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Multiactive's Maximizer not so Enticing

Multiactive's Maximizer not so Enticing

When it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) software, it's often best to stick with products that are easy to work with and don't force users to wrestle with arcane technical details. Many users fear that unfamiliar programs will impede, rather than facilitate, their interactions with customers.

Multiactive Software's Maximizer Enterprise 2000 scores well in the ease-of-use category - it can be adapted to several different work environments, making it the kind of product you can start using almost immediately. But it also delivers far less functionality than many of its competitors, so if your needs extend beyond simple contact and opportunity management, you'd be better off with a more robust product, such as Entice, another Multiactive offering that supports customer interactions over the Internet.

A case in point is Maximizer's opportunity management tools, which are effective but limited. You can create multiple custom action lists, detailing the steps you need to take to close a deal, and add those activities to your to-do list. But Maximizer doesn't offer the same wealth of marketing, sales and e-commerce features that other CRMs boast. There's no product database, for example, meaning you can't detail such data as price, quantity, and discounts unless you create your own custom fields. And even if you do, you'll have to calculate the expected revenue yourself - Maximizer doesn't do the maths for you. This surprising gap means you can't do simple activities, such as create quotes, unless you develop your own work-around. The $US995 Integrator Toolkit provides the APIs necessary to build custom applications.

Maximizer also does not offer common CRM features such as online service and support and interface to back-office applications. However, many third-party vendors offer compatible products for features such as creating quotes or linking to Solomon IV and AccPac financial software, or for transferring data to FedEx or UPS package management software. Multiactive has also announced a new version of Maximizer Enterprise 2000 for Lotus Notes. Expected to ship this month, the new version will offer a broader range of customer management, sales and marketing, and customer service features.

On the other hand, Maximizer's calendar and meeting features are solid. The shared calendar saves users the hassle of constantly updating their own dates, thereby making group scheduling easier. You can set up appointments and schedule meetings with other Maximizer users, because each user gets an immediate notification of the meeting and can accept or reject the request.

Another strength is Maximizer's feature that displays each user's physical whereabouts and activities. At a glance, you can see each co-worker's current engagement and expected duration. This feature is especially useful in hectic team environments, because it can cut down on unproductive phone calls and walking tours of the office.

But perhaps Maximizer's best attribute is its flexibility. The software can run in a wide variety of technical environments. For example, it supports both Btrieve and relational database engines. The option to use Btrieve is a welcome (and rarely seen) one if your network is based exclusively on Novell NetWare, because it saves you the cost of adding Windows NT and a relational database server to your environment. Multiactive also provides ODBC drivers that let you access your data from compliant software, such as Microsoft Excel. Keeping multiple databases aligned will cost you, however - you'll need to buy Multiactive's synchronisation server. For Btrieve, this means an extra $US995 for the server and $149 for each remote user.

Maximizer also supports several e-mail systems, including offerings from Eudora, Lotus Development, Novell, and Microsoft. Moreover, the recently announced version of Maximizer Enterprise for Lotus Notes should make the product more appealing for companies that adopt the Lotus Domino R5 platform.

Furthermore, the package can be customised to fit each user's preferences. Not only does Maximizer offer several predefined screen formats, but you can also adjust the quantity of information displayed. Defining a new view doesn't require programming skills: You simply select individual fields to create your own custom display for company and contact data. You can also choose which toolbars best agree with your working habits. (In fact, you can even create your own toolbar icons and associate actions, such as opening a specific URL or local document.)Another useful feature is Maximizer's search tools, which are especially handy if your contact database is so big that it's hard to find information. You can base your search on single or multiple fields and store search criteria for reuse. Your searches don't have to be limited to your contact database either, because Maximizer can put the whole Internet at your service. For example, you can select a contact name and start a Web search on multiple portals with a click of the mouse. That way, if your sales prospects left a track on the Web, you'll be able to find them. Select the prospect's street address on the contact window, click Draw a Map on the menu bar, and Maximizer will link to Maps On Us on the Web (www.mapsonus.com and create a map in your browser.

As for data entry - a necessary evil for an accurate contact database - Maximizer provides powerful tools to minimise the pain, such as global changes to the entire contact database and customisable templates, which act as a matrix when you enter new contacts. These useful features can be lifesavers. For example, if one of your customers moves, you can easily replace the old address with the new one throughout your entire database. Surprisingly, however, Maximizer doesn't let you undo global edits, which can make life difficult for users on shared databases.

Overall, Maximizer Enterprise 2000 is a well-designed CRM solution. If all you need is contact and opportunity management, Maximizer is a solid choice. But if your needs exceed those requirements, try a more powerful alternative.the bottom lineMaximizer Enterprise 2000Business Case: Companies that need contact management will benefit the most from Maximizer. The package is easy to use but does not offer a wide range of features; and although it is affordably priced, additional functionality costs extra.

Technology Case: Although most competing products support only mainstream e-mail systems, Maximizer interfaces with a wide range of e-mail products. It's also one of the few CRMs that supports relational and Btrieve databases.

Pros:

- Easy to use

- Can handle different e-mail and database systems- Features include strong contact management and workgroup collaborationCons:

- Functionality limited to contact management and opportunity tracking- Some basic features require additional products purchasedPlatforms: Windows 95/98; Windows NT; supports Vendor Independent Messaging and Messaging API e-mail systems.

Price: Available on application from

sales@multiactive.com.au

http://www.multiactive.com.au


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