The tyranny of choice in CRM configuration
If you are in the market for a CRM solution, you will ignore Salesforce.com at your own peril.
Salesforce.com has an awesome product; flexible, customizable for many uses and markets. Salesforce has a plethora of add-ons you can pick from their partners (Appexchange); to enhance the product functionalities.
Salesforce changed the way we think of buying and using enterprise software, particularly sales and marketing automation products; all others who have followed Salesforce in that space have been largely following the same model of configuring and pricing their solutions. You pick what you need and pay as you go; what can be better than that?
I am not so sure the actual experience will match the expectation though; especially if you are a relatively small business with less than 20 sales/ marketing users. You see, most small businesses are, well, small. You are assuming that a surfeit of choices in the configurations, menu customizations, add-ons, license-choices etc work to their advantage. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I looked through the list of features from a few leading CRM vendors and I am sorry to say, I could not understand the relevance of many of the specs in a small business environment. See Sugar, Salesforce and Zoho. All the SAAS CRM offerings seem like the small business focus is an afterthought; so, the tendency to over-profile, over-log (have a workflow for everything) and offer an abundance of choices for customization.
What an SME or its employees want is to focus outside and not spend a substantial amount of time on logging the daily grind everyday. None of the CRM systems I have looked at, offers a respite from this workflow induced drudgery.
Let me use primarily Salesforce as an example of how the configuration and pricing works in the SAAS based CRM landscape.
An entry level package is offered for virtually no price at all (Salesforce offers one for USD 5 per user licence per month) with little better functionality than Outlook contact manager. Okay so, it is cheap. It is not apparent to me, however, if it does anything useful.
This is available for 1-2 users; more than that and you need to move to a higher priced license, costs 25 USD per user per month but will not add much to functionality except integrate with a webform for lead capture, tracking sales opportunities and running sales reports. Upto 5 users only. Hmm..
You want to add email marketing and a facility to send unlimited emails and remove restrictions on the number of users? No problems. There is a package at 65 USD per user per month. This also does Campaign Management (though, this seems to be a limited time promotion valid till 31st Dec, 2009).
Let’s not worry so much about the Enterprise (USD 125 per user per month) and Unlimited editions of Salesforce (250USD per user per month) as I do not expect small businesses to be interested.
Now, each of the above packages come with severe storage limits. When you pay USD 65 (Rs 3200/ approximately) per user per month; you are allowed only 20MB of usage space per user. Pay more to upgrade storage as your contact bases increase. How does your storage needs increase? Everytime you use a CRM system, you store details of the transaction including, call logs, literature, quotes.
And, what do you get for the money? Confusion. A list of features you are never going to use; a bunch of workflows which will ensure that you spend all your day on the software rather than meeeting customers and getting the job done. Bah!