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Our A+ Review of Norada’s Solve360

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a confusing space. On the one hand, there’s been explosive growth of powerful cloud-based CRMs, especially for small businesses. That’s awesome. On the other hand, most CRMs you see are crap: they’re either overly complex, overly simple, or just plain annoying to use. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is a frustrating (and expensive!) challenge for many a small business owner – trust us, we know ;)

It’s thus extremely exciting to find small business software that does CRM well. Solve360 from Norada is one of those CRMs and we’re proud to award it an A+ and our seal of approval. Read on for our full review…

The Quick and Dirty Verdict

Solve360 is aimed at small businesses and teams of under 20 people, particularly those with project-heavy, collaboration-based workflows. If you fit that description then Solve360 is probably the best CRM you’ll find. We’re giving it a 94/100, our best grade to date, for it’s commendable feature list, elegant blend of form and function, and excellent security, affordability, and support. No solution is perfect but Solve360 impresses, and it’s heads above most of the competition. Well done!

The Details

Functionality = 26/30

Features are a tricky topic but Solve360 sports both the features you’d expect from a CRM, as well as innovative, intelligent features you won’t find elsewhere. On the mundane-but-important side is a robust but simple permissions system, an excellent mobile interface, an easily customizable array of form fields, tags and templates, and straightforward task management. It’s stuff we expect from CRMs, but which Solve360 executes extremely well.

On the slightly sexier side, Solve360 delivers some delightfully unique features. For starters, there’s near-seamless integration between contacts and “project blogs,” Solve’s project management vehicle. Besides serving as a central repository for information and tasks, project blogs also have a published view, allowing non-users to access and edit information in much the same way that Google Docs are shared. That’s a huge value-add for businesses who want to collaborate or share information with clients, partners, or other non-employees.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and Solve360’s feature set definitely has some downsides. Database queries, for example, are pretty limiting: don’t use Solve if you have a complex contact database on which you want to enter complex searches. Solve’s “opportunity view,” the way it manages sales, is also disappointingly limited. Don’t expect any sleek and shiny sales reports or granular information about your pipeline – that’s not what Solve does well. To be fair, it’s also not what they claim or seek to do well.

All things considered, Solve360’s features are impressive, particularly if you work in teams or closely with clients. We give functionality 26/30 points.

Usability = 19/20 points

Of the many design models out there, Solve360 walks the line between form and function, and it does so gracefully. There’s nothing quite like it: use Solve360 for a week and we bet you’ll find other CRMs clunky, slow, and unintuitive.

Solve360 actually comes with two starkly different “themes,” though both offer identical functionality. The original theme mimics a computer’s desktop, where contacts and projects are separate windows: a newer theme adopts Google’s recent black and white aesthetic. Both are a joy to use. We give usability 19/20 points, with a single point knocked for Solve360’s mildly steep learning curve (their language is idiosyncratic and initial navigation can be challenging).

Security = 20/20 points

Solve360 is an excellent example of how well-engineered cloud applications offer high-level security. You can read about their security standards here: suffice it to say they exceed industry standards for data safeguarding, and their uptime record is exemplary. We give them 20/20 points – an armed guard wouldn’t be better.

Integrations = 10/10

Solve360 boasts a well planned and well executed list of integrations, particularly with Google. Google tasks integrate with Solve360 tasks, Google calendar syncs with Solve360’s calendar, and (drum roll please) you can even link Google spreadsheets with your contact database for easy reporting. There’s also a Solve360 gadget which appears under each email message in Gmail, allowing access to that contact’s Solve page right then and there. Outstanding.

Other standout integrations include a Freshbooks widget for invoicing, a Zendesk widget for managing support tickets, and push integrations with Mailchimp and Constant Contact. If you’re looking for custom development, the Solve360 API is well documented and robust. Taken as a whole, it’s clear that the Solve team has thought carefully about their target audience (small businesses with project-heavy workflows), done research on the best tools available, and made some very smart and functional integrations. 10/10 for an awesome job.

Price = 9/10

As with most cloud-based CRMs, Solve360 charges a monthly tiered fee, which grows with the number of users and the amount of data you use. That’s par for the course, and plenty competitive considering some of Solve’s pricier compatriots (*cough* Salesforce *cough*). We’re knocking a single point because of our very slight bias towards systems which charge per user, not per tier – an admittedly trivial complaint. 9/10 for price.

Support = 10/10

Solve360 maintains an unusually active and helpful user forum: we’ve never seen that level of committed fan-dom for a business application and we love (and understand) the zeal. There’s also very responsive support staff, a great learning section, and a generous selection of 3rd party consultants available who don’t collect referral fees (we like that). 10/10.

Conclusions

We’re pretty cynical about business software – we’ve seen way too many programs promise a lot and deliver a little. Solve360 is emphatically the opposite of that. It’s intelligent software that blends innovative design with well-constructed features, and it deserves its place among the elite of small business CRM. We think it’s worthy of our our seal of approval, and we’re excited about where it’s going. A+ stuff.

If you’d like to talk about how Solve360 might work for your business, or if you just want to talk cloud computing, drop us a line at contact AT vm-associates DOT com. Cheers!

Read the original blog entry...

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.

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