CRM software on a smaller scale

ACCPAC and Maximizer offer solid but unspectacular CRM

Whether you’re looking to win new customers or retain current ones, ACCPAC CRM 5.6 and Maximizer Enterprise 8 are two applications geared toward helping small and midsize companies improve customer relationships. I found that each of these CRM products offers a good means of improving sales force, marketing, and customer support operations.

Both offer the features and automated workflow capabilities necessary for keeping sales and service efforts on track. But they differ in ease of use, ease of administration, customizability, and in the vendors’ approaches to integration with other business applications. Although either could play a role in pockets of large organizations, true midmarket solutions, such as Salesforce.com, typically offer richer sets of features as well as easier and far more flexible integration with other applications.

Maximizer would be a good fit for small, distributed groups with its support for QuickBooks accounting and replicable remote data stores. Further, its per-user pricing reduces some of the up-front cost. ACCPAC, with its own mix of accounting and ERP packages, might prove a good fit for centralized companies wanting to migrate to an integrated suite of front- and back-end business applications.

Eyes on the Ball

The sales force tools from both vendors provide a centralized contact management repository for storing details about companies and individuals, such as notes, documents, and points of contact. ACCPAC’s well-designed interface pays considerable attention to productivity and usability. Graphical dashboards gave me immediate insight into the status of leads and opportunities and allowed me to drill down to view underlying reports, such as current qualified leads and opportunities being negotiated. This feature would make it easy for sales teams to spot problems and eliminate bottlenecks.

By comparison, I found Maximizer’s interface cluttered. Although the Windows-native client is more responsive than ACCPAC’s browser-based interface, an overabundance of icons made descriptive text unreadable. Further, Maximizer offered none of the real-time graphical dashboards found in ACCPAC.

Maximizer did, however, allow me to read and send e-mail from directly within the interface. A separate repository for corporate boilerplates put communications collateral at my fingertips.

For salespeople who would prefer to use Microsoft Outlook as their central interface, both ACCPAC and Maximizer provide tools for synchronizing contacts and calendars. ACCPAC goes one step further by including the ability to work directly within Outlook -- the Outlook Bar containing an interface mirroring the Web client. On the downside, ACCPAC’s integration did not help me to resolve conflicts when synchronizing (beyond presenting me with a list of errors), nor did the program sync my recurring meetings properly.

When it came to marketing, Maximizer offered both role- and team-based strategies as well as automated, Internet-based marketing templates for broadcasting e-mail and fax materials to prospects. Your campaigns could include, for example, a discount offering that could later be used to track responses using Maximizer’s Web storefront, which is included with the package.

ACCPAC offered good features for marketing, too. It would be nice if the program provided the same graphical views into the time lines and status of marketing campaigns as it does into sales leads and opportunities, but here you get just text-based links. Nevertheless, the result is a clear presentation of the marketing game plan, good definition of employee responsibilities, and the ability to mine responses for constructive feedback.

I was able to quickly build mail merges and lists, associate data with revenue projections, and, using ACCPAC’s e-mail management server, route inbound responses so new, targeted leads could be generated.

On the help-desk front, both ACCPAC and Maximizer allowed me to easily enter trouble tickets, assign new responsibilities, escalate service issues, and browse (but not search) the repository of customer service documents for resolutions to problems. Maximizer also includes a self-service portal through which customers with permissions may obtain documentation and search your knowledge base. By contrast, ACCPAC provides this feature at extra cost.

CRM Aerodynamics

The most impressive feature of today’s CRM applications is automated workflow, which elevates CRM tools from static contact managers to a means of strengthening and streamlining sales and service processes. Whether built on simple triggers, such as an incoming e-mail from an important client, or on complex business logic and successful sales models, workflow engines help you monitor events and take prescribed action.

ACCPAC does a good job of integrating workflow into its system. I liked its ability to dynamically modify each user’s interface with actions that take them to the next step in a given process. For example, the promotion of a new lead to qualified opportunity status could trigger a reassignment of responsibilities, launch meeting reservations, and more.

Maximizer addresses workflow requirements with a third-party toolset, Vineyardsoft’s KnowledgeSync, which supplies a separate IDE for developing the SQL logic necessary to drive automation. KnowledgeSync came with a good base of predeveloped workflow procedures that jumpstart development -- a feature missing from ACCPAC.

In both products, I felt better attention needed to be paid to the workflow development interface, given the often-limited IT resources of the target market. In both, workflows are too difficult to set up and modify. 

When it came to customization and security, ACCPAC provided, hands down, one of the most flexible interfaces I’ve encountered. Offering more than just role-based access, ACCPAC allowed me to completely tailor a user’s views based on permissions, rather than simply lock them out of an option, as in Maximizer.

When it comes to integrating CRM with your other IT systems, both of these vendors have you covered. However, integration may come at a high price.

To tap legacy databases from Maximizer, you’ll need to invest in a separate Customization Suite for XML and COM connectivity. ACCPAC requires the purchase of its Enterprise Integration Server to connect with data from non-ACCPAC applications.

Room for Improvement

ACCPAC and Maximizer offer solid CRM toolsets for smaller organizations. Both could improve by adding repository search capabilities, stronger project management time lines, and support for contract management.

Nevertheless, both provide essential wide-angle views across operations and the capability to automate workflows. ACCPAC offers broader database support, a more polished GUI, and a suite of easily integrated accounting and ERP apps. Maximizer offers more immediate scalability, thanks to replicable data stores, and the ability to leverage .Net and Web services for customization and integration.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Ease of use (20.0%)
Administration (10.0%)
Security (10.0%)
Integration (10.0%)
Features (30.0%)
Scalability (10.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Maximizer Enterprise 8 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 7.0 5.0 5.0 5.6
ACCPAC CRM 5.6 6.0 7.0 7.0 4.0 7.0 4.0 6.0 6.1
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