Best Software Unveils Triple-Barrel Midmarket CRM Strategy

Best Software revealed plans to take more CRM market share in the small- and midsize business markets at its annual Insights conference, held in Orlando, FL, last week. A three-tier approach to CRM software and a new foray into hosted CRM led the agenda.

Best already owns SalesLogix and ACT!, but acquired a third suite in ACCPAC CRM earlier this year. Best plans to position ACCPAC CRM as a middle ground between ACT! and SalesLogix, but has yet to announce a timetable for migration tools to help users transfer data from ACT! to ACCPAC CRM, or from ACCPAC CRM to SalesLogix, as users business needs grow. Best executives repeatedly presented a tiered view, with little overlap, of the company's three offerings in the CRM space.

In the real world, however, the transitions may not play out so cleanly. "The divisions are very artificial," says Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager at The Yankee Group. Furthermore, Best did not directly address the disconnect between its view of SalesLogix as a "small enterprise" solution, when new SalesLogix implementations average under 20 seats.

Perhaps most crucial to Best's overall CRM strategy is its decision to position ACCPAC CRM head-to-head with Salesforce.com in the hosted market. "Right now we are losing nine of 10 hosted opportunities to Salesforce.com. We think we can win seven of 10 with ACCPAC CRM," says Bob Neeser, SalesLogix vice president of sales. Effective immediately Best will sell ACCPAC CRM through its SalesLogix channel, including the assignment of resellers to any direct hosting sales the company makes with ACCPAC (both to bolster enthusiasm among the Best reseller base and to provide resources for tailoring the ACCPAC CRM configuration to the individual customer). Because ACCPAC runs on a Web-based architecture, whether it is installed locally or offered as a hosted service, the company boasts that it provides the only truly seamless transition between in-house and hosted CRM software.

SalesLogix was not forgotten, however, and version 6.2 was unveiled at the conference. It includes support for Windows user profiles, expanded customer service capabilities, a new sales process engine, and expanded opportunity views. According to Jon van Duyne, SalesLogix general manager, a wireless version and improved Web architecture is a high priority for version 7. Meanwhile, ACT! will receive an upgrade that allows for larger workgroups and integrates better with a wider range of small-business accounting packages.

Several speakers at the Insights conference mentioned the importance of reducing reliance on Microsoft software architecture, but specific details for implementing this strategy were difficult to come by. One notable exception is ACCPAC CRM, which will soon be available in a version that runs on the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server.

Best CEO Ron Verni went to great lengths to address his company's differences from Microsoft, which he sees as Best's primary competitor in the small- to midsize-business software space. "We don't build XBoxes, and we don't sell consumer software," Verni said.

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