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Best of Breed or CRM Ecosystem? The Best Choice to Grow Your Business

Best of breed apps are great at what they do, but their single-function nature can make them cost-prohibitive for small businesses who want to build their own CRM ecosystem. That's where an integrated CRM system comes in — by handling a large chunk of the CRM ecosystem, it enables small businesses to use the time and resources they save on more pressing matters.

WORKetc CRM Ecosystem

Small businesses may not have the resources that large, enterprise-level companies have, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play with similar toys.

That’s one of the main reasons why a lot of CRM systems are being made specifically for small businesses. The latest edition of the TrustRadius CRM Software TrustMap, for example, lists over a dozen CRM systems for small businesses and just four for enterprises.

The Top Rated CRM Platforms in the TrustMap include WORK[etc]. As an integrated system, WORK[etc] gives users access to features well beyond those found in the usual CRM software package. In addition to CRM, it combines project management, time tracking, billing, customer support, and more in one cloud-based system.

WORK[etc] is our way of enabling access for small businesses to the same toy box large enterprises have. However, 56 Group president and bestselling author of CRM at the Speed of Light, Paul Greenberg, says that exactly what that toy box contains is starting to change. Blurring the lines between best of breed apps and CRM suites is now more important than ever.

Ecosystems overtaking suites on the enterprise level

Greenberg is one of the most well-respected voices in the CRM industry. I had noticed that small businesses needed their own integrated CRM system over five years ago when I first started building WORK[etc]. It’s no wonder then that his piece on the decline of CRM suites and other “all-in-one” systems in the face of ecosystems caught my eye.

Greenberg says the decline can be traced to better interoperability between different apps. “Interoperability and integration are commodities now,” he explains. “The need for (CRM) suites becomes less and less manifest, but the best of breed could be found with the integration with one of the suites.”

The first sentence of that quote needs explanation. Interoperability means that two apps can work with each other’s data without having to make any changes to either of them. Integration usually involves making at least some changes to one or both so you can connect them to each other.

The second part of Greenberg’s statement may be true on the enterprise level, but research and advisory firm Software Advice has found that the opposite is happening in the realm of small businesses.

In its latest Small Business BuyerView report, the company shows that more and more small businesses are moving away from best of breed apps. Instead, they’re opting for integrated solutions.

The number of small business buyers in the United States that want integrated CRM software suites has made a massive jump, from just 7 percent in 2013 to 42 percent in 2014. Similar signs of growth have also been evident in the United Kingdom (26 percent) and Australia (34 percent).

Year-Over-Year Comparison: Integration PreferencesYear-Over-Year Comparison: Integration Preferences

Why the disparity? It all boils down to resources. A small business simply can’t field the same amount of resources that an enterprise-level company can, be it money, effort, or time.

All-in-one CRM software is a better fit for small businesses

Greenberg, however, doesn’t give best of breed apps a pass, either. “The reality is that best of breed, even with the interoperability at its optimal, doesn’t provide enough of what customers are looking for any more,” he says. Instead, he touts ecosystems built around best of breed apps and suites as a better solution.

Now, a CRM ecosystem built using multiple best of breed apps and hand-picked suite tools may be the ideal, but for small businesses it’s a very expensive proposition. You need an app for customer targeting and acquisition, another for retention, yet another app for collaboration, and so on. These costs quickly add up.

It’s not just a money issue, either. To get the most out of your CRM ecosystem, you’ll need to train each of your team members how to use all of these wildly different apps. If it takes a week to get someone up to speed on one app, then get ready to spend a month getting him or her sufficiently trained in four apps. And that’s just for one person!

These problems lead to one solution: integrated CRM software. A complete system that combines CRM, project management, billing, customer support, and other business-critical modules in only one app eliminates the need to purchase separate apps. The training time gets slashed too — after all, your entire team is being trained how to use only one app instead of several.

These advantages become even more apparent when each module within the system is comparable to best of breed apps that can only do one thing. Instead of running your small business using a half-dozen different apps, you only need one.

WORKetc CRM ecosystem vs best of breedCRM ecosystem showdown: WORK[etc] vs best of breed. Click for full view.

Slotting into existing business processes

Finding and getting a complete CRM system is just step one, though. A user also needs to consider how it fits into their current business process. Let’s take email, for example.

Love it or hate it, email remains an integral communication aspect of any business. In 2014, Gmail and Outlook together claimed to have over 1 billion users worldwide.

If a business uses either (or both) of these popular email services in their day-to-day operations, their CRM system must play nice with them. WORK[etc]’s Gmail and Outlook gadgets are examples of how an integrated system that also allows third-party integrations can fit perfectly into a business’s existing process.

If you conduct most of your business over Gmail, for example, you just turn the gadget on and you basically have a Gmail CRM. The same thing with Outlook; turn on the Outlook gadget and you can manage your entire business without ever leaving your inbox.

WORK[etc] G Suite integrationIntegrating G Suite with WORK[etc]. Click to play video.

A gadget that allows users to create a new lead, add a new task, and update an existing project all without leaving their inbox is a definite step towards increased efficiency and productivity.

Blurring the line between suite and best of breed

Greenberg’s take on ecosystems and how they blur the line between suite and best of breed apps is spot on: both are necessary to provide the customer what they seek.

Just because one system can take care of practically every stage of the customer lifecycle doesn’t mean it can successfully exist as a closed system. You need to think about customer choice as well.

That’s why integrating with other apps, even for complete systems, is still a key consideration. CRM systems that integrate well with other popular business management apps, therefore, are the best options for a small business.

Finance, for instance, is such a specialized area that integration with apps such as Xero Accounting and QuickBooks Online is practically a requirement for small-business CRM software. Even if the system itself already has a financial module, you can supplement it at any time with additional software. The choice is entirely yours.

And that right there is the beauty of a CRM ecosystem built around a multi-functional, integrated CRM system. The system takes care of a large chunk of the CRM ecosystem, leaving you free to focus only on those aspects you feel require separate specialized apps.

How many apps have you replaced with WORK[etc] and how has it helped you save time and money? Join the discussion by leaving a comment below.

  • Scott Williamson

    Prior to WorkETC, I was running an old version of ACT!, Quickbooks ’99, and Office 2000 on a PC running Windows XP. That computer was in my home office and though it was online, it was all static input; I had to put in all the data and press “save”. The biggest problem I had was that this system required me to still keep a paper notepad and use a typical land-line answering machine and I had to be in the office to access any of the info. Yikes! For email marketing we were using subcription based internet software. Nothing communicated with each other without painful synching of multiple systems.

    The biggest problem…all of my software was 100% reliant on my out dated operating system of the computer. My computer was starting to have issues and I needed to buy another but, if I wanted something new, I was going to have to invest ion all new software, plus I was going to have to learn how to use all the new software AND set it all up, merge data etc….A total mess. Worst of all, this was the third time I had done this in about 5 years. Simply put, technology was changing faster than my business needs. Additionally, if I wanted my business to grow, this meant I was going to have to invest in many licenses, buy new computers with OLD operating systems. I found myself a slave to my technology which took too much time away from actually making money and developing better systems.

    I researched many different cloud based CRM systems before finding WorkETC. What I really like about it was that it had email marketing built in BUT the function I really liked was “Support Tickets”.

    We receive about 7000 phone calls a year. Using an answering machine we would typically just run out of time or patience listening to them all and taking notes. When we set up out dropbox in WorkETC, we also established a phone number through Google Voice. Uf we can get to the phone, great, if not, GV answers it, takes the message and forwards an email to out dropbox which in turn creates a work ticket. WorkETC doesn’t yet have the capability to assign the ticket to customers based upon the phone number, but it’s pretty easy to assign them manually as they come in. Best of all, we have a rich history of every phone message in our customers’ notes!

    Aside from Square.com which we use for credit card processing and Quickbooks which our account requires (but syncs with WorkETC), we don’t use anything else to run the company.

  • David McGarry

    Large companies usually end up with huge behemoth systems that cost a fortune and take an age to implement and often the users don’t like or find user-friendly.

    Being able to tailor a more slim-line approach for smaller companies means that the bloat gets trimmed and the essential functionality is fine-tuned.

    We are now using WORKetc integrated with Google Docs and Outlook and it has made our business processes much more streamlined. As these applications and systems are already familiar to staff, training hasn’t been a big consideration or time sink. We have recently taken on 3 new staff and they have learnt how to use WORKetc while starting their work within their first week.

    We are now using smart lists and priorities to really improve efficiency and enabled us to provide a better service for our clients.

  • Over a couple of years, we tested several top BoB CRMs and experienced much of what you discuss here. As a non-profit, we were given 10 free licenses by one of the top CRM’s in the world. After months of struggle, we had to walk away. It was a nightmare evaluating, testing and choosing from among the thousands of apps available for each segment of our business process.

    What we were REALLY looking for is a Business Management System such as WORKetc. When we stumbled across WORKetc, it was like the clouds parted and the light shone down upon us. Even a system as easy to use and tightly integrated as WORKetc still takes work to learn and tweak. But, as a small organization, it is a system we can get our arms around. Once you learn how one piece of the system works, you can easily figure out the rest. WORKetc’s commitment to accessible, friendly and competent customer service just adds to our sense of comfort.

  • Thomas Lawler

    I believe there is value in BoB products, as they generally drive innovation and direction in the field. But I largely agree with your assessment that their is a HUGE gap between the integration of these systems, and we found it hard to quantify until we moved to Work[etc.] last year.

    When I first started working with my company around 2 years ago, I was tasked with maintaining and managing all of our enterprise SaaS products. I think at the time we had 7+ products that we were using. Each business “team” had their own product that they worked within, and we never really saw lateral movement between the various SaaS products. It seemed like everyone was stuck in their service area or “team”, and no one outside that service area or “team” was concerned with the information or data that was moving in and out of these products.

    Long story short… we had a lot of duplication of efforts, a ton of misinformation, miscommunication, & a bunch of junk data. Several of my coworkers and I decided that enough was enough, and we began searching for an all inclusive solution that would help fix some of these issues we were having. Thankfully we found Work[etc.], and we have had a good adoption between the “teams” in the company.

    While there are times that I wish Work[etc.] had this feature or “x” functionality, I have to say we have experienced a significant growth as a company since adopting Work[etc.] as our enterprise solution. Right now we are extremely happy & dedicated to growing with Work[etc.] as their partner, and their customer.

    Thank you for all you do!

  • We’ve previously primarily focused on utilising BoB software packages to help our business grow – however when WorkETC was integrated about 2 or so years ago – it has slowly taken over most of the functionalities within the business and we can’t wait for further improvements to an already quite comprehensive suite of utilities as it really allows us a one central point of access for our team, rather than thinking of which software can do which part.

    The other side that we’ve been really encouraged about working with the WorkETC team is the constant work on research and development and improvements to the interface – both on desktop and mobile – we look forward to a long and mutually profitable relationship with what we believe is the industry leading CRM/(and many other things) product 🙂

  • Donna Grindle

    We were a heavy G Suite user trying to find a good CRM that did it all. We tried others and ended up frustrated within a month or two. I studied the problems and realized the integration limitations were what was driving down the value and driving up the frustration. We searched for a better integrated solution and found WorkETC years ago.

    Our team is constantly looking for more ways to improve efficiency and customer service with integrations but instead of it being about integrating with GApps alone, now, everything must integrate with GApps AND WorkETC. The two solutions combined together are the foundation everything else is built upon.

  • David Jones

    I have been down the all-in-one versus best-of-breed road many times and in the past my opinion was to use best-of-breed with integration. But that was because most of the all-in-one systems were not very good at everything. Work[etc] is an exception to that rule. We evaluated each “product” within their ecosystem and determined that there was in fact a product that could be all-in-one and best-of-breed. At the time we had separate systems for CRM, Help Desk, Project Management, Time, and Expense. On top of all that people were still maintaining their own reports in excel. Switching to Work[etc] has allowed us to consolidate all those products in to one place and its been great. Naturally we still have to continue to educate the staff on the features of Work[etc] to keep them from wanting to reinvent the wheel but that has been a minimal effort.

  • Branden

    I think best of breed ONLY works if you’re only dealing with a few apps. Once you get past 3 or so, it starts to be a hassle to deal with everything. But when dealing with that number or less, there’s no issue opening up multiple programs to make sure you get what you need.

  • Allen Bayless

    Yeah, there’s been a couple of apps years ago that each covered accounting, invoicing, calendars, project management, CRM and such. When seeing WORKetc years ago I knew this was an application to sign up for. It saved plenty of time for me by allowing access to all mentioned above in the matter of a click. Paying for WORKetc proved that the money was well spent. It had saved money that use to go to multiple services that when totaled the costs right there seemed to be 2-3 times more than WORKetc.

  • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

    Although part of the Team now, I started out as a Customer looking to manage Sales Leads (something I’d not done particularly in the past) alongside ongoing projects, billing and basic CRM. I had 3 other systems that did their own thing well, but I was rubbish as updating every place when a customer changed pone number or email. Moving from free apps to paid was something I needed to try to justify in the budget, but if was a decision that paid for itself ten-fold 🙂

    I still use different tools for some things, but since they integrate directly with WORK[etc] it’s super simple. Most customers are well aware of my love of Xero and all things Google, but I also rely on Evernote a lot to quickly capture thoughts, ideas and issues into some of the management projects in our WORK[etc] account.

  • It’s all about the Ecosystem. You can be a jack of all trades, or you can master what you do really well. I have found that a good balance of offering a core feature (such as invoicing) but allowing end-users to extend that through an app (such as Xero) that does it really well allows for the flexibility of becoming a strong solution for a larger audience. W[e] does this really well. The reality is that people still want choice, and allowing them to use the internal tools that are built in to the platform, or extending them through the ecosystem is the future.

  • I had tried many CRM and found that the all encompassing system provided by Work[etc] actually saved me a lot of confusion more than anything. one particular online system i tried had so many different applications that it was near impossible to know what you were looking at let alone how to use them. This one just works and that is what is important to my business.

  • this software has replaced a few apps for us. however, the one aspect that is vital to my work is a reliable time tracking system that can allow me to start/stop a clock and have it automatically linked to a client/project/task. PLEASE Work[etc], get this working. The desktop times has already proven insufficient when it lost my time. And now I no longer have the ability to even download it..

    My apologies, aside from the timer gripe, Work[etc] has improved our game on almost all other fronts. From project management to billing and invoicing. To be fair, this is one bad ass platform.

  • @Mr_C_Wadd

    I’m with Jeffrey Samorano on this, the time recording feature is an element I do miss from the old system we had in place prior to Worketc. Of course, you can add a timesheet to a task/project, but I think this feature needs improving.

    I’d actually like to learn more about Worketc’s integration with Xero. Where can i get some more info on this?

    • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

      There’s some info in the user guide area, but in simple terms…
      we push your invoices from WORK[etc] to Xero, and along with it will sync anything else necessary for that Invoice to make sense (ie, update contact info, create product in inventory, record payment). Something of a Xero Advocate myself and always happy to chat about how it works, but drop an email through to Support and one of the Team will follow up with you.

  • Mandy Morris

    We’ve been using Work[etc] for about 2 years now as our CRM system. It has integrated into our workflow and has replaced our old time tracking and accounting systems. We also use it to track our sales leads as we did not have an application to do this before. We evaluated many CRM systems before selecting Work[etc] due to its versatility and integration with other applications like Outlook and Quickbooks. Its an inexpensive way to track our projects, time, sales leads, contacts, etc, all in one place.

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