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DSC Tech Library

Contact Management Software

CRM Customer Relationship Management This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to CRM Solutions and Customer relationship management software and products. Providing customer service is vital to maintaining successful business relationships. Accurate and timely information provided in a professional manner is the key to any business and service operation. Telemation, our CRM software application, was built on this foundation. But the flexibility to change is just as important in this dynamic business environment. Telemation call center software was designed with this concept from the very beginning. That is why so many call center managers, with unique and changing requirements, have chosen and continue to use Telemation CRM software as their solution. Our Telemation CRM solution is ideally suited for call center service bureaus.

Best Software strategies for midmarket dominance

By Stacy Cowley, IDG News Service

For a company that owns two of the most widely used midmarket software packages for sales and contact management, Best Software Inc. has been a fairly low-key competitor in the market over the past few years.

While giants like Microsoft Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc. noisily launched CRM (customer relationship management) software aimed at smaller companies, and Inc. spent millions spreading its message that CRM systems should be as ubiquitous and affordable as electricity, Best stayed out of the fray. It continued on a conservative upgrade path for its SalesLogix and Act software. It spent $110 million in December to pick up another CRM technology, Accpac, but didn’t immediately address how its disparate applications would fit together into a balanced portfolio.

Now, Best says it's done being quiet. This month, the company is releasing long-awaited overhauls of SalesLogix and Act, and it's rolling out a three-tiered product strategy executives hope will make Best the premier CRM vendor for smaller organizations.

It's already a visible player: Eight-year-old SalesLogix has an installed base of 6,000 companies, and Act claims two million registered users in North America. But Irvine, California-based Best, itself a unit of British software company Sage Group PLC, built its portfolio through acquisition, and has until now had a fairly balkanized way of approaching the market.

"I don't think they're too late, but I think they could have been in a better position if they'd been more aggressive sooner," said Wendy Close, Gartner Inc.'s CRM research director. "They've been sitting on Act for years. It's like they're finally getting a wake-up call."

CRM is a broad category that can include applications serving a wide range of needs. At the smallest end of the market are contact management programs like Act and FrontRange Solutions Inc.'s GoldMine, which work well for individuals or smaller groups. One step up are systems from vendors including Onyx Software Corp., Pivotal (recently purchased by Chinadotcom Corp.) and ASPs (application service providers) like, which offer sales force automation tools along with varying levels of marketing, customer service and back-office support. SalesLogix competes in that niche. The high end of the market is dominated by enterprise software makers such as Siebel and PeopleSoft Inc., which sell pricey, complex systems for running global organizations.

While enterprise software growth has slowed, thanks to saturation, the small and medium-business market is a field of untapped possibilities. Research firm Gartner expects the high end of the market -- companies with more than 5,000 employees -- to grow less than 1 percent annually over the next few years. But in the small end of the market, of companies with fewer than 100 employees, Gartner forecasts 15 percent annual growth, with companies of several hundred employees also showing significant CRM investment expansion.

It's those small and midmarket companies Best woos, by offering them a range of products to choose from. Next week, the company will launch Act's first major update in two years, adding more advanced sales features and tools intended to make Act more of an entry point to full-fledged CRM.

"Part of the overall strategy for evolving Act is to create an easier stepping-off point for Act customers to either Accpac or SalesLogix," said Joe Bergera, who joined Best in June as senior vice president and general manager of contact management solutions.

Meanwhile, Best delivered earlier this month SalesLogix version 6.2, an update expanding SalesLogix's customer service features and integrating them with its sales tools. The new version also significantly improved the software's Web version.

Both are changes customer Chris Florko, CRM administrator for Tucson, Arizona, software maker TCI Solutions Inc., said were sorely needed.

"It was time," said Florko, who supports 70 users on the software. "There are a lot of minor improvements, and the changes in the Web client were huge. We have some remote people who just use the Web client. That wasn't a good option on the earlier version, since there was a lot of functionality they wouldn't get. Now it's pretty complete."

SalesLogix General Manager Jon Van Duyne calls the new update one of the deepest in SalesLogix's history. The new version spent seven months in beta testing, as the company sought to address a number of customer requests.

Van Duyne is also overseeing Best's stewardship of Accpac, which the company is in the process of working out its strategy for. Best plans to push Accpac primarily as a hosted CRM offering, to fill that gap in its portfolio.

" carved out a hosted market space. We know there are deals they have won that we weren't even asked to," Van Duyne said. "Now, we're going to beat them, with Accpac."

Best hasn’t yet set a price for Accpac, which it plans to relaunch later in the year. The company doesn't see Accpac stealing share from the more-expensive SalesLogix because of the software's different functionality: While SalesLogix can be modified extensively and requires some customization work to deploy, Accpac is best used "right out of the box," Van Duyne said.

Analyst Wendy Close said Accpac doesn't have's flexibility -- but it does have accounting and e-commerce features lacks. She sees it as a good addition to Best's line-up.

A number of the company's channel partners say they like Best's Accpac addition and the multitiered strategy the company is developing to address the midmarket.

One long-time SalesLogix reseller and services firm, Technology Advisors Inc. in Des Plaines, Illinois, was in the process of partnering with Accpac when Best bought Accpac.

"We were looking for something to compete with, which did not then have a channel program," said Chief Executive Officer Sam Biardo. "We were impressed with Accpac's underlying technology -- you get a little bit more than from Salesforce, for less money."

Technology Advisors has a half-dozen customers interested in Accpac, some of whom are already running trial projects, Biardo said. The company also works with customers on deploying and extending Act, and Biardo said he's pleased Best is setting up a better migration path between Act and SalesLogix.

"We’ve always seen SalesLogix as Act's big brother," he said. "One-third of our customers were Act upgrades. It fills the 30-seats-and-under market very nicely."

Biardo also partners with Microsoft to sell Microsoft CRM. Microsoft is the circling shark in the midmarket: Right now, it's selling 18-month-old software most say is too rudimentary for users looking for more than contact management. But no one doubts that Microsoft will eventually be a powerful CRM competitor.

"We haven't sold any (Microsoft CRM) in the last year," Biardo said. "It's not ready yet, but it's a great product. It'll be formidable in a year."

Gartner's Close thinks Microsoft's CRM arrival has helped Best in the short term. "Microsoft created so much buzz around the market," she said. "People thought, 'If Microsoft offers it, it must be important; CRM has arrived.' But (Microsoft's) product is missing all kinds of basic functionality like data cleansing and de-duplicating."

Still, Microsoft will eventually fill out its product, and Best will need to move quickly to keep its lead. "Best has got to step up the pace," Close said. "They've got to become more aggressive on technology and add more features and functionality."

They're starting to get that message. "They've really invested in the new products," said Steve Chipman of Lexnet Consulting Group, a San Francisco services firm that sells SalesLogix and Act and is adding Accpac to its skill set.

"We have access now to more of (Best's) overall marketing resources, and we're starting to benefit from their marketing," Chipman said. "We're seeing an uptick in interest."

Best's Van Duyne said the company knows it's at a tipping point.

"The medium- and small-business community is far more mature now in its understanding of CRM than it has been in the past. If we had done all this kind of stuff two years ago, it probably would have been over-investment. I'm not sure how much it would have sold," he said. "Now, we’re ready to take the gloves off."