Enterprise Software

The best of the mid-market CRM vendors

How do the mid-market CRM vendors match up? Hurwitz Group analyst Sharon Ward outlines the pros and cons of the leading CRM vendors that cater to smaller organizations.

If you need a tool to help you manage new leads for your remote sales force and to ensure your employees have the latest information about every customer transaction and interaction, the time has come for you to consider implementing a CRM solution. But as a midsize company, your organization doesn’t have the resources to throw at an expensive rollout and know-it-all consultants. How do you sort through all of the hype and narrow your vendor short list?

Before you solicit requests for proposals (RFPs), sort through the hype and narrow your vendor list. Here are some vendors that offer CRM products geared toward the small and mid-size market.

Appealing to the needs of the midmarket
As the Global 2000 companies’ appetite for CRM became satiated in the last few years, many software companies that were formerly focused only on the high-end redirected their efforts to the midmarket.

For example, about 70 percent of software giant Oracle’s sales in the last few years have been to midsize companies. But for Oracle, competing in the midmarket involved more than just redirecting their sales force. Oracle not only developed a fast implementation methodology that enables companies to get the application up and running quickly, but they also priced their offering to appeal to the leaner midmarket budgets.

How the leading vendors match up
Oracle offers a variety of deployment options. From the innovative OracleSalesOnline.com, an Internet-based sales-force automation (SFA) product introduced earlier this year, to traditional on-site deployment, Oracle covers all the bases. If you currently use Oracle applications or if you’re looking to ease your integration woes, you owe it to yourself to check out their CRM offering.

SAP’s MySAP product is also making inroads in the midmarket. MySAP can shield users from the legendary intricacy of R/3, and SAP’s rapid implementation scheme has enabled some midsize companies to go live in as little as 90 days. SAP’s recent “microvertical” strategy of developing solutions targeted to very specialized niche industries also speeds deployment by providing unique functionality, terminology, and best practices for these verticals.

The success of titans Oracle and SAP doesn’t mean, however, that those companies that have always focused on the midmarket are being driven out. California-based Epicor has a solid offering in Clientele, and Swedish company IFS is making a good name for itself in the United States with IFS Front Office. Atlanta-based MAPICS is also seeing success from its NT/UNIX offering, Point.Man, an ERP system designed with the customer as its focus.

The pros and cons of midmarket CRM vendors

Integrating CRM with your existing ERP system
If you already have an ERP system and don’t want to replace it, several midmarket CRM-only companies have broad, flexible products that can be easily interfaced to ERP systems.

FrontRange Solutions (formerly Goldmine) is one company that has always been focused on the small to midsize company. The company realized early on the strategic importance of a broad product offering and has recently taken steps to diversify its offering by acquiring Maestro (e-business solutions) and Heat (help desk solutions). These products have been quickly integrated with Goldmine’s SFA capabilities to provide an inexpensive, flexible product with broad functionality.

Interact, another midmarket vendor, boasts one of the largest install bases in the CRM space. They provide two solutions, SalesLogix and ACT. While ACT functions more as a contact manager, SalesLogix is a full-fledged sales-force automation tool, with integrated graphics and WAP capabilities.

Help desk or customer support solutions
If a help desk or support solution is what you really need, eAssist offers a great low-cost solution targeted to the midmarket. They have experience taking clients ”from the dial tone to the Web tone” by upgrading clients’ support functions to handle multichannel customer communication. Their application is available either hosted or nonhosted.

For small to midsize call center solutions, Braxtel, an import from Dublin, Ireland, with U.S. headquarters in Marlborough, MA, is a good choice. Miami-based CELLIT Technologies also offers an excellent, affordable midmarket call center solution that is entirely Web-based.

Whether you’re looking to replace all your business systems while bringing on CRM, or whether you want to interface one or more CRM products to your existing systems, your choices are more numerous than ever before. The first critical step in choosing a new CRM system is to define clearly what you want to achieve with it. Next, ensure that the vendors on your short list can help you get there and that they have implementation and support experience with similar companies.

Sharon Ward is Director of Enterprise Business Applications at Hurwitz Group. She has more than 15 years of software industry experience and 20 years of manufacturing operations expertise.

Start a discussion below or e-mail us a short case history of how you chose your CRM vendor. Was your effort successful? What problems have you faced? How did you solve them? Would you do anything differently now that you know the outcome?

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