Surado! A Rising Mid-market CRM Provider

Event Summary

Surado, a Riverside, CA company, has been in operation since 1995 and thus far can be considered a deep-rooted mid-market solution provider. Surado CRM comes loaded with features that cover most SMB's CRM needs. The software is quite easy to install and to customize. Surado's Web self-service module based on Microsoft .NET technology and Surado Integration Module 2.0 provide the means to integrate third party back-office applications and give it an advantage over the more traditional stand-alone CRM applications. Surado's CRM solutions are recognized both nationally and internationally, and provide solutions to vertical markets such as financial services, healthcare, government, manufacturing, and high-tech. The CRM Evaluation Center scores Surado CRM high in many functional areas, against other mid-market software vendors such as Saratoga, Microsoft CRM, Epicor, and Commence Corporation.

Cheryl McCarthy, Surado's Executive Vice President claims that three major objectives in creating the product line were ease of use, quick implementation, and affordability. Beyond basic sales force and marketing automation functionality, Surado CRM provides an integration module they claim eases customization and connectivity with other back office systems, an automatic synchronization (Always-In-Sync) between mobile users and servers, and a module for synchronization with Microsoft Exchange.

Product Definition and Market Impact

Through the guided installation of Surado CRM, the user gets to answer a series of questions that define the basic customization, for example, importing all your contacts, tasks, and calendar appointments from MS Outlook. Users can start running the software in a matter of minutes. There is no need to be a programmer to go through a few simple steps to personalize the interface with custom fields and generate automated business rules.

Although they are insufficient to be considered as vertical modules, preset templates covering areas such as real estate, financial services, life insurance, and more could help facilitate vertical integration. If the user operates principally in the USA, an auto-completion feature can add the zip code to an address automatically. The marketing automation module features permission-based campaign management, across multiple channels including phone, direct mail, Web, wireless devices, e-mail, and direct sales. Leads generated from marketing campaigns can be assigned directly or through an automated workflow to sales teams accessible through the SFA module. Marketing campaigns can be created based on time periods, target audience, and channels.

The Analytics module, although it is more of a reporting tool rather than an on-line analytical processing (OLAP) engine, provides key indicators on campaigns' return on investment (ROI) and opportunities driven by each campaign source.

The Sales Automation module has all the bells and whistles an SFA tool can offer but through its integration with back office inventory and product databases, users are better empowered to create quotes. For mobile users, activities and to-dos can be synchronized with most popular PDAs.

Surado CRM also provides its Customer Service module for help desk and support environments. Both CSRs and Sales representatives can share customer details since there is a single repository for data. The workflow once again fulfills its role to allow rule-based escalation and notification. In addition, Surado's release of its computer telephony integration (CTI) module, based on Intel's NetMerge CT ADE, scheduled for 1st Quarter of 2004, with support for all major telephone switches, will allow a true automated support call center.

Some of the Customer Service module features are a referral tracking system, definitely a smart feature to set up relationships between contacts and to identify strategic alliances for cross selling and up selling; the user interface provides a hierarchical view (tree based model) of all companies with their contacts, and custom fields can be imported and exported from and to other applications. The learning curve to both manage and operate the application should be quite short and thus decrease the cost of ownership. On the down side, the user interface, built on a proprietary design, does not provide a context sensitive right mouse click, which would be much appreciated.

On the technology side, Surado has first confined its application to Microsoft .NET and SQL technology, certainly not an open source architecture. In the upper portion of the mid-market, many potential customers have UNIX based server platforms and carry IBM DB2 or Oracle database systems. Nevertheless, Surado confirms that development for IBM DB2 and Oracle 9 support is underway. Surado's move should open the door to more sales opportunities in the larger businesses.

Surado Strategy and User Recommendations

The Web Self-Service module is Surado's first step in moving toward a web-based application. In its current version, the module provides a web interface for users and customers to access their existing profiles and be able to modify data depending on the permissions granted. The web-based interface also allows users to submit trouble tickets and follow-up on the ticket resolutions or use a knowledge base to search for similar tickets and resolutions. The web server provides for real time submission of all changes to the CRM database.

The administrative view provides a means for setting up process rules, e-mail responses, and alerts. Tickets could thus be assigned to the proper individual with a load-balancing feature that routes tickets based on urgency.

The Self-Service module also allows customers to use the system as a secure login gateway to customer portal sites dedicated for their clients only.

Surado's Web Self-Service module extends the accessibility of the client/server version. Market demand though, is growing towards comprehensive e-CRM applications and portals. A fully web oriented application could represent the right path for Surado to take. Cheryl McCarthy seems to confirm this vision. Surado is also planning to enhance its customer service module and have it linked to telephony systems by including its CTI integration in a future release. The same approach applies to Surado's Analytics module that is poised to integrate predictive modeling and other analytical capabilities into future releases. In addition to a well-positioned pricing scheme, Surado could be considered in the near future as a serious mid-market competitor to bigger players such as Onyx, Epiphany, Amdocs/Clarify, and Pivotal.

Now the real question is: can the software vendor sustain its price and ease of use advantage as it continues to increase in sophistication like other upper market applications?

Surado's marketing module together with its enhanced Analytics module should promise the company a strong CRM positioning since there are huge untapped opportunities for business improvement, customer predictability, and increased niche marketing. Organizations are poised to better coordinate their marketing programs and campaigns thus creating demand for marketing automation suites that include analytics.

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