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.
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.
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 keyboard 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
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.
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July 2004 Table Of Contents ]
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.
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.