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Our B Review of Base CRM

A small business CRM worth looking at

We review small business CRM software all the time. Sometimes we find great systems. Sometimes not.

More typically, we find systems like Base CRM, a well designed and promising system that’s almost there (but not quite). Read on for our full review.

The Quick and Dirty Verdict

Base is a web-based CRM built by Future Simple, a venture-backed, Chicago based software company. As small business CRMs go, Base is pretty damn good: it’s easy to use, includes some neat features (client spaces!), and boasts an awesome mobile app. Unfortunately, the expensive pricing scheme, lack of calendaring, and limited integrations are all serious drawbacks. We’re giving it an 85/100, a respectable “B” on our grading scale. Read on for details…

Functionality = 28/30

Base’s feature list is quite good. Standout features include email integration (you can send and track emails from within your contact database), helpful premade reports, a straightforward permissions system, and an excellent mobile interface (one of the best we’ve seen, actually). Contact-related “activities” are limited to notes, deals, and tasks, which we like: no superfluous stuff here, folks. There’s also a unique “client spaces” feature which lets you share deal information with clients. We’re not sure how helpful this actually is – do prospects actually login to such things? – but it’s pretty interesting.

We’ve knocked a few points because the search functions aren’t great (don’t use Base if you have a huge, complex contact database), and because, more importantly, the calendaring sucks. Because activities are limited to tasks, there’s no quick way to block time out on your calendar for things like, oh, meetings. If you use Gcal, you can add the task, then click through and modify it in Google, which works as a workaround. Still…

Usability = 18/20 points

Base definitely takes a “less is more” approach to design (a relief to anyone accustomed to traditional CRMs). Navigation is generally intuitive and easily understood, though loading times weren’t great in our New York offices. Compared to much of the competition, Base’s usability is a big plus: you won’t have trouble training older reps on this.

Our deductions mostly have to do with the occasional design blip (see screenshots). Base is a young product – less than 3 years old – so these things are expected, but they leave the product with an unfinished feel. Mission critical software needs attention to detail – lots of it.

Security = 20/20 points

As far as we can tell, Base hasn’t suffered any security breaches, and the permissions system ensures admins have control over users. Base is hosted on Amazon’s EC2 servers, use SSL encryption, and automatically provides hourly backups. Standard (and secure).

Integrations = 5/10

One of Base’s main drawbacks is a lack of helpful integrations. Yes, there’s a decent Google integration, and there’s an excellent Dropbox integration, but users are otherwise left hanging. In an era where software is increasingly specialized, that’s not very cool. Without integrations, small business CRM, invoicing, accounting, marketing, and helpdesk tools (et al) become data silos (and cease being helpful). In our view, centralizing everything around the client – the person who makes you money – is one of the main functions of CRM, and Base disappoints.

A well documented API and the great Dropbox integration help out, but we’re still unhappy.

Price = 5/10

We’re also unhappy with Base’s pricing structure. There’s a free version, which is great for freelancers, but just about everyone else will want the $45/user/mo plan. That’s right, $45/user/mo, without which you lose sales forecasting and task automation. Now, we don’t know about you, but sales forecasting (how much upcoming revenue can we expect, given our current deals?) and task automation (pre saved sets of tasks, and triggered tasks) seem like pretty basic stuff. Most CRMs worth their salt offer those features at all price points – they’re some of the main reasons business owners want CRMs in the first place!

$45/user/mo is way too expensive for a small business CRM. 10 users would cost $5,400 a year – that’s nearly 4 times the annual cost of comparable products. No thank you.

Support = 9/10

Base has a vibrant user forum, which is a good sign, and a customer service request was promptly answered. No problems here – it’s clear they take support seriously, which we like.

We’ve knocked a single point because their partner program requires partners to become affiliates who have sold Base to 10 companies. Our dislike for affiliate programs is well documented, so we’ll leave it at that.

Conclusions

We like Base CRM – it’s a well designed, fully featured tool that many small businesses might find indispensable. We just don’t think it’s as good as it could (or should) be – limited calendaring, poor integrations, and a crazy pricing scheme make it something we’ll watch but not recommend.

VM Associates is a New York City based cloud computing consulting firm. We help companies transition into newer, better, smarter software. Contact us to talk about your business, the cloud, and how we might help.

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More Stories By Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.

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