Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Foundations Applications: BusinessPro

Yesterday I blogged about VIC to create a baseline for evaluating CRM applications. After spending two hours chatting with Jim and Bob Baehr (yes, the "The Unofficial Poster Child For Lotus Notes, Domino, and Lotus Foundations") on a Skype-based 'Show-and-Tell' session I can put their Baehrware products (BusinessPro and DocuPro) up on the chart and measure them against that standard.

Saying that BusinessPro provides CRM is like saying that Domino provides email. The answer is yes in both cases but if you stop at that point you are seriously underestimating the power of the application.

BusinessPro is pitched as “a complete sales management software suite” and that's a pretty good description. As we worked through the demo I tried to imagine that software helping to run my business and I was impressed by how close it came to my ideal. The interface is a lot smoother than VIC and the business process has been clearly thought out. Sales leads become Quotes which become Purchase Orders which become Invoices. There are options to sell both Goods and Services and the DocuPro software includes a Billing & Timesheet module which links in to the Sales process.

On the other side of the balance sheet BusinessPro tracks vendors and their products which allows easy calculation of profit per sale and that's the kind of information dear to the heart of any SMB owner. Where the Baehrware model really takes off is with the addition of DocuPro. This optional module allows storing and searching of supporting documentation (emails, scanned docs etc) by tagging the documents to the relevant client or sales order. That's hardly rocket science in the Domino universe but all of the other systems I've seen work on a much larger scale. DocuPro is designed for small business and I'm thinking that I'll need another blog post further down the track to properly explore that software.

The things I liked best about BusinessPro are:
  • It's built from the ground up as a Release 8 application rather than being R5/R6/R7 code with a facelift. This means that the hooks for integrating Composite Applications are already built into the core code instead of being an afterthought.
  • It's already ‘Foundationized’ with the appropriate installer code. In fact this software has the benefit of ongoing development in that department since it was originally designed using the Nitix installer code and later upgraded to work with Foundations.
  • The price point is about right at $99 per user for BusinessPro and you can add DocuPro for another $29 per user.
  • Baehrware are quite open to implementing changes to assist in localization of the product. They’ve already promised to make some changes to make the software more relevant to the Australian market eg “Australian Business Number” rather than “Tax Number”.
The things I don't like are:
  • The design on these applications is hidden. As an innately-curious and ‘ever-willing-to-learn’ Notes developer I find that decision frustrating, unreasonable and a pain in the ass, but as a reseller of Foundations software and appliances I applaud their judgement. An application with hidden design means that end users can’t stick their fingers into the code and make my life miserable with unwarranted support calls.
  • There's no single view to show all outstanding invoices over 30/60/90 days but Jim took that issue on board and I'd expect that omission will have been fixed by the time you read this blog post.
  • The Baehrware website is slick and high tech but it gives me very little feel for what the applications actually do. There are no screenshots of the products and the product documentation for BusinessPro isn't available yet (although it is available for DocuPro). I'm sure this problem will be corrected over time.
On my personal wishlist for BusinessPro is a browser-based utility to allow data entry by people working full-time on client sites for extended periods (three months?) who need to remotely log their work times into the system for the fortnightly invoice run. They might have a Notes client (and BusinessPro licence) at the office but not on their home PC, or maybe I just don't want short-term contractors replicating my core databases. Nothing wrong in wishing for the moon...

In summary, VIC is a great investment for the serious Domino developer who wants to tweak their own code but as far as producing a Sales Management application to sell into the SMB marketplace Baehrware's BusinessPro leaves it for dead.

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