The other day, our publicist asked me to comment on an article exploring the business case of various customer relationship management CRM’s and sales force automation applications for small- to mid-sized businesses.  (CRM is the technology used by organizations to automate the sales function) …

My input is simple: there is no reason for a SMB to purchase a CRM at all.

Microsoft Office ships free with Business Contact Manager (it’s an Outlook add-in).  It has EVERY piece of functionality that a SMB (and most large businesses) is likely to need (Opportunities, Campaigns, etc) and it’s an application that users take-to quickly because of its familiar user-interface.( V-tiger is another open source application with similar qualities.)

MS BCM doesn’t have Issues Management but this isn’t a big deal.  Because most issues relate to operations (not sales) – and because most SMB’s don’t integrate CRM and ERP – issues management is better handled in ERP anyway.

On the subject of integrating CRM and ERP, for most SMB’s it causes more trouble than it’s worth.  Generally the sales contact is different from the operations (finance and fulfilment) contacts, meaning that the kind of rudimentary integration that ships with CRM’s is insufficient anyway.

Furthermore, MS BCM has better MS Exchange integration (which IS a critical feature) than every enterprise ERP I’ve seen (with the exception of MS CRM).

BCM doesn’t ship with Process Automation — but that’s hardly a loss, considering that we switch this feature (?) off in every instance (in our processes, the Sales Coordinator is responsible for automation).

On the subject of useless features, BCM lacks the kind of mobility that some CRM’s boast (meaning that salespeople can access the CRM in the field — often via their PDA’s).  If you truly believe that salespeople should be doing data entry, then you haven’t been paying attention to me for the last 15 years or so!

A decent proportion of our medium to large clients could have saved the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent on enterprise CRMs and asked their internal IT departments to simply switch on MS BCM.