CRM Software Breadth and Scope Differences
The SaaS CRM Software Product Evolution
Using history as a guide, we suspect the SaaS CRM software market will follow a product evolution quite similar to the prior host-based, LAN-based and client/server product progressions. You may recall that the host-based, LAN-based and client/server business software applications all began as point products, evolved to best of breed suite solutions and ultimately grew to become full ERP portfolios.
Think back to the delivery of the earliest client/server business software applications in the early 1990s. We witnessed an echo of the mainframe market in which categories of piecemeal software applications originally came to market as best of breed systems. Oracle initially brought client/server financial software, PeopleSoft first delivered client/server human resource systems, SAP produced client/server distribution applications and Siebel Systems released client/server CRM software. All except Siebel went on to eventually build out their best of breed applications to enterprise wide integrated ERP systems. Siebel stayed the best of breed course and was ultimately acquired for a song (note the largest factors in Siebel’s valuation at the time of the acquisition were their cash and customer list, not their intellectual property).
Today’s SaaS CRM industry echoes yesterday’s client/server business software market with a few exceptions. Salesforce.com is the industry leader, however, from an ERP perspective only delivers CRM – and chooses not to (directly) deliver accounting, distribution, human resources or manufacturing. Salesforce.com advocates may counter that the AppExchange third party directory can fulfill some or most of the missing pieces, however, AppExchange is frequently touted as little more than marketing hype and our reviews show the allegedly integrated pieces as incomplete at best or disjointed to most. Accounting systems vendor Intacct delivers financial software, however, no CRM, HR or manufacturing software. Similarly, there are several HR only, manufacturing only and distribution only SaaS solutions. The only two enterprise-wide SaaS solutions are from NetSuite and Aplicor. These two vendors deliver CRM, accounting, distribution, human resources/payroll and manufacturing all in a SaaS model. While some may view the NetSuite and Aplicor software scope unique, I would suggest that the uniqueness is temporary as many more SaaS manufacturers will increase their product portfolio when able.
Will best of breed SaaS CRM software solutions stand the test of time? Some will and many will not. Where the CRM software solution can fill vertical or specialized functionality not offered by broader product suites, these dedicated information systems will continue to fill a valuable need. However, point solution and best of breed CRM product vendors must remain mindful that unless they posses truly unique capabilities, customers will nearly always choose a single vendor enterprise-wide integrated solution over multiple best of breed solutions where all else is comparable.
Continue on to review SaaS CRM software depth and functionality differences