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The Top 10 CRM Software Systems in Southeast Asia


An Independent Review of the Top Southeast Asia CRM Solutions

How information systems are evaluated, selected and consumed has changed in Southeast Asia more over the last few years than at any time prior. Southeast Asia is a broad subregion—including countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia—and includes diverse countries that are both leaders and laggards in terms of technology adoption.

Since the turn of the century the region has seen an uptake in midmarket and enterprise companies moving to more modern business software applications to improve their business processes and enrich the customer experience. E-commerce, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications have all been at the forefront of this software technology adoption.

And with faster and more reliable Internet service, and improved telecommunications in general, the way software applications are delivered has also changed. Many companies in the region first brought remote branches online by connecting them to their central applications. However, now with an abundant supply of Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud business software applications, small and midsize businesses are selecting cloud CRM software at a near feverish pace, and larger enterprise companies are not far behind.

The concentration and volume of small and midsize businesses in Southeast Asia is unique. According to the ASEAN (Association of South East Nations with member states of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam) Secretariat, based in Jakarta, "SMEs are the backbone of ASEAN economies. Generally, they account for more than 96% of all enterprises and between 50% to 85% of domestic employment in ASEAN Member States. In addition, the contribution of SMEs to GDP is between 30% and 53% and their contribution to exports is between 19% and 31%."

And looking forward, "The ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2010-2015, endorsed by the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) in 2010, provides guidelines for regional cooperation to foster the development of SMEs. The Action Plan aims to enhance the competitiveness and resilience of small and medium businesses as ASEAN moves toward a single market and production base of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)."

Significant business growth is expected to be driven by the AEC, which promotes a vision of a single market and production base for ASEAN member states to promote the free movement of goods, services, investment and skilled labour across the ASEAN region. The ASEAN Strategic Action Plan is further aiding regional businesses which seek to expand their exports and competitiveness with improved business software technology. Enhanced communications, improved technologies and simplified commerce are all factors to achieve this top regional objective.

According to the JFPS Group, which sponsored the "All Things Software 2012" event in Kuala Lumpur, the software market in APAC is measured at US$46 billion in 2011, and expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9% over the next four years, reaching revenues of $65 billion in 2015.

When looking just at the cloud Customer Relationship Management software market size, a report titled "SaaS CRM in Asia-Pacific: Strong Growth Despite Market Concerns" by analyst firm Springboard Research forecast the regional SaaS CRM software industry to grow to $570 million in 2012 from US$183 million back in 2008. The Asia-Pacific survey also discovered that SaaS CRM systems are a top organisational priority, and have evolved from 40% of respondents declaring a preference to purchase SaaS CRM solutions in 2008 to over 60% now favoring CRM in the cloud.

But there are challenges ahead for software vendors and the services they offer.

For example, because the region is made up of diverse countries, many with very different business cultures and varying paces in technology adoption, business software suppliers must establish well supported regional offices, and at the same time, implement a subregional distribution strategy with remote local offices and/or a business partner channel. And for many customers it is essential that regional and/or local offices be staffed with support teams in additional to sales teams.

Another issue will be localization to cater for not only the new rules and regulations of the AEC, but also to support local languages, multiple currencies, regional functional requirements and a variety of governance and compliance rules. Simply converting business software from other regions to localised languages is not sufficient, and software developers will have to receive design and development input from the region to accommodate the constantly evolving local business requirements.

On premise business software vendors face significant resistance because of their complex pricing models. If these vendors are to secure more of the SMB market space and win a larger market share, they will need articulate clear, transparent and easy to understand at a glance, price lists, in just the same way that SaaS CRM vendors have done.

And for SaaS CRM vendors, they must start to review their data center operations with more consideration for regional proximity. Online performance and the elimination of continued cultural concern with regard to data location and data privacy is clearly maximized when the data centers are based in Southeast Asia.

Software selling practices are also undergoing more transformation than ever before. The old business model of software vendors allowing local business partners to mark up their software prices at will, is not only confusing, but is unfair to local businesses in Southeast Asia. While exact price controls are not necessary, simply being transparent by displaying price lists on the vendor website will promote fairness for customers that may otherwise be taken advantage of.

CRM software is often an entry point for many small to medium sized companies who then continue to expand their information system portfolio. This gives software publishes additional upside to lead with CRM, demonstrate success and continue a regional growth strategy.

The CRM software market in Southeast Asia is complex. This independent review of the top Southeast Asia CRM solutions is designed to clearly identify the CRM software market share leaders in the region.

Next—AquaCRM Review >>

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