April 3, 2007 in 4 out of 5 stars, CRM, Hosted "Office", Hosted software

What is it?

Highrise: Take a CRM, rip out the extraneous confusing garbage no one uses (or understands), accidentally throw a bit of the baby out with the bathwater, but not enough to break the deal, and you've got Highrise.

Highrise logo

Who makes it?

37signals, LLC

Why is it the killerest?

Highrise is extremely clean, immediately understandable, well thought-out and useful.

37signals makes software that I use after the initial infatuation wears off. I'm a regular user of most of their other products (they're best known for Basecamp). After spending a few days with Highrise I'm confident this one's a keeper too.

By appearances, they didn't try to emulate a CRM so much as solve the problems folks typically turn to a CRM to solve. The result is an elegant contact and communication manager.

I'm using it to keep track of the communication I have (email and phone) with partners and customers. When I'm on a call, I just open it up and take notes as we talk. For email I love how I can BCC (blind carbon copy) an email to my Highrise "drop box" and it will attach that email to the contact to whom I sent it. I can also forward any email I get from a contact to that same address and again it's attached and everything is organized. Outlook remains my cesspool of chaos, Highrise is my clean organized communication headquarters.

A little tip: set an Outlook or Gmail rule/filter to auto-forward contacts from specific parties to your Highrise email drop box to make sure nothing gets missed.

It also does reminders, to-dos, contacts, and "cases" where you can group and manage all the contacts, notes, and files related to a specific undertaking, or "case."

Additionally, while I haven't tested it out yet there are several features for sharing all this information amongst various users.

It also supports some ninja moves where you can (for example) forward an email and create a task at the same time based on how you format the email address going to your drop box.

Note that there's a version specifically catered to freelancer/solo folks called the "Solo Plan." It's at the bottom of the pricing matrix (and hard to spot).

The help section is well done and gave me the answers to all my questions as I ramped up the (very gentle) learning curve.

This really is a thing of beauty. 

What could be improved?

Highrise shows its youth. There are a few immature features that I'm sure they'll resolve in time. The software was released on March 20, 2007 and they've already released several new features and re-jigged the subscription plans. It's clear they want to make this work for users.

The one disappointing omission I found immediately was the inability to wholesale import my Outlook contacts (note they do allow "vCard" importing which you can do one-at-a-time from Outlook). Outlook can spit out a predictably formatted text file, so I'm guessing (and hoping) they'll add this feature soon.

The only big feature I expected but didn't find was a shared calendar. I haven't missed it yet, but when I start sharing this with other users, I would love something to get me away from Microsoft Exchange for that.

How much does it cost?

From free to $150/mo for the motherload


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Relenta CRM

October 16, 2006 in 3 out of 5 stars, CRM, Email newsletter management, Hosted software

What is it?

Relenta CRM: A new CRM tool (customer relationship management). Includes email, contact manager, shared calendar, email newsletter marketing/autoresponders.


Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

They claim, and employ a (now familiar) "Less is more" approach. They call it the  "90/10 rule"

"Designed for usability and efficiency, Relenta CRM achieves 90 percent of the functionality commonly required by small business users with only ten percent of the application weight."

They integrate email, contact management, calendar, and email newsletter marketing software into one application.

The free plan offers quite a bit for the starting-out entrepreneur trying to determine if this software is right for them.

They've obviously put a great deal of effort into this offering. The interface is attractive and fairly well conceived and it includes many of the features you'd expect from a CRM.

It will be interesting to see how it evolves (it needs some maturing still) and how it stands up to the imminent Sunrise (CRM product) from 37signals.

What could be improved?

A detailed user guide/help/knowledge base is really needed (they are working on it). The support is decent in the meantime (although the support form is cumbersome to fill out). They do have a PDF "user's manual" you'll find in your Relenta inbox after you create an account, which is helpful.

They need spell check.

HTML email templates would be nice (right now offers only plain-text email)

They require 3 credentials for login, not just the normal 2 (i.e. username/password).

The initial starting experience still needs some polish. I had that bewildering "what do I do now" moment when I started.

The free account allows only one user, but you are offered the form to create another user. Only after you attempt it does the application tell you can't add one ("user limit exceeded"). Then the statistics on my dashboard reported 2 out of 1 user, but I still only had the one.

The application response feels a bit sluggish (and no AJAX in sight, which could alleviate some of that feeling).

It feels like they may have rushed to launch it. It's certainly usable as it is and (I have reports from a very happy user), and it's an impressive application, but we've come to expect more from web applications in the last couple years, and this one isn't quite there yet.

How much does it cost?

From FREE to $50 per user per month


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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