SalesLogix closes in on full-service CRM

Self-service portal, SpeedSearch additions aid v6.2, but there's still room for improvement

Best Software's SalesLogix is a Windows-based sales, marketing, and support application that gives SMBs a universal view of the customer, from identifying initial leads to managing ongoing service contracts.

The 6.2 release shapes up deployment and admin efforts and bridges gaps in its customer service and support system. New options, including global SpeedSearch and a customer self-service portal, are good trappings for service departments looking to improve customer satisfaction and efficiency.

While it's well rounded for record keeping and basic workflow tasks, there remain underdeveloped areas, relegating SalesLogix to use in smaller shops. For example, I would prefer to see more graphical insight within the interface. SalesLogix is great at organizing text data; now

it needs to exploit the executive dashboard capabilities found in competitive CRM apps.

Also, despite improvements to its support features, SalesLogix does not yet fully exploit online chat or tools to drive post-sales spending. The marketing engine -- sufficient for most small businesses -- was somewhat lackluster in capability and analytics.

But with stand-out features such as a variety of client options, good interface customization, a fairly minimal learning curve, and a Crystal Reports engine included in the sales price, SalesLogix still makes a good choice for SMBs looking to improve conversion rates and long-term customer loyalty.

Looking at Logistics

SalesLogix is a Microsoft-centric product. Although it will support an Oracle database, SalesLogix requires MS SQL Server 2000 along with Windows 2000 Server (or later), IIS for the Web support engine, and MSDE 2000 (Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine) for the remote clients.

On the plus side, SalesLogix now supports Windows authentication for single sign-on, and can directly import Windows users and map permissions to SalesLogix. Another installation improvement comes by way of a new licensing tool that accepts cut-and-paste key input. With so many add-on components, manual license entering can prove tedious, making this a good enhancement. I would like to see an additional monitoring feature in the licensing section to reflect statistics like current usage and remaining users.

Once everything was running, the well-laid-out Sales interface offered a solid platform for managing contacts and opportunities, with potential for maintaining a good bead on metrics and forecasting over the sales pipeline. The new sales process engine helps populate sales opportunities with best-practices guidelines, but admins should be ready for a good deal of customization and fine-tuning as the complexity of requirements grows.

Although it has built-in calendar and task functionality, SalesLogix integrates and syncs with Outlook and can map data between Lotus Notes and GroupWise. Many CRM apps focus on Outlook only, so this shows more of a high-end focus.

The remote sales client supports offline access, resynchronization with features such as localized database sectioning,

delta-change detection to minimize transfer time, and good resolution conflict. The Advanced edition lets users access many features via WAP and a Web browser, which will help service reps in the field.

Using the sales client, I was able to quickly generate sales quotes using predefined templates auto-populated with data -- a time saver with improved accuracy. SalesLogix provided comprehensive service audit trails and basic SLA management tools, including per-instance call tracking and a built-in time clock for usage monitoring. The separate Support interface client provides access to trouble tickets and contracts, RMAs (Return Merchandise/Material Authorizations), and procedural road maps for guiding reps through issue resolution.

Although the new SpeedSearch would benefit from the addition of manual metadata to fine-tune classification, it performed well overall, offering in-text global search across most of the Sales and Support database, including attachments and the library repository.

Marketing capabilities were a little lightweight with regard to integrated development tools and ongoing response tracking and monitoring. Other vendors provide far more detailed tracking that can help to break down a campaign's status in real time. But SalesLogix's budget forecasts and breakouts are comprehensive and some features, such as auto-lead assignment, will make automation an ally.

Picks and Pans

SalesLogix may have the basic CRM features well in hand, but a few spots could use improvement. I created graphical reports that could be drilled through for more detail, but the underlying data was not linked back to the originating record. I would like to simply click the long-outstanding support item and have it launch the record in the support interface for inspection. The same linkage would benefit the Process Manager, which proved to be little more than a list of ongoing processes without links to the originating action.

SalesLogix also suffers from restrictive integration options (COM/ActiveX Data Objects) and a limited API set. Web services support would be a start to modernization. And with licensing costs a valid concern, support for less pricey platforms would offer SMBs some fiscal relief.

That said, SalesLogix's feature set is well integrated across its components and does a good job at most CRM tasks. Administrators gain an edge from multiple available tools for managing remote configurations and databases. Even pushing a configuration package out to my laptop was a cinch, thanks to the included Bundler application.

All told, SalesLogix makes sense for SMBs looking to improve sales and marketing opportunities, and begin addressing basic requirements for service and support with above-average flair. The price is slightly high, but so is the reward potential.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Integration (10.0%)
Ease of use (20.0%)
Security (10.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Features (30.0%)
Scalability (10.0%)
Administration (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
SalesLogix Advanced v6.2 4.0 9.0 8.0 7.0 7.0 6.0 7.0 7.1

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.