Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) appear custom made for the Web — CRMs are dispersed, they need to scale up and down quickly and they’re frequent maintenance can be a distraction from core applications.
It should be no surprise then that CRM vendors have been among the most active developers of cloud applications, including Salesforce.com, which positions itself as the first and largest enterprise software application in the space and the software industry’s cloud champion.
Since Salesforce.com was founded in 1999, the other major CRM vendors have followed them into the cloud and dominate the CRM choices available.
These cloud CRM applications from five of those vendors are not the only ones available on the market, but they offer the most flexibility and customization for business owners. They support small and large businesses, and they offer the cloud security you need when managing your customers’ private data.
Salesforce.com is the perhaps the best known of all cloud computing applications and for good reason–it is among the best CRM tools available for small and large businesses. What makes Salesforce.com one of the best tools is that it is customizable. The only part of the application you cannot customize is the core tables in the Salesforce.com database. But even that is not a problem, as Salesforce.com allows you to create your own tables and customize the data for your own purposes. The front end GUI is customizable as well, so businesses can emulate a legacy system, for minimal disruption in the sales ranks.
The Salesforce.com API is built on SOAP technology, so IT administrators can work with contact management in the cloud using several technologies and languages including PHP, C# and VB.NET. The wrapper returns XML files to the calling application, which means you can synchronize internal contacts with the external Salesforce.com database.
Included with a Salesforce.com account is a marketplace section that lets businesses purchase add-ons for the Salesforce.com system. This means that instead of spending days coding a custom Salesforce.com management add-on, the business can save time and purchase add-ons for the cloud application.
The SageCRM cloud computing interface extends from the popular Sage SalesLogix application. For IT managers who already support the SalesLogix platform, SageCRM has the benefit of being an easy transition to the cloud. SageCRM lets your sales force manage contacts and sales leads. The benefit of SageCRM is the management of leads in the cloud, which means that IT managers can synchronize leads with the internal leads database. The sales force can view, edit and sell to contacts while traveling or working from home.
SageCRM also supports an Android app to monitor new leads, marketing data and the return on investment of online sales conversions. If you want to try out the Sage platform, go to the free download trial page to get started with the CRM.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Microsoft offers customized versions of its cloud CRM for specific verticals including manufacturing, health care, retail, education and technology. The vertical offerings can be a major advantage for Microsoft Dynamics CRM over its competitors. Customers get a semi-customized product right out of the box, with tables, categories, drop down menus and standard sales cycles and scenarios particular to their industry built into the product.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM integrates with mobile platforms including iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. Like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics has a marketplace where users can buy add-ons to the basic CRM template to customize the forms and interface for your customer representatives.
Oracle CRM On Demand
Siebel was one of the first CRM solutions available in the cloud and Oracle, which acquired Siebel, built on that familiar functionality when it created the Oracle CRM On Demand cloud application. Many of the cloud applications on the market focus on Windows users, but Oracle applications are designed more for the Linux platform. If the business currently uses Oracle software and Java coding, the Oracle CRM On Demand system is probably the best choice to integrate a cloud CRM application.
Like Microsoft Dynamics, SAP CRM also targets industries, so businesses can implement templates that lay out an interface that fits industry standards. SAP CRM is typically used in cloud technology for IT, marketing and service industries.
SAP CRM offers an API that manages and organizes contacts by industry type, so not only can you synchronize the contacts for sales and business leads, but also the cloud app lets you categorize the type of contact by organization. The advantage in this type of contact management system is the ability to secure leads and contact information within the company. The advantage of the SAP CRM is the access levels set by the IT manager to secure leads by organization.
Security across the board
All of these applications offer an API that is secure and guards against unauthorized access to data. Each of these applications makes the software developer responsible for synchronizing the data with API keys specific to the business and sent by a SOAP protocol request. This technique is a standard in the industry for protecting and securing data that is transferred to and from the cloud servers.
About the Author: Jennifer Marsh is a software developer, programmer and technology writer and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting