What do you like best?
We have used Commence RM Enterprise Edition for 17 years. We have hosted the Commence server on our network this whole time and did not use their Cloud based solution. The best aspect I think is the ability to customize it to our needs. I have developed it from scratch and designed integrated modules for customer interactions, sales call reporting, sales lead handling, expense report submissions, marketing campaigns, project management, catalog fulfillment, etc.
What do you dislike?
Client-server synchronization and connectivity to other databases have been issues ever since we started using Commence.
Commence is a distributed database, which means that each client has its own copy (as opposed to centralized database, which only has a single copy that each user needs to connect to in order to use it). The distributed database is great for a situation when a user needs to access the data in remote locations without good access to Internet. The local database can be used regardless of the connectivity.
The down side of this solution is that the client databases must be synchronized with the server database regularly. If you have a large database, this probably needs to be done daily and the process may be slow and prone to glitches. I get a call every week to fix someone’s synchronization issue.
If you go with the Cloud solution, you won’t have the synchronization problem but each client has to connect to the server (via Internet browser) in order to view information or make changes.
Second weak point is the connectivity to other databases. While it is available, it has proven to be temperamental. I maintain a separate system for manually updating the system for when this happens – but it is time consuming for our (relatively large) database.
I inquired with Commence about moving our current database to their Cloud solution, but I was told that we could not keep the current database. We’d have to switch to the out of the box database they provide.
Recommendations to others considering the product
If you are starting from scratch and other CRM solutions do not offer the customization to support your business processes, this is probably a good solution for you. I would go with cloud unless you are prepared to spend some time maintaining the database each week. The more complex your database, the more time you will spend babysitting it.
The Commence comes out of the box with some basic functionality that you can build on. You do not need programing expertise to customize Commence, but it helps to learn the basics of how to set up a database. If you are at least somewhat familiar with Visual Basic scripting, you can also customize input in your detail forms (such as validation of users' input, naming new record before saving, etc.). Scripted forms also save number of changes that have to be synchronized between the server and client databases - this is more important for databases with lots of user input.
If you are not able/willing to learn at least some basic concepts about databases and how they work, you may need some outside help to customize your database.
What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?
We are using Commence for Sales Force Automation, internal communication between inside sales, outside sales, marketing and accounting, and running marketing campaigns.