There are lots of CRM solutions on the market. Some offer hosted only, others are on premise and of course there are alternatives for solutions that offer a combination of both.
We have long argued the benefits of Hosted CRM Software and judging by our own levels of enquiries & business along with the published figures of the largest providers, hosted CRM is increasingly popular.
All of this is great, however, as time goes by with more customers wanting to adopt CRM for the long run, consideration of Data and File storage requirements become a key factor.
I recently took a straw poll of clients and prospects to see what competitive products people are looking at when they evaluate OpenCRM. For the most part this list contained the usual suspects, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, ZohoCRM and (of course the new boy on the block) Microsoft CRM Online, so I took a look at what information is available about storage limits from these suppliers to try and gauge costs and availability.
All of the players in the mix offer different features and have a differing emphasis with their feature set, some are easier to use than others with some noticeable surprises when you look at products in depth, however, my focus during this investigation was the amount of data that you are able to store in the database and what limits are applied to file storage. I also wanted to consider the (sometimes hidden) costs.
One of the things that we are always surprised about when we review our genuine competitors are the basic features that you only get when you upgrade your edition. OpenCRM is a “one product for all” solution. You get everything we do whichever subscription you take. There is only one OpenCRM product and it is always the same! You decide how much you want to use with access to turn off elements that are not required straight away.
The majority of these competitive providers take the same upgrade approach to storage, offering you a base level that you can upgrade from as your system requirement inevitably grows. One thing you can be sure of is that your storage requirements will ONLY ever grow, so these additional storage costs need to be considered and factored into your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
Salesforce Professional and Enterprise editions offer 20MB per user for data storage and 600MB per user for files. What this means, if you have a 10 user solution, is that you will be able to store 200MB of data and 6GB of files before extra costs kick in. In practice there is a minimum allowance regardless of the number of users set at 1GB for Data and 11 GB File storage - so in this scenario you would get a minimum of 11GB with your subscription. What are the costs if you need more (I hear you ask?) Well Salesforce charge approx. £185 per GB per annum – yes that’s right, that’s what they charge for additional storage, so it’s a big number no matter how well you negotiate with the guys in Ireland or the US of A !
SugarCRM are not far behind. They ask for £125 for a GB of storage per year. They do offer different ways to reduce this cost even if some of them go against the whole concept and reasoning of having a hosted solution and not having any of the infrastructure headaches (who wants to manage data storage arrays and be responsible for the backups and restoration policies?).
Microsoft are an interesting player in the market especially since the most recent release (February 2011) of their online hosted CRM solution. They give you a 5GB organisation storage limit, data and files, and this appears to be (as there is a surprising lack of information on their website or forums) fixed and without easy published upgrade options. Because your Microsoft SkyDrive account gives each person a 25GB limit there is obviously some opportunity here for Microsoft to tie this in with the CRM accounts, however they have not done this and given that the Microsoft forums have a multitude of posts, going back over 12 months with this specific request, it would appear there is no desire to immediately deliver this option. So how much is extra storage currently? Well I don’t really know. I tried to get this information from the various sign up sites and information pages to no avail. Perhaps I did not look hard enough, maybe, but if I can’t get to the information easily pre sign up then I would doubt that other less motivated browsers would be able to find it either, maybe that’s the point, profit by obfuscation!
ZohoCRM have a much better and clearer policy, you get unlimited storage within the database (so that’s records only) and then the Professional edition offers 250MB file storage for the whole organisation. Again there is a charge for an additional 1GB of file storage albeit more modest at around £3 per month. Given the size of some of those files regardless of any data compression, you are going to need a whole load of extras GB’s! Just adding an extra 25GB of storage is going to be close to £800 a year. [Here is an illuminating Zoho forum post in respect of this subject and more interestingly the response from the developers].
I guess that leads us neatly onto what we do here at OpenCRM
All new OpenCRM subscriptions include 2TB [updated May 2011] of file store (yes that’s right I will just type that again, so you know there is not a typo - 2TB file storage) as part of your monthly subscription plan, no extras or add-ons and no hidden charges.
If you need to increase your data storage allocation (at anytime) that's fine too, another cool feature is that we can add an additional 500GB for only £15 per month with an additional 1TB and 1.5TB option at £25.00 & 32.00 respectively. So if you are wanting to stick with the same provider for a long period of time, let’s face it once you have gone through the challenges of implementation and user adoption, which is inevitable when making this type of change, who wants to be forced from the solution of their choice because of expensive storage charges. With OpenCRM you won’t have this to consider.
Click here to take a look at how OpenCRM Stacks up against the competition.
I came across this very interesting post by Ian Hendry and just had to offer a link.
In essence what Ian is saying is 'right on the money' in terms of current trends, LinkedIn has some real value, but the idea that everyone is just back slapping and recommending without any real knowledge of each other is terrible, but what I think is really funny is how Ian posts a product recommendation for a Dell Server that he admits he does not have...
If you are interested in LinkedIn and the new concept of Company pages, this will interest you, take a look here.
It goes without saying that OpenCRM would never elicit this kind of blatant product recommendation just to further our strategic goals.... but there are some that would!
One of the questions that gets asked from time to time, when looking at projects is "Who should take ownership of the CRM project, in particular the roll out phase?" On the surface, surely this should be the CRM Project Consultant, but as I discuss here, this is not entirely true, let me explain.
Of course, having a strong projects team from the CRM supplier is a must, and in our case, at OpenCRM, we put together a team of people, all with specific responsibilities, who interact to deliver the solution (more of what we do and why in a future blog article), with a lead Project Manager who will liaise directly with the client and their key personnel. But, there needs to be a CRM champion on the client side also, and it is this person in a lot of cases, that will determine the success or failure of the overall project.
We keep saying "our job is half technology management and half people management, and the people management half is the most important and usually the largest".
The CRM champion needs to be someone who has the following skills;
Quite often this is the person who has negotiated the contract and been involved with the supplier selection, although not always. It may be someone delegated this task.
OpenCRM is a great repository for all of your company data, however, its how you use this data and how its use defines and streamlines the processes that get implemented that make the real difference. Users who can see the payback, because life gets easier (agreed, after some initial pain), will become advocates of the new systems and 'sell' the ideals and best practices themselves, so the CRM champions job has a limited shelf life, although, I feel that this persons role transitions through a number of phases as a successful CRM project is delivered. Once the initial delivery is completed, there is still a need for someone to monitor and plan for the future. Having a CRM Vision should be a real goal for all forward thinking businesses, so perhaps the champion remains, its just their focus that changes?
Sales Pitch : At OpenCRM we assign a dedicated team of CRM professionals to your project, commensurate to the type of project being undertaken. Our promise is : There will always be a senior Project Manager and a dedicated Technical Contact, regardless of the size of system being undertaken.
or "Why You Shouldn’t Skimp On Professional Service"
Before I start let’s take a look at a couple of ideas:
Now we’ve got that out of the way, if you want that opportunity to groan please do it now! Yes, a good implementation of a CRM system is going to imply training. After all, you want to get the most from this incredibly useful piece of software don’t you?!
Here’s something to think about…
Imagine moving to a new town. At first it seems huge, and you spend the first couple of weeks getting lost – unless you have a map or guide to help you. And as time goes by the place becomes more and more familiar. You learn where the shortcuts are and become adept at finding your way around. One morning you wake up and the town that was once like a huge city has become a village to you. Without that guide though, you still won’t learn where are the best places to have a coffee, which shops open late on a weekend, or just how you get front row tickets to events in the local arena – if you are very lucky you’ll gather this through trial and error.
Now apply that knowledge to your CRM system. As time goes by and with an expert guide to assist you – the software city becomes a digital village, even if at first it seemed all the signs were written in a foreign language!
But without training sessions and professional service, the CRM software will not be as valuable a tool to your organisation as it should be. Chances are it will just be used as an expensive Contact Management tool. Other areas and modules will seem daunting, perhaps with terminology your organisation isn’t used to and as a result they will be ignored. Your organisation could be missing out the tools for Lead Management, running a good Campaign, or optimising Project Management. And that’s just for starters!
Sales Pitch: At OpenCRM we have a Project Management team that works hand in hand with clients in setting their system up. We also recommend our clients use the professional training services available to help them get up and running as quick as possible and to guide them through the system. Furthermore, our professional services are there whenever there is a need for a “refresher course” or to introduce new staff members to OpenCRM. A little investment in CRM education goes a long way in optimising system use.
Tracking bounced emails has always been tricky, not least because different email mailservers don't play fair!
When you send an email, your recipients (that's the guy or gal you are sending to) mail server either accepts the email or rejects it, these rejections fall into two categories - Hard and Soft bounces. As a general rule of thumb Hard bounces are the emails that don't get delivered due to permanent failure such as a wrong address or domain and soft bounces are the ones that might be temporary, perhaps the mailbox quota is full or the service is temporarily unavailable
There are a series of rules that are supposed to be followed, these include how the Header of the email is structured. Not all mail servers follow these rules and therefore we sometimes have to make an educated guess at what should happen. If we were just to rely on the 'structured correct' responses then the bounce-back statistics and management would not be accurate.
We have recently added a feature that is in the Beta testing phase which helps track bounce-backs and manage the data that is available in OpenCRM.
If you send an email to someone and the receiving mailserver rejects the email the reply that they send back explaining this (that's the bounce-back email) is scanned. We process the bounce-back using a number of rules, these are;
Is there a CRM ID TAG within the reply - often when a bounce-back email is received it has all or part of the original message. If this is the case the CRM ID TAG that we hide within the body can be found and processed.
Does the email contain the email address of the recipient - we use a number of methods to look for the recipient address. Again once when we find the appropriate information we process the mail.
What user defined rules have been set up within OpenCRM and does the email being returned contain any matches for these rules. If there is a match then the email is processed accordingly.
What does it mean when we 'process' the email?
We do a number of things when we process the email. Firstly we remove the email address from the main email field and place it in a bounce history field. This field holds the email address that has been bounced along with the type of bounce and date that the bounce happened. We also mark the record as having had an email bounce. We also update a specific field that shows if this record has been bounced (Yes/No) and the last bounce date.
If the recipient was linked to an Active Campaign then the bounce count on the Campaign is incremented as well.
There are a number of management tools you can use to see what is going on with your bounce management. You can run a Bounce Email report to see all of the bounce emails to take a closer look at what is being returned. You can also run a view of records that have been bounced as well as filtering these records over a date range.
One tip is that you can create a report within OpenCRM and schedule when this report should be run and also who should receive the report by email. This will allow you to create a single report that, for example, lists all of the bounced emails from the previous month and have this report sent to your administrator for them to deal with and follow up. This can be automated so that you can be reactive to what is required without going hunting for information.
Its what every CRM providers craves for - a CRM Champion - But WHY?
Before we even get into the implementation, having a CRM Champion onboard is such a good thing for the CRM project in general, for both sides. As a potential supplier we get a clear focused approach to the scope of the project and a level of buy in from other project members way ahead of the curve. In some cases without a Champion the job of getting the new users to buy into the adoption of OpenCRM falls to us and might only get a real airing during the training phase.
The client has a lot to thank the Champion for! They take the often difficult role of selecting a CRM Software application and do the donkey work, presenting a rounded potential supplier list, perhaps with a preferred solution highlighted, to fellow decision makers and in the process helping them with a much easier and cleaner set of criteria to make their decision by.
Who is the Champion?
Well this can be many different types of people at differing management levels.
Sometimes its one of the senior managers that will be a beneficiary of a successful implementation, perhaps the Sales Director or Support Manager, someone who will be able to leverage the right CRM choice and produce better results and greater efficiencies.
Sometimes its the most senior board member who 'just gets it' and can see what is required to move the business on, perhaps in spite of not being actively involved with any single part of the day to day operation. Sometimes its the guys on the ground who are under ever increasing pressure to deliver more, in a shorter timeframe, perhaps its a Business Development Manager wanting to increase revenue return or a Support Technician who needs to systemise how they operate to keep things fluid or an Administrator who has to quantify the businesses progress and needs a 360 degree overview.
Are you CRM Champion? If you are please give us a call, honestly if anyone knows the pressures that you are under to deliver and the expectations your team members will have for YOUR selected application, we do! Trust me, we work in this environment every day, of course its not always stressful and for the most part its a very enjoyable and rewarding process, but nevertheless we can really associate with what you are going through and we can help.
Sometimes real world events spark up a thought process that has its roots in what we do as a business but the emphasis is firmly "vapourware", one of these occurred today.
It’s my birthday and therefore I have been thinking about the future. Not in a morbid kinda way, more trying to rationalize what digital imprint I could leave behind after I am gone. I mean with Facebook, twitter and all the other digital baggage that we carry around and the obvious growth of our online digital presence, well it’s an interesting thought.
What really interested me though is how we could haunt people from the grave with this digital imprint - cool trick huh! I am gone but you can't forget me :-)
Then I got to thinking how much comfort our digital legacy can give to people still around!
A recent tragedy led to a young friends death so I have seen first-hand the comfort that has been gained from previous Facebook posts, online pictures, emails and other digital media such as YouTube, this has just confirmed the place that technology can play in helping friends and family come to terms with their loss.
So what's the future got in store that will help us build up and maintain our digital personality or legacy? (on the basis that we had one when we were alive).
I guess as we store more of ourselves in the Cloud with more and more systems able to track our interactions there will be a greater opportunity for technology to piece together an accurate facsimile of our earthly being. Facebook posts, Tweets, emails, blog posts. What about the pages we view online and the comments we make on articles. How about all those contributions we make to our communities, personal as well as business, or the GPS locations tracked and shared as we go. Also how cool would it be if we could link seamlessly all of our photos into this life timeline.
Some things may be less attractive or welcome, tracking our true achievements and recording those things we would like to remain as digital skeletons in our cloud closet, such as our financial position (both highs and lows) or relationship decisions.
In time systems will become so much more advanced that our basic avatar will become an animated 3d hologram of ourselves at a point in time which we think represents our true self (yes we could decide what others get to see), Audio will be available to reproduce how we sound with further advancements enabling us to apply Artificial Intelligence so you could hold a conversation with someone who has been gone for many years. Imagine that as a genealogist might, wow! what a way to research your family tree or converse with great minds. What a way to fully appreciate human actions so we don't forget how dumb we can be?
Maybe even what people hold on you in systems such as ours will have a small qualified part to play, who knows.
So My Cloud Spirit, good or bad, haunting or comforter, I guess there's a lot to regulate before it becomes reality or perhaps we will just let it happen without regulation, how scary would that be? Imagine a digital personality hacker, someone who can help you discredit a competitor or worse!
Anyway, anyone want to purchase a Terabyte of disc storage to start themselves off?
Over the years a large number of our clients have asked for a way to integrate their Personnel records into OpenCRM so that they can focus on a single system, helping them when dealing with Personnel activity management, you know the sort of thing, keeping a log of holidays & sickness along with the myriad of other tasks and questions that employees raise and need a swift resolution.
Over and over we have been told that yes, there is a place for a complex dedicated HR application but perhaps not in the mid-market. What we need (they cry) is something very straight forward that's available within our main office application.
We have been listening and one of the new features within OpenCRM being released as part of the V3 roll-out is a dedicated Personnel module. Just like other modules in OpenCRM you can secure the data that you enter and limit access to any of the information based a wide variety of standard security features.
With the ability to hold your employees details in one place with specific features to help track holiday entitlement, system generated supervisor notifications helping you to be reactive 'when it counts', as well as access to all of the standard OpenCRM features including sending emails, holding documents, tracking activities and much much more, the new Personnel module helps you stay organised all in one system.
Following in the footsteps of other major enhancements this Personnel module is standard on ALL subscription levels. Remember at OpenCRM there is only one product and you get access to all of the features all of the time, no compromises requiring a subscription upgrade to get a worthwhile new feature.
If you would like to take a look at what OpenCRM Personnel can do for you just click on the contact link in the top menu to drop us a note and we will be happy to get in touch.
I think right now is an exciting time to be involved in CRM software. The OpenCRM web-based solution is becoming a more flexible tool all the time. And as the capacity to track more information within OpenCRM increases, so do the potential uses. This could be great news for an organisation that operates on multiple levels:
The same organisation would be using different areas of the system, whilst all contributing to the central database and in doing so creating an ever richer and more valuable information source.
Sales Pitch: If you are looking to a CRM solution that can cope with a varied and fluid approach to suit your organisation, please get in touch with us.
I had a quick heads up with the development team last week here at OpenCRM. It’s good news for users of the Products module, offering you some great new tools. These can be linked to your online shop or Ebay account and could be a great asset in helping you present your goods online.
You can set product categories as suit the needs of your organisation. On creating a new product, you will initially be asked to set the product type. Once you have selected a product category, the edit screen will be set with all the conditional fields associated with that category. These conditional fields are the custom fields you have set up which enable you to input data specific to the product groups.
To give you a couple of examples, setting up a product category “Paint” would then give you access to custom fields you have created that are relevant e.g. Colour and Type of Paint. Selecting the category “Nails” would enable access to custom fields such as Length and Type of Nail. This not only simplifies the product creation process but creates a product list that is archived according to category.
So we now have a useful tool whereby the first step in creating of a Product record filters the fields on the next screen to display custom fields that are relevant to that product.
The second development in the Products module involves the Mini-Description of a product. Mini-Description is a field which is automatically populated with information from other fields when you save the product. This is most useful when you have a need to build a concise description of a product, using values that have been selected in other fields, especially where there are many fields and only some values are relevant to this specific product.
Using our earlier example, selecting the category “Paint” gives you access to the fields specific to Paint. You would enter the data – a red paint, emulsion, a 500ml tin, from the manufacturer “The Acme Paint Company”. On saving the mini-description according to the values you have selected would display “Manufacturer: The Acme Paint Company; Tin Size: 500ml; Colour: Red; Paint Type: Emulsion”.
The Mini-Description field is a common field meaning it can be used in searches and results, giving you the tools to list your products according to description. This can then be saved as a report, or exported to your eCommerce tools. As you can see these small but powerful tools can help save your business time as well as help structure the way your product records are kept.