Google Apps Review: Applane Enterprise CRM

Friday Sep 24th 2010 by Vangie Beal
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Applane CRM uses role-based access to provide users with immediate access to only the data they need at any given time. Plus it offers full integration with Google Applications and is enterprise-ready.

Google Apps Marketplace offers a number of applications that are designed for Google Application users. The big deal for businesses is that many of these apps are "installable apps" that integrate directly with Google Apps. With so many organizations using Google Apps — including Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs — it is not surprising to see a growing number of customer relationship management (CRM) products available in the Google Apps Marketplace (see Google Takes an Interest in Analytics, CRM).

The Google Apps Marketplace currently offers a number of CRM applications, including social CRM and project-based CRM apps. One CRM application that is currently receiving positive reviews from Google Apps users is Daffodil Software's Applane CRM.

Applane CRM lets business and enterprise users track a complete sales lifecycle; you can track contacts, sales, RFPs, determine which of your sales team members are keeping on-task, who is producing sales, analyze marketing trends, and even send bulk emails from within the application to customers and contacts.

One of the most important features of Applane CRM is that the product provides role-based access to your CRM and business data. When you set up Applane CRM there are six pre-defined roles to choose from: Admin, Sales Manager, Data Miner, Sales Executive, Quote Executive, and Quote Manager. These roles determine access to data based on your organization's hierarchy.

This creates a nice, tight CRM working environment. Every individual or team working in the CRM has access only to the data they need, which means no wasted time looking through data and reports that are not relevant to a person's specific job role and tasks. Additionally, mangers have access to their team's data and with a single click they can see who is on-task with leads, who is producing sales, who is expected to close a deal or contact a hot lead, and many other useful functions.

 

Easy CRM Interface and Usability

The interface of Applane CRM is both intuitive and user-friendly. Applane CRM is designed to get users to the data they are connected to and need to access with a minimum of clicks and fuss.

There is also a tightly woven usability standard within Applane. Each report is laid out in a typical spreadsheet format, so most will already be familiar with the look and feel of the Applane CRM interface. Training and time to get accustomed to the application will be minimal — most users will be able to jump right in and use the application if they have experience with manipulating spreadsheets.

The dashboard is also well organized and the CRM options are consistent in design, access, and functionality across the entire user interface. For example if you need to access your "Organizations" reports, the standard options include New Organizations, Free, Due, Overdue, All, In Discussion, and so on. When accessing Campaigns, Opportunities, Quotes, Contacts, or Customers, you'll find that data is available based on the same options as in Organizations — with some specific features included (for example, Quotes may also be viewed by Won or Lost).

 

'One-Click' CRM Reports

Applane CRM provides team members and managers with access to the right information and reports they need at any given time. Earning Applane CRM bonus points is the fact that nearly all reports needed for any task are quickly available within one click from the dashboard.

Using a pre-populated version of Applane CRM (you can import your existing CRM spreadsheet data or start adding entries day-forward), it was extremely easy to access reports. To provide a better understanding of the types of reports and data you can obtain using Applane CRM, here are five of the many reports we viewed for analysis, as a Sales Executive. Each of these reports was accessed in just a second or so, with one-click access from the CRM dashboard:

 

  • View all "In Progress" interactions with all organizations and see which leads to be followed up on by your sales team are hot, warm, or cold leads. You can also sort and view data based on any criteria such as date, country, project, and see which sales team members are assigned to handle the next communication and the date of that communication.

     

  • View all current "Opportunities" and see which organizations the opportunities are with, which sales team member has been tasked with follow-up and access details of the last communication with the Opportunity.

     

  • View all "Lost Quotes" to analyze why you have lost a number of recent quotes. With one-click, you can see reasons for lost quotes, such as the price was too high, discussions were dropped, the quote manager did not respond to the quote in time, problems with individual team members closing fewer quotes than others, and so on. Here you can compare your "Lost Quotes" data with your "Won Quotes" to help you determine where in the quote process your organization needs to make changes for maximum Quote Wins.

     

  • View all "Opportunities" that have a scheduled action due on the current date. Just left-click and from the resulting context menu you can choose a number of actions possible for this opportunity. For example, you can mark it Won or Lost, provide a Quote, or assign it to a specific sales team member.

     

  • View all Customers, Contacts, or Organizations in your Applane CRM and define a template — which can be saved for later use — and select which organizations or customers to send bulk email communications to. The emails can be personalized using tags. For example, you can choose to personalize the email by name, organization, job title, or pull other fields of data from your CRM application to add a personal element to the email. The email is sent from within the application, making it a very simple process to do batch email with Applane CRM.

Google CRM Integration

Google integration is also a big feature of Applane CRM. Google's single sign-on itself is a benefit, but when you put the CRM application's integration with Google Applications to test, you can truly see why this is an important option for businesses who use Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs and other Google applications.

For example, you can import all your Google Contacts directly in to Applane CRM. You can also do a number of time-saving tasks such as open an "Opportunity" in the CRM and "record interaction" and have the details automatically saved to your Google Calendar. You could also do things like read an email and create a new "Opportunity" in the CRM with a single-click action from Gmail.

With integration between Google products and Applane CRM, there is a seamless "always on" flow of data between your Google apps and the CRM application that is automatically updated.

 

Licensing and Availability

Applane CRM is available in two editions. A free license is good for two users with full access and, according to the company, is a "no strings attached" offer. The Enterprise Edition is a customizable edition designed for innumerable users to manage a more complex organizational hierarchy. Pricing is available with the third and subsequent users starting at $12 per user per month. The Applane CRM website offers additional details on features and pricing

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Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

 

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