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TMC[TM] Labs review.

When we think of a comprehensive CRM software solution, we think of thousands of dollars to purchase, plus thousands of dollars of professional support and installation costs. We certainly don't think of a CRM software solution that we can install ourselves simply by sticking a single CD into a CD-ROM drive and clicking the "install" button. So we were pleasantly surprised when we got our hands on Maximizer Enterprise 8, a comprehensive CRM software package that was extremely easy to install--it was virtually a "single-click" installation. We did go through an install wizard with more than just a single click, but the prompts were very intuitive, and the whole process did not require very much brain power.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Installation

Since we installed Maximizer Enterprise 8 onto a Microsoft IIS Web server, it automatically created virtual Web directories and Web portals (see Figure 1) for remote access via the Web browser. This seamless integration with Microsoft IIS, without any configuration on our part, certainly was impressive. In addition to allowing employees remote access to the CRM databases via the browser, it also allows customers to log on and view their data and, for instance, look up the current status of a trouble ticket. Again, setting up a customer portal with security rights so that a customer may access only his or her own data automatically occurred in the installation process, which often requires the use of professional services in competing CRM solutions. The Web interface looked similar to the Windows interface, which certainly lessens the learning curve. There was one feature within the Web-based calendar screen we liked in particular: if we simply poise the mouse over a calendar entry, the attendee list was displayed.

In addition to its automatic integration with Microsoft IIS, it also supports automatic integration into Microsoft SQL Server or Pervasive SQL. We installed it on a server running Microsoft SQL Server, and it created the appropriate tables and other database information automatically. We should point out that Maximizer Enterprise 8 will integrate with QuickBooks, a popular accounting package used by small to mid-sized businesses. It also supports built-in Crystal Reports for running powerful reports from within Maximizer. Maximizer Enterprise 8's support for Crystal Reports includes a wide range of predefined reports, as well as a custom report engine, although we did not find any canned graphical reports (charts or graphs) included with the canned reports. Lastly, it supports integration with VineyardSoft's KnowledgeSync workflow automation software.

Installing the client portion was equally easy. Although we were shipped a separate client CD for client installation, we also noticed that the client installation files were copied onto the server's hard drive, making client-deployment via the network quick and painless.

Features

Concerning the interface, we found the usability good, but some tasks were a bit unintuitive or required more mouse clicks than we would have liked. For example, to do any type of search you have to click on the "Search" menu, and then click on the appropriate menu option for the type of search you want (company name, contact, etc.). Although this is only two clicks, if you are performing searches all day, a single-click option would be preferable. For instance, we've seen at least one CRM product that allows a user to click on the label field (company, contact, e-mail address), which pops up a search window for that label field. Alternatively, we would like to see some key-board shortcuts, such as F3 to search by company and F4 to search by contact.

The searching was actually quite powerful within Maximizer. It supports searching of all fields, including user-defined fields and even the notes fields. We were able to create complex searches using a very easy-to-use, "wizard-like" interface and save the query into the "Catalog" for future use. This wizard query-building interface is crucial, since sales personnel are often intimidated when faced with writing SQL queries for complex searches. Speaking of SQL queries, we did not see a method for writing complex SQL queries within the Maximizer program. Although the "wizard-like" interface was easy-to-use and fairly complex queries can be written, we would still like to see the ability to write SQL queries--the most powerful search methods available. Of course, we could perform SQL queries directly on the Microsoft SQL Server database, but it would be nice to be able to view our search results from within Maximizer.

We did like the overall layout of the user interface. It was clean and organized well into three major tabs (Sales, Marketing and Service, see Figure 2). We were able to navigate the interface easily without consulting the user documentation. When we did want to look up a feature in the manuals or the online help, we were pleased with both of these resources. The electronic manuals are easily accessible via Acrobat files simply by clicking "Help," "User Manual" or "Administrator Manual" from within Maximizer.

Maximizer provides users with a powerful tool called the "Opportunity Manager." It guides the user by utilizing predefined strategies to convert prospects into customers. Maximizer includes a predefined set of sales strategies, and users can also define their own strategies, as well.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

We liked the initial summary view when the application is first launched. It displays daily tasks, appointments and company announcements, in a similar manner to Microsoft's Outlook Today view. Speaking of Outlook, Maximizer features Outlook integration, although we noticed that Maximizer defaults to "linking" the e-mail to the current record selected in the Address Book. To file the e-mail into the correct address book entry, a user must first leave the e-mail window, go back to the Address Book, select the correct address book entry, then go back to the e-mail window and "file" the e-mail into that record. We did find ourselves wishing it would automatically perform an e-mail address lookup and then file the e-mail to that record.

Another usability suggestion would be for Maximizer to automatically calculate the city if you enter the ZIP code, although there may be third-party solutions to do this. Also, we'd like Maximizer to remember where we left off if we closed the application and re-opened it. For some reason, editing a record is a two-step process. First we had to double-click the record to open it, and then we had to click "Edit" to modify the record. We felt there should have at least been a right-click, "Edit" option available.

One final usability suggestion involves the method of resolving cases/trouble tickets. We noticed that when you have a customer's trouble ticket (case) open and attempt to resolve the case, you can't look up any of the knowledge base articles from this screen. You have to cancel, go to the knowledge base, find the KB article number, then go back and open the case again and type this KB number into the "Case-Solution" field. It would be nice if from the "Case-Solution" field, we could simply right-click, choose "Lookup KB number," and another window would pop up, letting us pick the correct KB article without having to close the window in which we're working. One final feature worthy of mention is Maximizer's excellent mail-merging (letters) and e-mail-merging capabilities with extensive merge fields.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, Maximizer Enterprise 8 is one of the easiest CRM applications to install and deploy, while at the same time it retains a very powerful feature set with tight integration with several applications, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft IIS, Outlook, QuickBooks and more. The ease of installation sets Maximizer apart from other CRM applications such as SalesLogix, Siebel or GoldMine. We liked that it provided a turnkey employee portal, as well as a turnkey customer portal for customers to view the current status of a trouble ticket. Maximizer brings together CRM, sales force automation, marketing automation and customer service automation, along with its plethora of applications to follow the customer through the complete lifecycle. Although we had several suggestions to improve the usability of the product, overall TMC Labs was impressed with Maximizer's Web portal capabilities, PDA and wireless access, excellent reporting and extensive feature set that not only rivals competing CRM solutions, but beats many of them on price with its impressive $500 to $900 per-seat licensing.

Maximizer Enterprise 8

Maximizer Software

1090 West Pender Street, 10th floor

Vancouver, British Columbia

V6E 2N7

Canada

Ph: 800-804-6299

Web: www.maximizer.com

Price: eCRM (includes Web access): $699 per user or CRM Suite SQL and Pervasive: $489 per user. Plus optional paid add-ons such as Crystal Reports, QuickBooks, etc.

RATINGS (0-5)

Installation: 5

Documentation: 5

Features: 4.75

GUI/Usability: 4

Overall: A

For information and subscriptions, visit www.TMCnet.com or call 203-852-6800.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Technology Marketing Corporation
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Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Customer Interaction Solutions
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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