are aimed very successfully at the customers with prevailing needs for
accounting, HR/payroll and financials. Still, Sage does have a notable
SME manufacturing customer base, particularly at the lower end of the
spectrum. Rounding out Best Software's offerings should allow the vendor
to solidify its position in its target market. Whereas other vendors such
as Epicor Software and Microsoft have been trying to move
up-market, Best will likely maintain its focus on the lower-end of the
the company sells almost entirely through value added resellers (VARs)
as per Great Plains' and Navision's business model. The
company has particularly found certified public accountants (CPAs) to
be very effective in marketing its bottom-of-the-range of accounting products.
At the enterprise level, niche markets and vertical applications are developed
by more than a hundred of MAS 90/200 licensed Master Developers. Best's
VARs have a reputation for relatively low-cost implementations often with
equal service and software license costs (due to the implementation methodology
and business templates) and with a go-live within 60 days period, although
in part this reflects the smaller scope of implementations too. One has
also to remember Sage's widespread global coverage as to discern the company's
true position within the global SME market.
former acquisition of Interact will have given pause to Microsoft Great
Plains/Navision, Epicor, as well as to Siebel Systems, Oracle,
SAP, Baan, J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft that
have overtly been targeting the SME for some time. Sage had long needed
CRM functional capabilities, and it might have hit the bull's eye with
Interact Commerce. The two vendors have indeed marshaled a powerful back-office
and front-office systems' combination to the market for SMEs.
downside, as a rule, is the painstaking integration effort yet to be devised
for a number of remaining products in the Sage/Best family and to be subsequently
exerted. The mitigating factor for already integrated products was the
fact that erstwhile Sage and then SalesLogix had long formed the product
alliance, so the integration task had not started from scratch. However,
this might not be the case for the rest of the product portfolio, and
as integration is never a simple feat anyway despite SalesLogix' proverbial
Open CRM' initiative and a number of mid-market ERP product alliances
and subsequent product integration experiences (deals with Exact Macola,
Intuitive Manufacturing Systems, and Expandable Software
being some, as a matter of interest). A quite similar situation exists
with the Abra HR/Payroll product that, likewise SalesLogix in the CRM
market, has a prominence in the SME HR market, and has been used via many
OEM or any other arrangements by a slew of vendors.
Software will still have to address other challenges in order to continue
to thrive in this ruthless competitive environment. The competition is
flying from many directions since the company competes in many diverse
markets. To that end, in the traditional back-office market, the threat
comes from the likes of Intuit and AccountMate in the small
business accounting market, via its peers (e.g., Microsoft Great Plains,
Navision, ACCPAC, Exact Software, Epicor, SunSystems
and Scala to name only some), to the Tier 1 vendors storming down
the market. In the pure HR/Payroll mid-market, its archrivals have long
been ADP, Employease, Ultimate Software, Agresso,
and Lawson, while in the pure-CRM mid-market, that would be the
likes of Onyx, Pivotal, Kana, Salesforce.com
and FrontRange. Not to mention that SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft and
J.D. Edwards will likely be faced in all the above markets as well.
the wealth of corporate names and a likely unwieldy slew of products within
each of Sage's divisions and groups, presents sales and marketing confusion
for the company, both internally and externally across the globe. For
instance, while the Best brand will be applicable for the North American
market, Sage offers for the other international markets a line of products
for small business comparable to the above-mentioned Best's line (e.g.,
Instant Accounting for a single user, Line 50 (for up to
5 users), Line 200 (5-25 users) and Line 500 (up to 1,000
users, f.k.a. Sage Enterprise).
Sage has a myriad of products in its portfolio that could benefit from
integration with ACT! and/or SalesLogix, and the company must clearly
articulate its plans and the timeline for integration for each of its
products. Otherwise or it may face confusion and/or anxiety amongst both
its current and potential customers as well as within its VARs. That would
be the music to its direct competitors' ears, some of which have already
(or all but) rounded up their CRM offering after daunting integration
experiences (see Mid-Market
ERP Vendors Doing CRM & SCM In A DIY Fashion and Epicor
Claims The Forefront Of CRM.NET-ification).
for functional enhancements remains too, despite some of the products'
leading positions. To that end, Abra Suite v 7.0 will ship in October
with a number of enhancements, including modules for open enrollment and
timesheet entry, both of which supplement its existing web-enabled employee
self-service and alerts modules. Also, Best will have to build or acquire
additional CRM functional enhancements (e.g., database-based marketing
management, data mining/analytics, and support for field service) to round
out a complete CRM suite. Not to mention the need to bolster external/field
service and multilingual capabilities, well beyond English and Spanish.
vendor has also been working on extending its coverage of factory processes,
especially in terms of job- costing and project-based manufacturing and
of more advanced planning capabilities areas that Best Enterprise Suite
already addresses well. It also intends to build on its web integration
side as to bolster its private trade exchange (PTX) and/or collaborative
role-based portal solutions strategy and delivery. The company only recently
extended its reach in the professional service automation (PSA) area,
with additional enhancements to Best Enterprise Suite that should make
it competitive with the above-mentioned peers.
target market, single- and multi-site and multi-national light manufacturing
companies and their satellite subsidiaries with up to $250 million-a-year
revenue range, should consider the company's value proposition, but avoid
selecting it without looking at what the other vendors have to offer.
These companies generally are rapidly growing and agile but have a limited
IT budget/staff, a conformist IT strategy (a staunch Microsoft shop),
and solid to order' manufacturing, distribution, CRM and B2B e-commerce
collaboration requirements. Certainly, for SMEs that have long been using
one of Sage's/Best's products for financials or HR/Payroll, Best Enterprise
should continue to be seen as a logical, but not necessarily the only
at industry sectors, the company covers financial, distribution, manufacturing
and service sectors. Preferred manufacturing styles are make-to-order
(MTO), make-to-stock (MTS), and configured products/assemble to order
(ATO) in discrete and semi-batch manufacturing processes. Where it does
target vertical sectors they would include textiles, furniture, automotive,
pharmaceuticals, electronics, food and steel stock holdings via third-party
add-ons and resellers' functional additions. Small and mid-size batch
process manufacturers should look at Best Mid-Market Division's BatchMasterPFW,
a recently acquired comprehensive process manufacturing package.
we believe that the above intra-company merger should be synergistic in
the long run, some outstanding integration issues, and discontinuation
of redundant products are always to be expected. Consequently, until the
internal restructuring is consummated, users evaluating the above individual
products should exercise moderate caution, keep themselves informed, and
consider generally available (GA) functionality only.
clients should conduct preliminary research on the industry expertise
and reference accounts of regional offices or affiliate service providers
of merged companies in case. Existing non-Sage/Best users of SalesLogix
and/or ACT! should clarify their support status and the long-term product
development and migration strategy with CRM Division management. Customers
adopting the first integrated product lines should anticipate significant
changes in later versions of the products.
users of earlier product releases that run on UNIX and Oracle database
may benefit from querying the company's future product technology strategy,
product migration path, service & support, and/or scalability strategy,
given the company's continued Microsoft-centric strategy.