Searching for a CRM

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We currently track prospects and clients with a delicately balanced combination of such tools as Google spreadsheets, Remember the Milk, an internal wiki, smart mailboxes and an aging but still spry fox terrier. (She benchmarks surprisingly well on her good days.)

But like any growing enterprise, commercial or social, we've passed the point where that kind of chewing-gum-and-coat-hanger contraption can hold together reliably. Now we're looking for a capital-S Solution... one that's capital-R Robust and capital-C cost capital-E effective.

Our search has zeroed in on three tools: 800-kilo-gorilla Salesforce, Google-based upstart Etelos, and open-source heartthrob CiviCRM. Each has their advantages and drawbacks, costs and benefits, dimples and warts... and we're getting a pretty good handle on those.

But there's only so much a spec sheet (or even a demo account) can tell you. What we don't have yet – and here's where you come in – is the inside scoop. So we're turning to our community and asking you to dish. Are you already using one of these tools -- or another CRM solution we should consider? Do you love it or hate it, and why?

We're particularly interested in hearing from other small businesses, dev/tech types, and Mac users.

Please tell your story in the comment area below, and you'll earn our eternal gratitude. (We'd offer an iPod Nano for the best one, but we know that you can't be bought for such paltry trinkets.)


Donald Lobo says

May 2, 2007 - 2:44pm
Wow, thanx. Did not know we were considered the open source CRM hearthrob, but it definitely helps boost spirits within the team :) Obviously we are honored and flattered that we are considered along with the others. We still think we have a few more releases to go to really step into the big leagues but we are getting there at a fast and furious pace. We obviously can get there faster with support from organizations like yourself. We'd love to get your feedback / critique / reviews. We definitely need it to grow and improve as a project. So at the end of your evaluation cycle if you could share that we'd appreciate it :). We try to be pretty harsh critics internally, but sometimes you tend to get lost in the trees within the forest :) regards lobo

Rob Cottingham says

May 2, 2007 - 3:37pm
You bet... and if you have any advice on integrating our desktop apps (especially Apple's we'd be delighted.

Donald Lobo says

May 2, 2007 - 6:49pm

Integrating with desktop apps is obviously important but also quite a big challenge (primarily because there is not a lot of open source software in the integration area as yet).

CiviEvent has iCal support and hence u can sync it with your iCal / Google Calendar etc.

With regard to email, 1.7 has a RESTful api which we hope will make some simple sort of integration with a client like ThunderBird easier. Someone just posted on our forums about rudimentary ThunderBird support.,97.0.html

We hope a few other folks step up and scratch their itch and build integration stuff with other mail clients (including We will definitely support and work with folks with regard to the CiviCRM end of things and build the api layer needed to make this easy. SalesForce/SugarCRM have a major step up in that respect, but i think we'll cross that barrier in the next year or so with support for major mail clients



Rebecca says

May 3, 2007 - 12:04pm
What about 37 signals suite of products? (Basecamp, Highrise, etc.) May not have as many features as your looking for, but easy to use.

Simon Pavitt says

May 3, 2007 - 4:03pm
As far as CiviCRM goes, there's a newly launched CiviCRM community in Canada where you might find a few people you know who can fill in some details???

Or the CiviCanada drupal group might have people who can comment in more detail in praise of CiviCRM.

Gerry Kirk says

May 3, 2007 - 7:02pm

I have used Zoho CRM ( to some extent, and its a bit like a swiss army knife. You can customize the look, data, workflows and there is decent support for mass email. Integration? There is for MS Outlook and Office, but not much beyond that. You can also download your own copy of the software if you want. I dislike the task feature and the somewhat clunky interface. Sorry, but I have to say Zoho is definitely better than CiviCRM for CRM.

Highrise ( is getting a lot of raves. I really like the email integration, the intuitive way information is organized and presented. You can tag individuals and people (think 'lead', 'hot', etc). I wish it was integrated with Basecamp (, which I use for a number of projects. I expect there will be an API for it like Basecamp. There are all kinds of potentially useful add-ons for Basecamp, so expect the same some day for Highrise. I'm still in test mode, not sure if this is truly what I need.


Gerry Kirk says

May 9, 2007 - 7:07am
Ok, as predicted, the Highrise API arrives early with promises of integration goodness. says

March 25, 2012 - 10:30pm has a comparison and review model for all the top online sofware for business. Would like to see CiviCRM in there as well. Check out the CRM app comparison page. Someone from CiviCRM should get listed on the site too. I hope this is helpful to your readers.



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