Gunfight on the CRM Frontier

Sage and Great Plains sounds like a new Clint Eastwood movie -- but this here's a CRM yarn. Indeed, a showdown is brewing between The Sage Group plc and Microsoft's Great Plains Software, in the battle over untamed CRM territory. Today, CRM software specialist Interact Commerce (acquired by The Sage Group last year) joined forces with mid-market accounting software vendor Best Software, a sister group, to form a CRM division inside of Best Software. The Best Software CRM division will go head-to-head with Great Plains Software, a mid-market ERP vendor developing CRM software for release later this year. The Most Wanted, in this case, is a frontier of un-served customers. "There are almost six million companies needing CRM in the SMB and mid-market segment," said Karen Smith, research director of CRM at Aberdeen Group, in a statement. The Sage Group plans to sell CRM products -- Interacts' ACT! contact management and SalesLogix products -- to an installed base of nearly three million customers around the world, and specifically to Best Software's 1.6 million customers in the U.S. While The Sage Group's products have been on the market for a while, a newly consolidated CRM division delivers a compelling marketing message. "Best Software will now be able to deliver CRM, integrated accounting for commercial and non-profit organizations, business management, HR/Payroll and fixed asset solutions to small and mid-sized organizations, enabling the company to continue to penetrate and gain market share among SMBs," said Smith. Interact, which has 400 employees and is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., will lose its name but continue to operate in much the same way, collaborating closely with Best Software's other sales and product groups. Moreover, Tim Fargo, general manager of Best's CRM division and former manager of Interact, says the announcement gives The Sage Group the drop on Microsoft, which hasn't even delivered a CRM product yet. Interact has enjoyed strong market penetration so far: SalesLogix has 4,000 customers, and ACT! with 12,000 corporate customers. Interact's products and Best Software's accounting offerings are already integrated in various ways, Fargo claims. As for the competition, "In general, we have a high regard and strong respect for Microsoft and their Great Plains organization, but they've got a formidable job ahead," Fargo says. "We're the only company with a full feature set in the front office and a complete solution in the back office, for the SMB market." Great Plains Software was unavailable for comment. Nevertheless, only time will tell if SMB CRM is big enough for the both of them.
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