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ISM on the CRM market and its new comparison tool

Dimitri Mantzouranis, chief marketing officer at Bethesda, Md.-based CRM consultancy ISM, Inc., recently presented a Webcast on SearchCRM called "Comparing CRM applications: Selecting the best from the rest." During the Webcast, Mantzouranis unveiled ISM's new online Compare tool. It helps companies evaluate software before making a costly investment. Time ran out before Mantzouranis could answer all of your questions, so he fielded a few after the event.

Shouldn't you optimize your business processes before choosing a CRM application?
No. If your processes work then you don't need to optimize them in order to move forward with your selection. You can optimize them as you go along. Today's CRM software is capable of addressing business process changes, in some cases, without shutting your system down. It is expected to change business processes as a business grows, but in the case of a broken process, meaning one just doesn't work, then you need to address that before making a purchase because that may impact your needs and, as a result, your choice of a CRM application. What's better for addressing your CRM needs: a CRM solution made up of two or three "best-of-breed" applications or a CRM solution based on one all-around application?
Best of breed offers greater depth in functionality and process experience. An all-around solution offers fewer integration points, lower IT and training costs and a common interface. The answer is based on your needs. If you know what your needs are and you know what the vendor offers then you can make a confident choice in the approach that meets your needs. Is it better to wait for an improved economic picture before committing to a CRM project?
When sales level off or fall you need to keep your existing customers. Customer satisfaction is key to keeping your customers. Therefore, if you can improve your customer service and cut your call center costs using CRM, then that investment will go a long way towards your company's stability. CRM becomes even more critical during economic downturns when distinguishing one's company from the competition. How important do you believe it is for a distributor or manufacturer to have front-to-back integration?
It is as important as your customers' satisfaction is to your company's future. If your front office staff (i.e., sales, marketing, customer service) needs inventory, pricing and credit information in order to assist a customer's request and this information isn't readily available, how will that impact your business? If it doesn't hurt your relationship with your customer now, it may in the future. How many columns can I add to the ISM Compare tool's comparison matrix? (i.e., how many apps/features can I compare at once?)
You can choose up to four applications at a time ,but you can choose as many of the 166 comparison criteria as you wish. What kind of impact will Microsoft have on the CRM marketplace?
Positive, in that they can play an evangelistic role to the business world and… as far as their software is concerned we are waiting for a release and when it is available in the marketplace we will review it and have it available for you in ISM Compare. How do you compare best-of-breed vendors to end-to-end vendors like PeopleSoft and Oracle?
If the application is a point solution such as a marketing automation application or a configurator tool, then we place it in the specific category. If an application addresses more than one function such as sales, customer service and customer contact center, then we place it in the CRM category (multi-functional). Are online CRM solutions such as Salesforce.com inherently better because of their lower TCO, quicker speed to implementation and a more streamlined functionality/user interface?
"Better" is defined by your business needs and technical architecture. It's not just one piece of the CRM "puzzle" that makes one choice better over the other. Is there a fee for using your Compare tool? If so, how much?
Yes there is a monthly fee per user and you can cancel at anytime. There are two versions of Compare.

The Enterprise CRM version of Compare accommodates the needs of users interested in multi-functional CRM applications. These users are in the mid- to large-sized market and are interested in automating multiple business function areas. Users can access all 15 business functions (e.g., contact management, customer service, marketing, e-business, business intelligence), technical features and user friendliness/support. The Enterprise CRM version of Compare is priced at $295 for the first month and $69 each month thereafter.

The SFA version of Compare accommodates the needs of users interested in the sales and sales management functionality of CRM. These users are in the small to mid-sized market and are mainly interested in automating their sales force. Users of the SFA version can access sales functions (e.g., contact management, account management, sales management, time management), technical features and user friendliness/support. The Enterprise CRM version of Compare is priced at $39.00 per month. None of your criteria (in Compare) seemed to deal with integration issues.
ISM Compare features the following integration criteria under Technical Features: ERP integration, point solution integration and telephony switch and/or PBX integration. What is involved in accessing the ISM guide?
Go to www.ismguide.com and click on products. It sells for $995 and includes the Top 30 CRM Reviews plus valuable chapters such as A Blueprint for Effective CRM, Creating Your Business Case and Sizing Up Your CRM Software Vendor: 12 Questions That You Need to Get Answered Before You Buy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Listen to the Webcast archive.

Users size up ISM's new online CRM guide What CRM solutions does your guide compare? Is there a comprehensive list?
Too many to list here. Please see our press release announcing the 2002 top 30. What is the time lag between new product releases and updates in your database?
We don't test beta versions. We know in advance when a product is ready for general release and therefore, we schedule a review with the vendor based on their product being made available to the public. Once we get our information we can turn it around in seven to 10 days.

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