Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Major players in the On-demand CRM field

On-demand CRM can be likened to a disruptive technology that proves its usefulness over a period of time and finally is there to stay. On-demand solutions offer good value to the customers, which is why companies such as Microsoft and Oracle are now joining the established players such as Salesforce.com.

On-demand CRM provides enterprises with the opportunity to concentrate on their core-competencies and let the hosted provider take care of the maintenance and technical aspects. According to research firm IDC, the on-demand CRM was of $ 4.2 billion in 2004 and will rise to $ 10.7 billion by 2009.

As against on-premise solutions, on-demand solutions are easier and quicker to install. The process of installing and deploying a traditional CRM can be a long-drawn process that may take anywhere between nine to twenty-four months. It begins with the purchasing of the required hardware, enlisting the help of professionals for configuring the hardware, setting up a data center, configuring routers, and making arrangements for backups.

mySAP does not provide functionalities such as quotation management, generation of product forecasts, customization capabilities for adding new fields and menu items. On the positive side, mySAP offers a fairly lenient contract that requires commitment for only 18 to 24 months from the customer. Clients can cancel their contracts and gain a complete refund without any penalty, the on-demand mySAP will have an upgrade cycle of 90 days, which is more frequent as compared to the on-premise version. The on-demand version of mySAP is available at $ 75 per month for a minimum of a 100 users.

Salesforce.com is one of the foremost proponents of on-demand CRM technology. Salesforce.com registered a growth of 83.7 percent in its sales for 2005 as compared to 2004. Salesforce.com has also launched AppExchange, which is an application-sharing directory and service intended to improve on-demand CRM. AppExchange will enable companies to develop CRM suites and business application functionalities without having to install software. AppExchange comes with connectors for SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems, and Oracle.

Salesforce.com does not charge a listing fee from individuals and companies that wish to provide their software through AppExchange. The company has just announced a new service plan called Unlimited Edition that will offer support for programs created by customers or other programmers and used through AppExchange. According to Salesforce, this will enable companies to access all their software on-demand. The basic Salesforce.com CRM package starts at $ 65 per user per month, the Unlimited Edition is available for $ 195 per user per month and it offers access to the complete range of Salesforce.com CRM applications and AppExchange as well.

RightNow Technologies too has grown steadily and revenues in 2005 were 40.9 percent higher than revenues from the previous year. Customers of RightNow Technologies include British Airways and John Deere. RightNow has a client roster that covers industries such as telecom, retail, education, and pharmaceuticals. Services cover the enterprise, mid-market, and small business segment and service elements include sales and marketing. The marketing-automation software provided by the company allows users to initiate campaigns across various channels and manage them easily. It makes real-time data available that enables quantification of the effectiveness of a campaign.

NetSuite CRM positions itself as the only web-based software vendor that combines e-commerce, accounting, and CRM in one offering. It targets SMBs with its product that it claims is on par with what the major vendors offered. Dashboards offered by NetSuite allow companies to access critical business information through more than seventy key performance indicators. The dashboards can be customized according to the roles to be executed by the various employees; trends are visible on the dashboard and meters track actual sales against forecasts. Tools offered by NetSuite include marketing, opportunity tracking, order management, lead conversion, forecasting, and case management. Businesses that are in collaboration can share customer and sales data through the NetSuite CRM+, which is a partner-relationship management application. The NetFlex platform introduced by NetSuite is positioned as an answer to AppExchange developed by Salesforce.com. NetFlex is web-based and it enables the development of applications such as database tables and forms.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, which was released in December 05, has Avaya, Axonom, and Cisco Systems among its partners. Siemens Communications will be integrating Microsoft's Dynamics CRM software with its contact center systems. The Microsoft CRM offering is a single-tenant model, which means that Microsoft partners can host vertical solutions; however, for an upgrade, the patch has to be made available separately to each customer. Microsoft Dynamics supports a great deal of customization so that the CRM package fits in with the company's business model. The product which enables ad hoc querying is well-knit with Microsoft Office and Outlook. A marketing-automation module allows companies to develop targeted marketing campaigns, monitor the campaigns, send bulk e-mails, and build lead lists. Various aspects of service-scheduling can be managed by the service-scheduling module. Microsoft Dynamics 3.0 is available in a Professional Edition that costs in the range of $ 622 to $ 880 per user and $ 1244 and $ 1761 per server. The prices vary as per the features that one opts for. For SMBs, the hosted solution is priced at $ 440 to $ 499 per user and the per server price is between $ 528 and $ 599.

According to some experts, Oracle has the best hosted offering in the form of Siebel CRM OnDemand. Last year, Oracle acquired Siebel in a deal worth $ 5.8 billion and in the process also obtained around 3.7 million CRM users. CRM OnDemand offers capabilities such as hosted sales-force automation, customer service capabilities, an integrated call-center that allows for the management of communication in-house and via remote channels. OnDemand Release 9 can be integrated with Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook, and IVR systems. The sales-force automation tool enables the development of various accounts within a main account; this facilitates managing interaction with large clients. The call center feature enables VoIP integration and routing of calls to cell phones and other off-premises numbers. OnDemand allows for the apportioning of calls based on the skill sets of the call center agents. Call center managers can track agent performance and guide them accordingly with the help of features such as monitoring-and-recording, offline-coaching, and conference-calls. The Oracle offering consists of CRM OnDemand and Contact OnDemand and costs $ 150 per month for a user.

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