This article is an adaptation of a reply to a Novell GroupWise List email thread regarding how CRMs deliver free integration plug-ins for Outlook. Aldo Zanoni is the CEO and Managing Director of Omni Technology Solutions Inc., the developer of Riva CRM Integration for GroupWise. He proposes that the limited functionality of these free Outlook plug-ins is not what customers are looking for or require in the long term.
So, what is your opinion? Do you agree or disagree? Is free good enough?
CRM Plug-in Email Response
Interesting. I understand your position on how having to pay for a third-party product to integrate CRMs with GroupWise can be perceived as a CRM integration hurdle for GroupWise customers. At the same time, however, it doesn't take Outlook users who use the free CRM Outlook plug-ins long to find out that free is not good enough when it comes to CRM integration.
Yes, many CRMs provide a Windows-based, Outlook-version-specific, free plug-in that allows users to select individual emails or contacts to be synchronised to the CRM and individual contacts and accounts to be sycnhronised from Outlook to the CRM and vice versa. And yes, most CRMs allow a user to archive an Outlook email to a CRM account or associate an email with a CRM opportunity, case or quote. That seems to be what people are looking for – at least that's what people who are new to CRMs usually say when they start looking for CRM integration.
Maybe for those types of minimum integration requirements, free is good enough. Don't get me wrong. I agree it would be great if CRM companies included free integrations for GroupWise and other email collaboration systems. Maybe with enough pressure, some day they will.
But if you spend time listening to customers or spend time in the CRM forums analysing the comments, complaints and enhancement requests that users of these free Outlook plug-ins share, you soon realise that the free CRM Outlook plug-ins aren't all they are made out to be by the marketing people. But, yes, they are free.
Free doesn't always mean free either. For example, the Community Edition (free) version of SugarCRM does not include the free Outlook plug-in. You have to purchase SugarCRM Professional Edition to get the free Outlook plug-in. And free doesn't always mean good enough, either.
Here's an example of a forum post started in October, 2007 that has users asking for the same functionality that Riva delivers for GroupWise for SugarCRM but for Exchange and SugarCRM; transparent, server-side synchronisation between Exchange and SugarCRM. Although this post refers specifically to SugarCRM, the situation of advanced functionality not being free for Outlook is similar for most CRMs.
People who start out with the free, client-side, user-initiated synchronisation understand that updating the Outlook client on all users' desktops and updating the plug-ins every time there is a version update is a real PAIN. They also understand the support and maintenance costs associated with deploying a client-side solution are definitely not free. They understand that depending on individual users to synchronise information to the CRM doesn't allow them to achieve their corporate mandate of ensuring customer information is up-to-date. They understand that the only way these objectives can be achieved is to have server-side, transparent integration. And the users in this forum post are certainly willing to pay for that enhanced functionality: www.sugarcrm.com/forums/showthread.php?t=27283&highlight=outlook
Posters in the above forum thread are looking for advanced functionality similar to what Omni customers get when they buy Riva CRM Integration for GroupWise. I guess one can still argue that the Outlook users in the thread have the luxury of being willing to pay for functionality because it is not included with the free CRM Outlook plug-ins. The central premise still stands – users don't have a free option with GroupWise.
Another example of companies requiring a more expensive CRM solution in order to get the free Outlook plug-in is Maximizer. Maximizer requires a minimum of the Group Edition. And if you want server-side synchronisation of Maximizer with Exchange, the MaxSync solution (at an additional cost) is required.
So, when else is free not good enough? Well, unless you are running in a "pure" Windows 2007 environment, the free Windows Outlook plug-in is probably not good enough to allow you to sycnhronise your SugarCRM contact, account, appointment, task, opportunity, quote or case information with your Mac or Linux or WebAccess or Evolution or BlackBerry or Mobile devices? For many of these desktops and devices, with most CRMs, you need to buy third-party integration software.
Free is also not good enough if you want to deliver server-side, transparent integration. For example, Maximizer requires you purchase their MaxSync solution to provide server-side integration with Exchange. This, of course, incurs additional servers licences, backup licences, etc. Most free Outlook CRM plug-ins are Windows-only and only deal with email, calendar and contact/account information. Free is not good enough to deal with or integrate business processes or workflow into the CRM integration.
To the best of my knowledge, none of the free Outlook plug-ins deliver the ability to automatically convert an email into a CRM opportunity, quote or support case and/or automatically create the CRM contact and account if that information is not already in the CRM and then, automatically synchronise the new account information back down to their client. This is the type of functionality that customers start looking for as soon as they get over the initial free plug-in integration piece.
Yes, it would be WONDERFUL if CRM companies provided a free client plug-in for GroupWise – even if it was for only the Windows client. I agree with you and others on the NGWlist that, at first blush, the type of integration provided by the free Outlook plug-in is what people want/need initially. But, we know users and companies move past the free part really fast.
If you have a minute, check out the following Omni On-demand Riva CRM Integration web presentation: www.omni-ts.com/quicktours/Riva-CRM-Client-Demo/Riva-CRM-Client-Demo.html
I would look forward to getting your feedback (and your customers' feedback) on Riva's transparent, advanced CRM integration and SmartConvert Drop Box functionality.
CEO and Managing Director
Omni Technology Solutions Inc.
For more details on Riva CRM Integration for GroupWise, visit Omni at www.omni-ts.com.
Disclaimer: As with everything else at Cool Solutions, this content is definitely not supported by Novell (so don't even think of calling Support if you try something and it blows up).
It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test, test, test before you do anything drastic with it.