Software Satisfaction Awards

Friday, 29 May 2009

Really Simple Systems has been nominated for the Software Satisfaction Awards 2009. Last year we won the Best SME CRM System category, beating a lot of much more famous names, some of which didn’t even make it to the short list.

This year we have been nominated for the Best SME CRM Software category again, plus a new category, Best Web-Hosted CRM.

If you like what Really Simple Systems does, do please vote for us – more details at Really Simple Systems Hosted CRM.



The small business CRM VAR is dead

Friday, 20 March 2009

Been a little tardy about new posts to this blog, but we’re all busy here at Really Simple Systems closing out yet another record quarter, to finish a record year. But this subject has been around my mind for two years now, and I think we’re cracked it at last.

In the old days (1990’s) you could make money selling accounting systems to small businesses. You’d get a 35% margin on the product (SunSystems, Tetra, Multisoft, Omicron –ah! those names from the past!). You’d charge £4k for the software, about the same again for installation, set up and training, and then (if you had a nice vendor) get a decent margin on the annual maintenance contract, plus upgrades, add-ons and the occasional bit of extra consultancy.

In the old days (2000) you could make money selling CRM systems to small business. You’d get a 40% margin on the product (Pivotal, Onyx, Maximizer – ah! those names from the past!), about the same again for training…. you know the rest.

Heck, back in the really old days (1980’s, showing my age here), you could make money selling word processing and spreadsheets to small businesses, and you could sell the PC too. And a printer, floppy disks, old fashioned paper with holes in the sides of it, the list was endless.

The point I’m trying to make here is that one decade’s nice little business for a VAR is the next decades’ commodity. People buy accounting software off eBay, and kids are taught how to use Word and Excel at school. So now the turn has come for small business CRM systems.

It all started when I was trying to pitch Really Simple Systems to a Maximizer reseller. “Instead of selling Maximizer for £5k plus £5k consultancy, you could be selling Really Simple Systems for £4k and £0 consultancy – your customers will be ecstatic!” I burbled. “And what’s more, they don’t have to pay you all up front but by subscription!” Well, maybe the customers would be ecstatic, but the VAR wasn’t, I’d just destroyed his business model. We gave up trying to recruit existing CRM VARs.

After a while though, other organisations started approaching us. Marketing companies who ran lead generation campaigns for their customers. Outsourced IT companies that had customers paying by subscription. These people didn’t know how to install a CRM system that needed SQLServer as a backend, or how to synchronise laptops to the central server. They didn’t need to. What they knew was how a CRM system would add value to their existing services, not be their service.

So, the old small business CRM VAR is dying, squeezed by the new SaaS systems and by the recession. The savvy ones will move upmarket and install expensive and complex products like NetSuite and Oracle/Siebel. But there is a new breed of CRM VAR waiting to take their places, people who have sales, marketing and business skills instead of IT skills.

Long live the new small business CRM VAR!

(right, that’s enough for this month, I’m off skiing in St Anton!)

Fog Computing

Sunday, 1 February 2009

I was interested in reading the controversy this week about Oracle offering their customers the ability to run their CRM On Demand product on their own servers (see Eric Krangle’s article in Silicon Valley Insider, and also Phil Wainewright’s blog). The comments have ranged across challenging Oracle’s claim that their product is really SaaS (if the product is installed on your own box, what’s the difference between this and conventional in-house software apart from the pricing model?), insinuating that one of Oracle’s motivations is so that that the press will never notice any downtime (if one customer’s server crashes for a day only one customer is affected, whereas if a large shared platform goes down for an hour everybody screams and the press pick it up), and picking up on Europe’s stricter data protection laws (legally, if you want to store the personal details of European citizens outside of the EU you need each and every one of them’s individual permission, not that many people seem to know or care about this).

As Cloud Computing becomes the must-have technology for this and the next decade we’ll see lots of more traditional vendors claiming that their offering is Software-as-a-Service, all with their own definition of what Cloud Computing is about: pure play vendors with browser based applications and no (or minimal) local software, shared tenancy and monthly pricing (, NetSuite, Kashflow, Really Simple Systems); browser based software offered on in-house or single servers (Oracle); local software and the data in-house or hosted (Microsoft); traditional software running on in-house servers but accessed through the like of Remote Desktop Connection. Only when the fog around Cloud Computing clears and customers work out what they want and at and what price will the terminology and offerings stabilise.