Zoho – The affordable CRM
One of the items for our CRM kit-bag has been a CRM that everyone can afford and gives the smaller business user a smart cloud based solution. We have recently added just that product Zoho to our arsenal of CRM solutions. Zoho is a cloud based solution that offers businesses more than CRM.
In fact it allows the business to choose from a wide array of cloud solutions for project management, eMail, Reporting and lot more. Zoho allows the user to sign up for free and use the system for 15 days to trial and test the functionality. We are sure that you will like it once you have done that. More on Zoho later and our services that support businesses manage their sales process and marketing.
Non Profit Software Challenges
All Non-profit organization 501C3s such as service oriented or religious should plan their spending on software that will help them in managing their members, donors and volunteers. Since money is always tight in these non profit organizations spending money on a software system that does not work is painful in two ways: the money is spent and two, your organization has nothing to show for it.
There are ways to fix this or better yet prevent wasteful spending. Get professional assistance consulting to analyze your requirement and needs including budget then creating a planning road map. While it does cost a little money at first , what you save in the long run will outweigh the initial road map costs.
Typical Road Map Topics
We tend to hear the same set of systems being in the need of the non-profit organization.
1. Support for donor management
2. A way to take in payments for services and donors
3. Tracking new or potential donor or members
4. Tracking and managing volunteer work and staff
5. Billing for products and services that they create.
6. Marketing campaigns for donors and members
The Non Profit Road Map Process
At Bleu Cypress we perform a number of these small studies each year. Typically a non-profit organization comes to us the need to solve one of their computing issues, or worst they have already implemented a software system that is not working. We address each of these challenges in a slightly different manner.
First steps in the road map process is to document all the current and future requirements and needs of the nonprofit organization. We do this by talking to appropriate staff members and building a complete view and list of requirements and current issues. Next is talking about budget (or lack thereof) staff resources and scheduling needs. Then the road map can be created.
The road map will contain goals, scope, requirements and then a complete list of projects that can / should be implemented to achieve their desired outcome. We will detail more of the road map in a subsequent article. Finally the non-profit organization must determine which or all of the projects they must implement and carve out budget, resources and schedule for implementation.
Only with a planned approach to systems building will an organization spend wisely and have success with their systems.
I do a fair amount of CMS assessments and working in different CMS solutions. The CMS assessments that I perform require me to continually keep up to date on all the features and capabilities of today’s leading CMS systems. Plus I utilize several of them in development of web site. For the CMS solutions that I do not create real web site I will either download and build example site on my testing server or review the CMS vendor site for as much information that I can glean. The assessments will look at all the major CMS solutions regardless of the technology platform. Today we are only focused on those leading Microsoft .NET based CMS platformed solutions.
A note about providing the best or top solutions is that in content management systems there is not one solutions that is best, rather a solution may be best for that company, that need. So I’ve not ranked them, just listed them in alphabetic order.
DotNetNuke is the leading open source .Net CMS product. They offer a free community version which is not limited in a any fashion and multiple versions that are commercial and have the usual commercial support and in general are aimed at the higher end of the small to mid market companies. The community version is supported as it implies by the community. There is a robust user base for DotNetNuke providing free and many paid themes and modules that you can buy. The CMS solution is very stable and mature. It is easy to install and start building pages. Page building lacks many of the modules (widgets) found in other CMS solutions but you may buy a particular capability in the marketplace. Content editing for non-technical folks is fine but not equal to the larger most expensive CMS solutions.
DotNetNuke web site is: http://www.dotnetnuke.com/
Kentico is a serious CMS solution that can handle from small sites to enterprise level site needs. Kentico is stable and is in its release 7.x. Kentico has lots of modules/widgets for the page builder that come installed with the CMS. Custom .NET based widgets can be written and added to meet custom requirements of the site. The CMS product scales to very large sites and web farms as needed to meet site activity. Cost range from $ 2000.00 to $ 15,000+ depending on the version of components. Kentico core CSM can be enhanced with eCommerce and a marketing component that is very good.
Kentico is found at: http://www.kentico.com
Sitefinity is the product of a very well respected .NET tools and component supplier Telerik. Sitefinity has been on the market for a number of years with a steady level of increased features and functions. Initially they catered to the very small marketplace and had a free version that increased brand awareness and trials. Now Sitefinity is aimed at the small to mid-market business sector that needs a good but not overly complex CMS product. The product tends to accomplish basic CMS features including some content targeting but does not include the complex digital marketing capabilities of many of the larger more comprehensive products. Sitefinity is currently at release level 4.x. Costs for the CMS product start at $2,000.00 and can range up through $ 10,000 or more depending on your needs.
Sitefinity is found at http://sitefinity.com
Sitecore is a leading .NET CMS in the marketplace. It is enterprise ready and can scale for implementations from mid-market size companies to very large corporations. They have shown that they can compete in the enterprise market place successfully against other enterprise CMS products. They have implemented a wide set of functionality that addresses the needs of most companies using their core content manager plus their advanced marketing suite. Sitecore also uses standard .NET infrastructure and tools, so those companies already using .Net will feel comfortable with Sitecore and its operation. “Structured content” is at the core of its product, making it very easy to have common content elements and content types that can be managed site-wide. It also scales very well to multiple sites, web farms and load balancing concepts. Lastly, it has developed an advanced and robust marketing suite that is useful for companies seeking a marketing-friendly site. Cost for a typical installation will start at $ 85,000.
Sitecore’s web site is: http://www.sitecore.net/
Umbarco is an another open source product where you can get the core product for free and pay for the commercial aspects of training, support and liability. Their product is fairly easy to use for a content editor. The community is robust and contributes both free and paid themes and modules. The cost if you want the paid support is around $ 3,800 per year.
Umbarco is found at http://umbraco.com
Bleu Cypress has a number of development centers where we utilize on high quality offshore and nearshore development centers. For those not in the know, offshore centers are those many time zones different from the US, while nearshore development centers are typically in Mexico, Central and South America, within our time zones. While many have said that offshore for for that matter nearshore development is impossible for US firms to engage successfully. We disagree. We have been active in offshore and nearshore team for over 10 years. With success.
Hybrid Development Process
Keeping project discovery and design here in the US have been mainstays in our success plans. Sometime high level architecture is based in the US. These US based functions plus good communicates allow for the project to be developed correctly, on time and on budget. In fact our offshore / nearshore services employ these tactics. A hybrid development approach. Recently we have added the scrum to our development arsenal.
Scrum development is an approach that combines the hybrid process plus short duration development / project cycles. Our scrums are typically one or two weeks long. They contain all the elements of a project:
- Definition of goals
- Database and application design
- software development using the designs, requirements and goals
- Client interaction
- Software delivery
- Client Review and acceptance
Why this works.
Using a short duration and plenty of interaction between Bleu Cypress, the client and the offshore or nearshore teams provides the crucible of success. Since goals and requirements are very short, instructions, design and requirements are very precise. Then by adding in client and Blue Cypress participation in the designs and development review, very little can go wrong. The client feels positively engaged, the development team is sure their direction and development is meeting the needs of the client.
After each scrum, any left over items are rolled over to the next scrum cycle, payment is made and the scrum cycle begins again. This approach also eliminates the issue that can arise at the end of a large and lengthy project; dissatisfaction of the development deliverables which often leads to non or partial payments.
Give it a try!
I had an interesting conversation the other day about a company that wants and needs a CRM solution. The conversation was about whether or not the company should pick one of the well know generic all purpose CRM solutions on the market or choose a lesser known but designed specifically for their industry. While there are no right or wrong answers for any one CRM implementation as is typical multiple solutions can and would fit the bill and be successful for the company. This question peaked my interest as I thought through the issues as I see them.
Issue # 1.
Most industry specific solutions are only sold and supported by a single company.
Unless there is a large partner system, the single support is the company that built the software. Don’t like them after you have bought it… too bad.
Issue # 2
A trade off – flexibility and lots of features vs. very specific industry oriented features.
The large generic CRM solutions have lots of features, lots of capabilities some of the those features may not be exactly what your industry could use. On the other side, the specific industry oriented CRM will have the key features, some very industry features but may lack the overall lit of features the generics have
Issue # 3.
Price. Most industry specific CRM solutions will cost more than the generic CRM solutions.
There is more price pressure on the large CRM solutions to cut prices. There are not same typical pressures on the industry version. While they need to compete, they “justify” the higher prices with their specific feature sets.
Issue # 4.
Buying just a CRM system? Most industry specific versions of CRM are embedded in their own other business solutions.
If would be very difficult to purchase just a CRM solution as a “stand-alone” CRM for your company. This needs to be factored into the total buying strategy.
Which way do you lean? I suggest that you look hard at the industry solutions for CRM to see that they really are an equal for the most typical and basic CRM features. It may be more advantageous to buy generic and customize to your needs. In any case create your requirements and then go shopping.