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As businesses become more collaborative online, they are requiring more than just the limited functionality of Microsoft Office, which is why many of them are turning to Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs).  The problem with some CRMs, though, is that they can be expensive and too technical for the average user, but easy-to-use, inexpensive cloud-based CRMs like the latest version of Bitrix24, is giving small businesses a reason to get out of their less-functional comfort zone.

Bitrix24 is essentially Yammer (social enterprise) plus BaseCamp (project management) plus Zoho (CRM) plus DropBox (file sharing and online doc management) plus Skype (video chat) along with basic functions like calendars and planners, all in one.  The best part is, the service is free for companies with 12 employees or less and includes 5 GB of free storage.  If you want to add more users or storage, you can scale up to a higher subscription fee, such as $99 for unlimited users and and 50 GB of online storage, which is still modestly priced compared to the bigger players.

While Bitrix24 launched in May of 2012, the company has added significant new functionality to the product, including the CRM and the mobile app.  Stephen Ankenman, the North America Director of Bitrix, said the real attraction to the product is how easy it is for small businesses to acclimate to the new system compared with larger, more expensive CRMs such as Salesforce.

“You can’t get a lot out of Salesforce for the type of money that we [charge], quite honestly, and there is less to learn in our system,” Ankenman said.  “There is really only one interface when you look at the CRM, even though the CRM has the typical things at the top and is a list, it’s still a familiar interface, which is important to small companies because a lot of them are interested in the minimal amount of training and getting non technical people to use their stuff.”

Bitrix CRM

The CRM tools are easy to navigate and are divided into sections including activities, contacts, companies, deals, invoices, leads and other functions to enable businesses to quickly manage data within a central program.  Similar to Zoho, Bitrix24 allows you to invoice customers as well.  Aside from the newly added CRM, Bitrix24 boasts a robust social intranet center called “Activity Stream”, similar to Yammer, which includes instant messaging, video chat, in addition to integrations with social networks including Twitter and Facebook.  However, unlike Yammer, Ankenman says Bitrix24 provides a comprehensive suite of tools and integration with a number of products including Google Docs.

“We have much more functionality than Yammer,” Ankenman said.  “This has an extremely robust file-sharing, file document storage system.  Each user has a library and then a global document library.  And using your desktop app can be set up like Dropbox so you can work on your stuff off line and sync it up when you are back online.”

One particular unique feature of Bitrix24 is its open REST API, which means that if you have coding skills, you can make it work with any tool or service you use, provided you have their API access as well.

The company launched a mobile app that works with Android and iOS to allow users to access their social intranet and collaborate on projects from anywhere.  While the CRM in the mobile app is currently read-only, Ankenman said they are soon rolling out data entry capabilities.  Bitrix24, which currently supports English, German and Russian, will soon support even more languages including Spanish, French and Portuguese which should broaden the product’s reach even further.

The CRM market is a fast growing software area and is ripe for acquisition.  CRM systems grew three times the average of all enterprise software categories last year, according to Gartner, and still has a lot of room to grow as many small business still haven’t adopted CRM systems.   Cloud-based CRM systems are growing even faster with 40% of all CRM software sold in 2012 worldwide was SaaS-based.  With the recent acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft for $1.2 billion, it makes you wonder whether more consolidation will take place in the quickly growing industry.


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