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November 1998


Applix Enterprise Suite 7.0

Applix Inc.
112 Turnpike Road
Westboro, MA 01581
Ph: 800-8-APPLIX; Fax: 508-366-2278
Web site: www.applix.com

Prices for Starter Kit (five users): Enterprise Server Platform ($9,995); Sales module ($24,995); Service module ($24,995); Help desk module ($14,995).

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RATINGS (0-5):
Installation: 5
Documentation: 4.5
GUI: 4.5
Features: 4.5
Overall: A

From initial contact to post-sales support, successful business is all about customer service. Internally, departments must have constant knowledge of other departments, while administrators maximize available resources and minimize cost. A blend of software purporting to help do this for sales, service, the help desk and more is Applix Enterprise 7.0. The key to Applix is its customizable GUI, linked to massive OLAP-enabled databases from the customer's choice of SQL, Oracle, Access, Sybase or Informix. The UNIX- and HTML-optimized client is composed of platform-independent Java and C++, and it integrates with Lotus Notes and Delrina WinFax. Our first look at 7.0 earlier this year earned it an Editor's Choice award, and this in-depth examination only proves what we knew before.

Installation & Documentation
For a software package of this scope, we were shocked at Applix Enterprise's installation process. A true corporatewide and WAN-wide installation could take months, but compared to other enterprise-class CTI equipment examined by TMCTM Labs, Applix's installation ranks among the best. We were thrilled with the presence of so many available manuals, all in old-fashioned book form, not online. Our package came with two - an installation guide and a system administrator's overview. We liked that both were screen-capture-rich and included numerous sections of examples and step-by-step directions on performing specific functions. Also available are manuals for customization, sales, help desk, APIs and more.

Hardware requirements for the Applix server include a high-end Pentium and 54 MB of RAM; we chose a 266 MHz machine with 64 MB of RAM. In a real-world application, we would at least double the RAM estimate. The window holding our test software in Windows NT 4.0 Server seemed very slow and froze three times in two days, but that was partially an issue with our hardware.

Other installation factors included entering six steps of license codes, configuring users and permissions and, most important, training: it's not the kind of software maintainable by just a few MIS staff members. Every user can tailor a GUI to their own preferences, and system administrators can combine the APIs and forms generator into a primitive kind of application generator. There is also a complex Fulcrum SearchServer utility whose configuration requires more tinkering with parameters and coding, but like most of the suite, this feature's power exceeds its already steep learning curve.

Features & Testing
Learning the four parts of Applix (the ESP platform, sales, service and help desk) isn't a curve at all: it's like an arrow shot straight up that never comes down. Companies will have to invest heavy resources to implement Enterprise, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that there will be a need for serious training. Applix provides specialized training for system administrators, and for end users. The main features are not difficult to learn individually; it's just that there are so many of them doing many different tasks.

Spearheading the links between each of the Applix sections are out-of-section tabs. For example, with the right permissions enabled, help desk technicians can access engineering staff, engineers can access marketing, marketing can access sales, etc. Executives can view well-detailed summaries; system administrators and MIS personnel can extract reports, track permissions, maintain the user database and more. Other interesting features include:

  • Lead generation selection and Web-based lead entry,
  • Modules for sales forecasting, billing, shipping and processing,
  • Crystal Reports Pro,
  • The TM1 OLAP engine, which supports multiple dimensions and databases,
  • Customizable territory management for sales assignments,
  • The suite of AnyWare, WebLink, MobileLink and LifeLine, which support Java solutions, customer access, remote access and software backup, respectively,
  • Enterprise Solutions Platform, the base customization architecture,
  • Powerful tracking of training courses and registration, and
  • Year 2000 compliance.

As we stated above, Enterprise's features are not very difficult to master, they are just time-consuming and there are so many of them. Our system included a superb reviewer's guide, which if slightly repackaged, would make an even better overall tutorial. This booklet leads the reviewer through leads management, updating and activity, using examples from marketing, sales and service fulfillment.

Room for Improvement
They may not be major qualms, but our main criticisms of this suite are its learning curve and its price. We'd also like to see Applix team with or build its own graphical application generator software, which, if done right, could be far more powerful than the current ESP offerings. For documentation, the administrator's and development books are wonderful, but the actual user's instructions are weak and would benefit from a repackaging of the reviewer's guide. We have no issues with the hardware requirements, and we can't speak highly enough of the Java support.

Conclusion
Enterprise version 8.0 is due within 12 months and will feature an intensive Web-overhaul. However, readers of this review probably have a more immediate need, in which case this version or the 7.04 upgrade is more than appropriate. This package challenges its competitors to raise the bar, especially in performance, features and documentation. It may cost more, but in our opinion, it's worth the price.

 







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