The 2007 Market Awards: Small Business Suite CRM

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The Market The themes of this past year have been partnership and verticality. NetSuite's three mobility partnerships and Salesforce.com's team-up with Google AdWords are just two of the more interesting partnerships, while Sage Software, NetSuite, Salesforce.com, and Microsoft all announced one or more vertical specializations since our last round of awards. Curiosity is running high as the industry watches to see who will have the most rounded offerings--and the most focused ones. Small Business Suite CRM: The Chart
One to Watch This year's One to Watch, FrontRange GoldMine, was one of last year's leaders. Analysts who chose to rate its offering gave a decent 3.0 average, but there were too few--several analysts were uncomfortable rating GoldMine at all, citing unfamiliarity with its recent activities. "User comments in our 2007 study feel that the distance between GoldMine and the other CRM systems is increasing," Dickie says. FrontRange may not be off the leaderboard for long; GoldMine Enterprise Edition hit early this year, and with it, says Alan Hubbard, senior vice president and research director, customer service and support, at Aberdeen Group, "FrontRange has a clear strategy for both small and midsized businesses." The Leaders Maximizer Software, last year's category winner, managed a good showing in company direction this year, offset by apparent ratings losses in functionality and customer satisfaction. "Maximizer continues to field a strong packaged CRM suite for small businesses, offering them good value, easy to use solutions, and good integration capabilities," says Laurie McCabe, vice president of SMB insights and solutions at AMI-Partners. "However, Maximizer needs to reenergize its marketing, which is not as visible as last year." Analysts also noted the lack of an on-demand or software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. Maximizer calls its remote-access options "on demand," and it's possible that this is the source of some customer frustration. Last year's One to Watch, Microsoft Dynamics CRM wowed analysts with its company direction, earning the category's highest score. "Customer reviews are up," says Jim Dickie, partner at CSO Insights. "The product is definitely being seen as something that should at least make the short list of products to look at." Microsoft's SaaS solution, McCabe adds, "is a good step forward--although behind the market curve--as it would be tough for many small businesses to buy, install, and integrate everything they need to get full advantage of on-premise Microsoft CRM." NetSuite scored the most consistent year-over-year performance across our three main criteria. "NetSuite is a strong all-in-one front- and back-office solution spanning enterprise resource planning (ERP), accounting, and e-commerce," says Bill Band, principal analyst with Forrester Research. "With e-commerce and ERP coupled with CRM, the SMB has everything it needs without the need for expensive integration," says Andrew Boyd, research director for CRM at Aberdeen Group. McCabe calls NetSuite's overall vision "compelling," but thinks the company is "skewing up-market to the midsize business space. It needs to raise its profile in small business, and do a better job educating small-business customers about the value of a unified suite--many still don't 'get it.' " Perennial entrant Sage Software performed respectably, though with the usual analyst ding, as voiced by Jim Dickie: "Too many product offerings in one space, which is confusing customers." Fielding several CRM products at once is both a weakness and a strength: "We are impressed with the investment Sage Software continues to make in its entire CRM product portfolio and by the consolidation of their CRM products and strategy under a single general manager," says Tim Hickernell, senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group. "Their CRM strategy and positioning of the product as a part of their larger small-enterprise business software application portfolio creates a strong value proposition." However, McCabe cautions, "Sage needs to do a better job of moving their ACT! customers up to SageCRM, before the competition can get them, and making customers aware that SageCRM is available on demand." The Winner Salesforce.com returns to the winner's circle, after a brief hiatus last year. "Salesforce.com's on-demand delivery model and services-oriented architecture enables it to rapidly innovate and deploy new features, without interruption to its clients," Hickernell says. "Both its development and [its] delivery models are having a disruptive effect on the entire CRM market," Band says. Dickie says Salesforce.com regularly receives the highest customer satisfaction ratings in his firm's research. "AppExchange is seen as a great way for users to get access to lots of complementary functionality, and Salesforce.com makes the shortlist more than any other vendor," Dickie adds. McCabe notes the new lower pricing for Team Edition, and the partnership with Google AdWords. "I would like to see them do more with small-business-related partners via AppExchange to help make it easier for small businesses to understand and take advantage of newer collaborative, Web 2.0-type solutions," she says. --Marshall Lager
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