ACCPAC touts online CRM applications

Vendor positions its web-based customer relationship management application as an ideal solution for users investigating the solution. However, doubts about online software delivery remain.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  November 23, 2003

|~||~||~|ACCPAC is touting its online customer relationship management (CRM) service, ACCPACcrm.com, throughout the Middle East in an attempt to persuade local businesses of all sizes that customer focused applications can increase loyalty and boost bottom lines.

Available in Enterprise or SalesTeam versions, ACCPAC says the solution can cost as little as US$17 per month and will appeal to companies keen to try CRM before implementing the technology, or those that are afraid to commit to one particular delivery model.

"There's a growing interest in CRM in the region here, and lots of companies have familiarised themselves with CRM. Our online version is a logical extension of the offline application," explains Marc Van der Ven, general manager, ACCPAC Middle East.

"It is for new customers, for whom CRM is a new concept and who do not want to lock in huge investments, but want to start small on a trial basis and then scale up. It will also appeal to businesses that are not comfortable with being locked into a particular technology or platform," he says.

The vendor believes there is a big market within the Middle East for its online CRM solution, due to both the large numbers of end user organisations that have yet to implement such solutions and the region's growing enthusiasm for CRM. While no specific data for online CRM usage exists for the local market, the predicted uptake for CRM as a whole gives some credence to ACCPAC's argument. For instance, Madar Research believes the local CRM market will exceed US$2.7 billion by 2006 and grow rapidly from there.
"We expect the local CRM and hosted CRM application market to touch US$90 million in 2008 with an average CAGR of 20%," says the research firm's president, Abdul Kader Kamli.

Others within the local market also believe online CRM could find a niche within the Middle East. For example, ICICI Infotech is currently working on an online version of its Orion enterprise resource planning (ERP) package because it feels the complexity of many applications turns local users off.
"[Online deliver] is where it will go in the long term," says Hari Padmanabhan, president EMEA, ICICI Infotech. "Models like online CRM make a lot of sense, especially for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs)," he adds.

Although ACCPAC is one of the first vendors to tout online CRM delivery in the Middle East, it is not alone in espousing the web as a simpler way of accessing the software. A number of companies, based primarily out of the US, have been offering applications in this fashion for some time.
For instance, Salesforce.com, Salesnet.com and Upshot.com all offer similar hosted ERP/CRM services and Siebel recently launched CRMondemand.com with IBM. One San Francisco-based software start-up has even started offering free CRM software through its FreeCRM.com site. Furthermore, because the internet supposedly knows no boundaries, there is little reason why Middle East-based organisations cannot opt for a provider based outside of the region.
However, vendors operating in the Middle East market believe local companies are unlikely to opt for providers that do not have local support. Furthermore, Padmanabhan argues that unless online CRM companies can offer a personalised service and a strong local marketing base they are unlikely to penetrate the region's SMB market.

"Most of the online CRM companies do not have any local support, including Siebel," adds Van der Ven. "We are a global company and offer a choice of hosting abroad or locally, plus local training, support and consultancy through 650 ACCPAC CRM solution providers in the region and worldwide," he says. g||**||

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