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Process-based CRM is a category created by, and to our knowledge, only supported by, Forrester Research about 3 or 4 years ago to explain companies like Pegasystems and Sword-Ciboodle when those companies moved beyond just the Business Process Management (BPM) space. At first, there was skepticism about the category but as time moved on, more and more evidence has emerged that not only is there a place for that category, but it is a legitimate area for practitioners to consider when they either want to handle routine processes in an way that has an effective outcome, or they need highly customizable capabilities for handling complex business processes that might have major impact on the businesses utilizing them.
BPMonline CRM is one of the most substantial contenders in this category that we’ve seen emerge in a long time.
BPMonline CRM has 50 employees and is ably run by its CEO and co-founder Katerina Kostereva. They are headquartered in London and have a wide geographic reach with customers in dozens of countries around the world, according to the map on their website. They have more than 50 customers with the average user number being roughly 25-30 though the users can go from under ten to thousands of users on either end of the spectrum. What makes them remarkable is that they have been in existence for less than a year and have done what they’ve done in the SaaS space in just a few months.
Their pricing model is more than competitive with the vendors in their space - $29 per user per month regardless of which sized company you are. According to BPMOnline, their target market ranges from small business to the enterprise, something that concerns us as you will read later.
BPMonline CRM makes the concept of process based CRM elegant. There are two major components to their offering – a CRM suite and a BPM platform that can be used to develop process-centric applications whether or not they are CRM. Their technology model is similar to the successful one that salesforce.com has been using with Force.com – provide solid, deep functionality in most areas and then provide the means to extend the functionality, integrate with other applications, build new functions or build an entirely new, unrelated application.
There is a lot to like with their technology. They, like many of the other global contestants, use a .Net architecture in combination with Silverlight and Ajax to provide a flexible platform which in combination with RESTful APIs provides them with what is a very well-constructed SaaS architecture.
Their product has a very attractive user interface that is clean and easily navigable. Take a look:
Yet, underneath this nice looking hood lies a very powerful engine that is focused on the ability of the user to not only use the functionality that the product provides, but also customize how they want to use it – without having to be a developer. We’ve heard this claim before and are usually pretty skeptical and right to be so, but in this case, BPMonline CRM meets the claim successfully.
The basic functionality they provide is extensive: it covers the three traditional CRM pillars – sales, marketing and customer service.
It includes (among other things):
- Customer Data Management which includes an incredibly well thought out, highly integrated social profile drawing from not only email, phone, web, but Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter and of course the customer transaction history.
- Sales Management including pipeline, opportunity and lead management, with a strong, not surprising sales process customization capability.
- Campaign Management including customized segmentation, targeted campaigns management, and response/revenue measurement
- Time Management including the calendar functionality, an Invisible CRM (another CRM Idol contestant) integration with Outlook for all activities (tasks, calls, emails) plus assignment and routing (via the business process engine) for team members with specific roles.
- Document Management which includes document approvals online, an e-library, automated documents merger with data and templates, archiving and of course, assignment
They, as you can see, are focused heavily on automating processes to make the interactions between team members and staff in general much easier than it would be in most CRM applications. Their marketing and sales capabilities are enhanced by the underlying process engine and the customization capabilities and we really like what we are seeing here – a lot.
However, their customer service module is a weak offering. They offer basic case management functionality but do not have the functionality necessary for contact centers. If you are looking for a sales-oriented case management process, what BPMOnline provides is adequate, but that’s all.
They integrate best not with other CRM platforms – they really don’t need to do that – but with ERP applications that incorporate invoices and quotes etc. and other financial information in particular.
However, their crown jewel is their BPM platform. It is one of the best graphical designers I’ve seen and actually does make it easy for the non-techie to develop a process that can be injected into a sales component or a marketing function or across the entire enterprise. Here’s what it looks like.
Not too complicated. Clean and easy to use with a very powerful toolset that allows complex process creation from, maybe not novices, but non-technical users. It is an aptly named a What You See is What You Execute (WYSWYE) process and workflow designer.
BPMonline CRM is one of the most evolved applications that we’ve seen in this competition – providing deep user-friendly customization at an incredibly inexpensive price point.
But we do have a concern.
Our primary concern is their perception of their target market. They see themselves as a full spectrum provider from the smallest business to the largest enterprise. We think that this is a much too broad a definition of where their strength truly lies. While they can compete with Pegasystems and Sword-Ciboodle at the enterprise level, their real sweet spot is in the upper end of the mid-market and the lower end of the enterprise. We think that they might be able to make a case for the Fortune 500 though we are saying that more on faith than anything definitive and that if they stretch to the lower end they could compete with Sage in the bottom of the midmarket. But thinking that small business is a target market, is probably an overestimation in our view, whether they have customers there or not.
However, our concerns are far outweighed by our admiration for this excellent application and their even better platform.