The place where the Customer counts

Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

The place where the Customer counts - Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

CRM Idol: Laurence Buchanan EMEA judge interview

Laurence Buchanan is a recognised authority and evangelist on CRM, Social CRM and customer experience transformation. He has spent over 12 years working in the CRM market, both as a sales and marketing leader and as a CRM subject matter expert. Laurence heads up CRM and Social CRM within the UK for Capgemini (Technology Services). In his current role Laurence is responsible for Capgemini’s CRM & SCRM go-to-market strategy and business development across all packaged vendors and industries. He is passionate about helping clients articulate their customer-centric vision and strategy, and enabling that through the smart use of technology. He’s one of the EMEA judges’ panel for the CRM Idol international competition conceived by CRM and Social CRM expert Paul Greenberg.



Welcome to Laurence Buchanan and thanks a lot for this interview. Now Round 1 of the CRM Idol contest is just finished and all semi-finalists (America and EMEA) have been chosen for the next step. This means the end of a preliminary phase of hard work for the judges who had participated to all demos, worked out their reviews and finally made their choice. First of all – my curiosity – how did you manage the countless CRMish/SocialCRMish main products’ features to articulate your judgment?

The judges on both sides of the Atlantic had several conference calls to agree a standard set of criteria that we marked the candidates against. Each candidate had a mentor to try and guide them through the process and show their product in the best light. There were a lot of demos packed into a short period of time but it was great fun!

Tell us about your experience with this amazing panel of experts and colleagues.

The competition was the brainchild of Paul Greenberg – I must say his passion and drive are quite incredible. He is one of the very few people in the industry who could pull together such an impressive collection of judges in such a short time. It really was an honour to be included in a group of industry experts I have been following for over a decade.

I think it’d be really interesting to have your overview about this first phase of the contest. In your opinion, which are the European participants’ overall strentghs with regard to their corporate visions and products?

I don’t think I can really generalise by region. What we saw in the EMEA competition was a lot of variety – some vendors focussed on a very narrow market (e.g. Industry or geographical segment), others had global ambitions. What impressed me most was how the majority of the vendors in the competition were punching way above their weight. Most had relatively small development and sales teams but had done an amazing job at building their products and then taking them to market.

And what about their overall weakness?

Again it’s hard to generalise but given the size of companies we were looking at, it’s natural that all of them saw a challenge in getting to the next level. Some were looking for an injection of funding, others were looking to grow organically. Some wanted to stay focussed on their niche, whereas others wanted to break into a new market.

Which aspects have driven you to make the final choice?

We focussed on how well the companies had identified their target market, built a differentiated solution to meet the needs of that target market and then executed on their vision. We also considered their respective strengths and weaknesses in taking their business to the next level.

Working and talking with Paul Greenberg – fully involved in the worldwide project -, which are the main differences resulting from a comparison with american participants?

I would say that the majority of vendors we spoke had global plans to some degree. The European vendors are of course conscious that Europe is a target secondary market for most US-based vendors, equally we came across some European vendors who were driving significant revenue outside Europe.

Geographically (and frankly) speaking, which are the more promising countries and which the ones that disappointed you?

I don’t think we can generalise by country. We saw both innovation and missed opportunity in most of the major European countries we covered. Country did not seem to be a deciding factor in the success of the entrants.

Can you give some suggestions for the CRM and Social CRM vendors that will try to participate to the next year CRM Idol contest?

It’s amazing how much difference a well prepared pitch can make. Have a clear description of the business problem you are trying to solve and show us how you solve that problem better than anyone else for your chosen market. We tended to find that those that worked closely with their mentors found huge value in that relationship and as a result probably landed their pitches a little better!

Thanks again to Laurence for his kindness and time.

CRM Idol reviews for Italian competitors

Just to inform you that the CRMIdol judges panelPaul Greenberg, Mark Tamis, Laurence Buchanan and Silvana Buljan – after a great and huge job focused on analysis of contestants’ quality of their product, vision of their company, and much more, has reached another goal: completing the reviews of all 20 EMEA companies. And now we’re confidently waiting the nomination of EMEA semi-finalists, hoping the only two italian partecipants will pass this important exam.

So I like to share the two specific reviews considering that these are joint reviews signed off by all the judges who attended the session.


Some of the vendors on CRM Idol fall into the category of vendors who are trying to build their own proprietary CRM platform, whilst others aim to build on the success of an existing platform. Run Time Solutions, who created Web CRM One 2.0, fall into the latter category. Their primary market is the installed base of SAP Business One customers and their solution has been designed to super-charge the CRM capabilities of SAP Business One. That said, they were keen to stress to us that their solution could run stand alone and could be integrate with other ERP solutions but the demo and positioning we saw focused heavily on SAP Business One integration and we believe that market represents their primary opportunity.

Before we drill into Run Time Solutions and their product it’s probably worth spending a few seconds on SAP Business One. SAP has been trying for many years to crack the SME market. Over the last 10 years SAP has acquired, built and launched several products targeted at that market segment (often not in the most joined up way but certainly not without investment or focus!). SAP Business One has without questions been one of their success stories with over 31,000 customers to date and a relatively large reseller network. The solution aims to provide basic ERP / CRM functionality in a box (including Financials, Sales, Inventory, HR, Service, Reporting) to SME clients.

Run Time Solutions are an Italian company, founded in 1995 by Mario Barone (now CEO) and Flavio Grandesso (now CTO). The company became a SAP Business One partner in 2004 and in 2009 they brought a product offering called Web CRM One 2.0 to market, which aims to supplement the CRM functionality within SAP Business One. The solution was the first partner solution in Italy to become SAP Business One certified. It is fully web based, 100% Java-based and is available as an on-premise solution or on-demand. Runtime Solutions take the Web CRM One 2.0 product to market both via a direct model and a VAR model. To date the product has around 200 customers, including some surprisingly large names like Warner Brothers, Samsung, EDS, Unilever, Olivetti and Telecom Italia. The company quoted success stories that had gone live in 3 days, which is certainly very impressive. But it should be noted that the majority of successes so far have been in the native Italian market. The company has had some success internationally and indeed the product supports Italian, English, Chinese, German and French languages. We believe that international growth is both a major challenge and a major opportunity for the company.

Onto the product demo and at first the judges were slightly confused as to overlap between SAP Business One and Web CRM One 2.0, but presenter, Ramona Ienna, did a great job of walking the judges through an overview of the solution. She was extremely well prepared and gave solid answers to all of our questions. It became clear that the Web CRM One 2.0 product leverages the data and processes within SAP Business One without replication. One thing the product does well is simplify both the user interface and some of the processes within SAP Business One:

In addition the product adds to the capabilities of SAP Business One. In particular the judges likes the concept of Super Queries which are aimed at providing analytical capabilities to business users and can be used, for example for tasks like segmentation or (shown below) geo-integration of customer master data and Google maps for route planning. The demo showed very simple creation of a super query, demonstrating the mashing together of information contained within SAP Business One, Web CRM One 2.0 and external data (in this case Google Maps):

The demo focused on some of the additional capabilities that Web CRM One 2.0 brings to SAP Business One, such as campaign management and social integration. The company certainly saw social integration as a differentiator, but what we saw was quite basic – simply supplementing a customer record with a social profile and relationship data as well as importing a social contact as a lead. We felt that the social integration we saw was very much work in progress and we were not surprised to see social being a strong area of focus in the product roadmap (the company plans to introduce Facebook and Xing connectors by the end of the year). We also felt that even more could be done in the social space, for example, perhaps integrating with collaboration tools like SAP Streamworks or Yammer.

Run Time Solutions’ product roadmap for the remainder of 2011 was explained to us very well. The company plans to focus on building out their campaign management functionality and adding surveys and outbound call management. In 2012 their development focus will turn more towards Customer Service (e.g. knowledge base and service contracts) and Project Management functionality.

Our overall feeling towards Run Time Solutions was that the company was at a key inflection point. If they can continue to break out of their native Italian market and continue to sign up international customers and VARs then they have a very strong opportunity to sell into the large international base of SAP Business One customers. However, our enthusiasm was tempered somewhat by the fact that there are a number of companies vying for the same market. In addition, we had a slightly concern that SAP themselves may well build out Business One to include some of the functionality that Run Time Solutions provides (such as campaign management). We believe that the company needs to keep innovating in order to stay ahead of SAP’s solutions for the SME market, if they can do that then we see a strong future for Run Time Solutions.


Digita Srl was founded in 1999 by Stefano Straus and Maria Sole de Vidovich, a husband and wife team based in Asolo, Northern Italy. In their early years the company focused on consulting and specialized in web design projects. In 2003, to meet their own internal business needs they decided to develop an open source CRM solution that they later brought to market in 2005, called Tustena CRM. Over the last few years the company has grown to 10 employees, with a customer base of over 200 customers. The company’s revenue comes both from product sales and from business consulting.

The product Tustena CRM is built on a .Net architecture and is available both on-premise (48% of customers) and on-demand (52%). The subscription price is a very reasonable 16.5 euro per user per month. With its 9th release scheduled for the end of 2011 Tustena CRM now has broad capabilities spanning CRM, Social CRM Helpdesk, Analytics and ERP. Their target market is small and medium enterprises – 50% of their customers have between 15 and 50 users. To date they have mainly focused on their domestic Italian market but their key objective is to try and move upstream within the SME segment and also expand internationally and they are slowly building a partner reseller network to help them achieve those goals. From an industry perspective 59% of their customer base comes from the Service industries (e.g. Advertising, Telco, Consulting), 25% are technology companies and 15% manufacturers.

During the CRM Idol presentation Digita Sri spent a good amount of time demonstrating their product. The demo was something of a feature / function demo – we went through a number of different features within the software including contact management, outbound e-mail marketing, surveys, service tickets, Google maps integration, opportunity management. We felt that the demo lacked a overall story to bring to life the features bring demonstrated and more could have bring done to bring out the unique differentiators rather then simply going through the functionality feature by feature. That said, however, the demo did show us strong breadth in the solution. The e-mail marketing capabilities showed the ability to create targeting mail campaigns and measure closed loop results (shown below). This capability looked solid but nothing unique that we would not expect a CRM vendor to provide:

Likewise the Helpdesk and reporting capabilities looked strong but not necessarily unique. We looked at the ability to create custom reports, all presented beautifully as below:

The key strength of the solution seemed to be the internally integrated processes that spanned both CRM and ERP. We saw this briefly in both a services and a manufacturing context looking at capabilities like product catalogue, orders, quotations, pricing, contracts and invoicing. We believe this to be extremely attractive to SME organizations looking for a single simple, integrated business system.

In addition, the solution (at least the on-premise version) also looked to be extremely configurable with the ability to add custom fields, remove tabs, integrate to 3rd party solutions like Outlook or Google apps. The final part of the demo covered what looked like basic BPM capabilities. We showed these applied to sales opportunity management, showing the process of sales lead nurturing. This looked promising but unfortunately we didn’t have time to see more:

Overall, the Tustena demo left the judges with slightly mixed feelings. On one hand we were impressed by the breadth and depth of the solution. For a reasonably small development team they have built out an impressive array of capabilities spanning CRM & ERP and available both on-premise and on-demand. On the other hand, we didn’t really feel that the presentation and demo quite articulated a clear and more importantly differentiated value proposition.

Good luck guys. Hope to see you in the next phase.

Facciamo il tifo per l’Italia…almeno nel CRM

Devo ammettere di aver trascurato un po’ il mio blog ma dovete capire che sono andato in ferie per due settimane e dovreste apprezzare il fatto che appena tornato mi sia già rimboccato le maniche per scrivere qualcosa, anzi per condividere una bella notizia :)

Qualche tempo fa avevo scritto del contest CRM Idol ideato dal vulcanico Paul Greenberg il quale consente a medio-piccoli vendor di soluzioni orbitanti attorno al mondo CRM (tradizionale e social che sia) di acquisire visibilità attraverso un processo di selezione/valutazione da parte di un team di esperti mondiali (per la sezione EMEA il ruolo di giudice è ricoperto da Laurence Buchanan, Mark Tamis, Silvana Buljan e naturalmente dall’onnipresente Greenberg)

Da qualche giorno è attivo il sito di CRM Idol 2011 e la sorpresa è di trovare una realtà italiana tra i contendenti: Tustena CRM.

E il bello è che in qualche modo sono stato artefice di questa bella sorpresa visto che avevo condiviso il suddetto post in uno dei miei gruppi LinkedIn dedicati al tema del CRM e Stefano Straus (CRM Guru di Digita s.r.l., la società che produce e commercializza Tustena) mi aveva contattato, si è incuriosito e, nonostante qualche remora iniziale legata alla stringente deadline per la presentazione della domanda di partecipazione (i requisiti di ingresso erano soddisfatti a priori), alla fine si è convinto ed è quindi riuscito ad entrare nel contest. Unico rappresentante del nostro Belpaese (ultimamente non troppo forse) a cui dobbiamo fare i nostri migliori auguri e che bisogna tifare confidenti delle sue capacità e potenzialità.

Prossimo passo per Tustena CRM: incontro con il team di giudici EMEA per la presentazione della azienda, di una demo del prodotto (live) e per le risposte a tutte le domande poste dagli esperti/influencer (save the date – 9 settembre 2011).

Stay tuned!!!