Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sage Software Offers Sound Rules for CRM

Sage Software( is one of those amorphous software companies that have grown by acquiring many products and keeping them pretty much separate. The company does have a focus: it sells accounting and CRM software on small and mid-sized business. But under that umbrella its Web site lists thirty different products, including well-known brands Peachtree, DacEasy, Accpac and MAS for accounting, ACT! contact management, and SalesLogix and Sage CRM for CRM.

This broad product line poses a particular challenge in writing a white paper that does what white papers are supposed to do: give objective-sounding information that subtly pushes readers toward the sponsor’s products. With so many different products, Sage can’t simply promote the features of any one of them.

But Sage’s paper “17 Rules of the Road for CRM”, available here, rises splendidly to the task. It does offer some very sound advice, from taking a broad perspective (“1. CRM is more than a product, it’s a philosophy”; “2. Customers are everywhere: clients, vendors, employees, mentors”) to careful preparation (“5. Planning pays”, “6. Prepare for product demos”) to deployment (“14. Implementation method is as important as product choice”, “15. Training can’t be ‘on the job’”, “16. Test, or crash and burn”, “17. Focus on CRM goals: improve customer satisfaction, shorten sales cyclces, and increase revenue”). Yet it also throws in some points that are tailored to supporting Sage against its competitors.

(Come to think of it, Sage sells mostly through channel partners who provide the consulting, selection and implementation services highlighted in the points listed above. So even these points are really leading readers to Sage strengths.)

Specifically, Sage CRM faces sells against three types of challengers: point solutions such as contact management or customer service systems; enterprise software such as Siebel/Oracle or SAP CRM; and hosted systems such as and RightNow. There are white paper rules targeted to each:

- point solutions: “3. Don’t confuse CRM with contact management”, “8. CRM is not a point solution”, “10. Multi-channel access is the only way to go”, “13. CRM is not for any single department, it’s for the whole company”

- enterprise software: “4. CRM solutions are different for midsized companies”, “12. High cost does not necessarily mean high value”

- hosted systems: “7. Implement current technology” (don’t rely on promised future features; include back-office integration and customizability), “9. Speed ROI through back-office integration”, “11. Look for true platform flexibility” (ability to switch between hosted and installed versions)

These points are perfectly valid—the only one I might question is whether you really need a product that can switch between hosted and installed versions. I’m simply noting, with genuine admiration, how nicely Sage has presented them in ways that support its particular interests. It’s always fun to see a master at work.

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