Enterprise Apps

Long Reach Overhaul Highlights Open Source CRM

An Ottawa-based provider of CRM for small and medium-sized businesses,The Long Reach Corporation has a surprisingly far-flung customer base, with clients in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

That is likely due to the special niche it fills for SMBs, a corporate constituency that does not typically have a wide selection in business applications, noted Michael Whitehead, CEO of the firm.

“We are the ‘cool’ small business CRM company with a lot of business management features,” he told CRM Buyer. “We have pushed that niche across many countries. At the moment, we have 35 partners reselling the application.”

Indeed, for an application designed for the smallest company — from two employees to 200 — Info@Hand, Long Reach’s flagship product, offers high-end functionality. The latest version, released last week, includes new integration product management, project costing/invoicing, and integrated customer service management features.

Building on Open Source

Long Reach is able to build out its platform with new functions on a regular basis because it is a hybrid open source-based product. While it’s true that many executives may not have heard of Info@Hand — it has about 400 customers worldwide — most have certainly heard about the benefits that open source is supposed to deliver.

While on-demand dukes it out with traditional software, open source is increasingly cutting inroads into the mainstream. It is worth taking a look at one vendor offering a well-equipped platform built largely on open source.

Info@Hand has borrowed source code from SugarCRM; Joomla, an open source content management portal; Asterisk, an IP telephony system; and Virtue Mark, an open source e-commerce application. Parts of Info@Hand were developed in-house and are proprietary.

“Our philosophy is to use proprietary code when you need it and open source when you need it,” Whitehead said.

Faster Road to Maturity

Ultimately, the customers could care less where the code originates, he said. “What they care about is that it does what they need it to, it is cost effective, and the support is good.”

The main benefit of using open source, from the customer’s perspective, is that the product matures far more quickly. For instance, Info@Hand is among a small number of SMB software providers able to deliver an integrated core to customers — that is, its CRM features are integrated with extended business management processes for order management and project- and resource-tracking, as well as customer service and human resources.

Its customer service management system is fully integrated with an automatic assignment mode that pairs cases with the most qualified technicians, for example.

New Capabilities

The latest upgrades in Info@Hand include the following:

  • Credit card transaction processing within the payments module;
  • New marketing events module with scheduled client e-mail reminders, and user self-registration via the customer portal;
  • Invoices that can be linked to events to track total sales generated by each marketing event;
  • Multi-select category field added to leads and contacts to facilitate classifying and filtering for marketing and sales purposes;
  • E-mail links in the leads and contacts mass update panel, to generate adhoc e-mail campaigns to all selected leads or contacts;
  • A new partners module that manages partner records. Partners are linked to Leads, Opportunities, Invoices and Accounts to track their performance in creating new opportunities and closing sales; and
  • Enhanced international support.

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