Avidian Technologies' Prophet Professional 3.0

Avidian's suite gives small and midsize businesses the features of a high-end customer relationship management application and the stability of a hosted setup.

February 24, 2006

3 Min Read
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Good

• Easy to use• Impressive integration with Outlook• Peer-to-peer data sharing

Bad

• Limited importing capabilities• Separate but dependent steps for sharing opportunity data over e-mail

Prophet Professional 3.0, $299.95. Avidian Technologies, (800) 860-5534. www.avidian.com

Small and midsize businesses face a challenge when choosing a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. They'd like their sales staff to share data but rarely have the resources in personnel, hardware or finances to host a high-end, server-based CRM suite. On-demand CRM products may be suitable, but companies must decide whether to trust critical customer data to third parties, and consider the stability of the hosted providers.

Avidian Technologies provides another option: Prophet 3.0, a Windows PC plug-in for Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2003 and XP. The software is available in three Windows client configurations--Standard, Professional and Enterprise--all targeted at smaller organizations.

The Professional version, which I tested, includes peer-to-peer sharing of opportunity data, providing a welcome compromise between maintaining dedicated in-house servers and using an on-demand CRM suite. It also has a sales assistant feature and filtering options for opportunity data and reports.

Up and RunningThe Professional version is simple to install. The software prompted me to designate a root folder for the Prophet data. Within this, Prophet creates three manager subfolders: contact, opportunity and report. You can create contacts directly within Prophet, which are synchronized with contacts stored in your Outlook contacts folder. Prophet treats each Outlook contact as a possible CRM contact, though you can opt to keep the two lists separate.

Prophet's sales assistant handles common administrative tasks automatically. I defined standard e-mail forms, tasks and appointment templates, which could be linked to a particular action in the sales assistant. For instance, I set up a sales assistant action that would e-mail customers 45 days after my first contact, asking them to fill out a survey.

Unloading mundane tasks like this should help staff focus on getting and closing the sale. Prophet provides multiple ways to track sales, including by sale stage, priority level and sale probability.

Opportunity Clicking

Prophet let me create an opportunity directly from an incoming e-mail with one click. Once the opportunity is created, the e-mail text is added to it as a note, linking the two items and providing a history. You can add other items--tasks, appointments and faxes, for instance--to an opportunity, creating an electronic trail of all contact made with that opportunity.One of the more interesting features of Prophet is peer-to-peer opportunities sharing. The process isn't difficult. I specified which peers I would share opportunities with, and whether I wanted to share the data in read-only or read/write mode. Once established, the peers synchronize with one another, reflecting changes made on one peer to all opportunity shares in a timely manner.

Prophet also lets sales staffers share opportunity data with one another through e-mail. These messages are configured with the necessary instructions for the recipient, with the data carried along as an attachment. This two-step process seems easily convertible into one step to share configuration and opportunity data.

Reporting is standard for this level of CRM programs. Prophet ships with nearly 40 reports, which do a good job of presenting data within the system. The app lets you create new reports using the included wizard, and any report can be modified.

Overall, I was impressed with how well Prophet integrates with Outlook. All functions are add-ons to that application. But the product isn't perfect. Data imports, for example, are limited to the data types that Outlook supports.

Peter Payne is a software programming consultant with a nationwide consulting firm. Write to him at [email protected].0

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