Intuit Enhances QuickBase CRM-as-a-Service Entry
With more than one-third of the Fortune 100 tapping QuickBase for CRM, sales management and project management, Intuit thinks it has a winner on its hands.
Salesforce.com isn’t the only game in town when it comes to CRM-as-a-service. In a certain sense, it isn’t even the oldest. The former Siebel Systems Inc. launched its own ASP-oriented CRM service (the ill-fated sales.com) seven years ago, after all, and a host of like-minded vendors—each with ASP-based business models—also tried to make a go of it by providing hosted CRM.
Salesforce.com did establish and help popularize the CRM-as-a-service model, however. And thanks in large part to Salesforce.com’s success, a number of companies—from hosted CRM pure plays such as NetSuite Inc. (the former NetLedger), to shrink-wrapped-cum-CRM-as-a-service competitors such as Sage Software Inc. (the former Best Software) to specialty vendors such as Amdocs—have established thriving hosted CRM practices.
You can add Intuit Inc.’s QuickBase CRM- and software-as-a-service (SaaS) entry to that list, too. QuickBase started out as OneBase, a hosted database and lightweight enterprise applications service developed by former ASP Turning Mill Software. Following the millennial ASP implosion, OneBase was acquired by Intuit, which—in late 2000—rechristened it QuickBase. Since then, QuickBase—like Cleavon Little’s Sheriff Bart (of Blazing Saddles fame)—has rapidly become a big underground success in the SaaS space: it’s used by more than one-third of the Fortune 100 (34 companies) and has a thriving mid-market business, too.
QuickBase this week announced the latest and greatest version of its SaaS product. Like Salesforce.com—which, by virtue of its hosted architecture, can quickly expose new features and capabilities to users—QuickBase users can start taking immediate advantage of the revamped service’s improved dashboarding and charting features, officials claim.
So much for similarities. In point of fact, QuickBase officials argue, their SaaS entry actually differs from Salesforce.com in many key respects. “Our focus is providing a business process platform, not necessarily [a collection of] applications,” says Jana Eggers, general manager of Intuit’s QuickBase division. “If you’re familiar with [IBM’s] Lotus Notes, you can see what I mean. What Notes brought [to the table] was business process-centric applications. I ran a company on Notes, and we had our customer service application on there, we had our recruiting application on there, we had our sales management application on there, and the power of it was it kept us all on the same page. Quickbase is that kind of platform, but the advantage [over Notes] is you don’t have the challenge of keeping it up and running, because it’s a hosted service.”
Be that as it may, QuickBase—Like SaaS competitor Salesforce.com—aspires to be more than just a hosted CRM package. It offers sales management, marketing, project management, and other hosted processes, too. Its value proposition, Eggers says, is its straightforwardness: QuickBase exposes a richly declarative interface, such that sales representatives, sales managers, or executives can themselves create reports—typically by using declarative queries—or (in the newest version) structure dashboard views. “That’s why IT really appreciates [QuickBase], because it’s a tool that the business person can understand, and that [IT] can still quickly and easily support,” she comments. Don’t let its straightforward declarative query model fool you, Eggers stresses: Beneath the covers, QuickBase boasts complex query and analysis capabilities. “Quickbase has its own reporting engine, just like you would expect from any best-of-breed tool, and we’ve built in [support for] cross-tab, regular, and static table-type reporting. Charting is one of the things that we enhanced in this release, along with rollover capabilities to see exact information, and we also have drill-down capabilities, too,” she argues.
The newest QuickBase revision also delivers an improved dashboard experience, Eggers says, with Asynchronous Java over XML (AJaX) support and a more interactive user interface. “In this version, we’ve really improved our dashboarding capabilities so that it’s laid out in the way that you want, so it gives the users the information they need very quickly and very easily,” she explains. Power users, of course, can still export QuickBase data to Excel (.XLS), or to other formats (such as comma separated values).
QuickBase dashboards, like QuickBase reports, can be sourced to right-time or static data, Eggers says. “We call these [right-time reports or dashboards] views, and the reason why we call them views is because it’s actually a view into live data. Reports, even dashboards can feel kind of static,” she indicates.
The newest release of QuickBase also helps automate report distribution, Eggers says. “We have some very proactive reporting. There’s a lot of automation that reaches out for information and sends it to me, so twice a week I get information on customer roadblocks. We have a customer support team that sends something that says, ‘This is where customers get roadblocks,’ and I can also set up kind of like a dashboard that gives me an at-a-glance view of customer roadblocks.”
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.