Q: What's the difference between CRM and SFA?
A: SFA (Sales Force Automation) solutions are almost entirely focused on sales-related objectives, activities, automation and reporting. SFA software products typically facilitate lead management, account management, contact management, activity management, opportunity management and forecasting. CRM is much broader and typically facilitates all customer facing operations. From a software perspective, CRM normally implies the three integrated software modules of sales force automation, marketing management and customer support.
Q: It seems like every software vendor is claiming to be a "CRM" software vendor - yet many of them have little in common. How do I know if they really offer CRM solutions or I'm just reading marketing hype?
A: This confusion dates back to the year the term "CRM" was coined (1992). Many software manufacturers use the CRM industry term in order to ride the CRM wave or otherwise take advantage of a significant market movement. Most analyst and pundits agree that CRM software includes the three integrated modules of sales force automation (SFA), marketing and customer support. If a software vendor offers these three functions in an integrated fashion, they are likely a genuine CRM provider.
Q: What the difference between SaaS, BPO, an ASP, and an MSP?
A: SaaS is of course software as a service and is characterized by a subscription pricing model, hosted delivery and a thin web client accessing a common software application operated on either a multi-tenant or single-tenant delivery platform. Reference the Glossary page on this web site for a more detailed definition.
An ASP is an Application Service Provider which generally manages the deployment of various types (thin client, fat client, client/server, etc) of applications. ASP's existed prior to SaaS and have largely been replaced by SaaS solutions, however, some remain. Some ASP's claim to be SaaS providers, however, abuse the term by hosting any application that can be accessed over the Internet. Oracle's On-Demand ERP software and Workday HR software are examples of ASP solutions.
BPO is Business Process Outsourcing and typically focuses on a single or few line of business processes such as billing (invoicing), procurement, payroll and claims processing. ADP is a classic example of BPO.
A MSP is a Managed Services Provider and provides agreed upon services, often technical services, on behalf of its customer. Examples may include managed security services, outsourced e-mail or groupware functions or even managing an entire help desk or call center.