PearlSoftware is launching a new Express version with free pricing. The full version is more like an ERP solution for SMBs so the pricing matrix can appear complex. For the free version, see pricing panel screenshot below:
Free gets you a limited but customizable CRM cum sales application that integrates some email and calendaring functionality. This has been achieved by stripping back the full application to a ‘bare bones’ UI. Although limited, it should be more than enough to get very small businesses up and running and should serve as a taster for what comes ahead. At zero cost, there is nothing to lose.
Last week I had a run through of the full application and it quickly became apparent that this could be the heart of a well rounded on-demand practice management and client system. This is the first time I’ve seen such a system in action and the key comes from understanding how practitioners can configure this to suit their requirements. Practitioners can for instance configure screens to suit client use. They are not constrained to one style. Clients can be allocated to staff so it is possible to manage an entire portfolio of on-demand clients. As I understand it, Pearl already has at least one practice using its software in this manner.
Two of the best features are the inbuilt email and calendar. These were developed by Pearl rather than tacked in vai a thrid party like Google. That’s just as well because it means Pearl can add as many features as it wants without worrying about restrictions in other systems. The calendar is particularly impressive. It can be used as a way of timing events for billing purposes and you can invoice direct out of time recorded.
The developers have given a lot of attention to graphic representation of elements like sales pipeline, orders in process and actions that appear in a dashboard. Personally, I’m not overly keen on the default colour scheme but these are configurable to suit personal taste. Along with pretty mcuh anything else through a variety of setup choices.
Ten years in the making – eight of which were spent developing Pearl for the vendor’s own business use mean this is a product coming to market with a lot of functionality. It is heavily CRM and e-commerce focused so should be well suited for the kind of business that waants to trade over the internet in multiple currencies, wish to take advantage of payment gateways like PayPal, WorldPay and need to schedule orders.
Some things are missing. Payroll for instance but that’s not uncommon in on demand services.
In its full version, Pearl is not one of those systems that you can simply pick up and run. To get the best from it will require implementation help. That’s no bad thing and is to be expected from a service that gives a lot for the money. Price for all the bells and whistles? £40 a month per user which includes multiple warehouse locations, multi-line order fullfilment and multiple departments. An extra £15 per month per user gets you full account reporting and a further £10 per month per user gets you a fully integrated ticket based customer support module.
While I would not wish to second guess on training costs, it would be hard to see too much change out of £2,000 in training for a 10-person organization to which another £1,000 could easily be needed in implementation costs. In the scale of things that’s not bad. It means that year one costs will likely be around £8,300 for a 10-person all singing and dancing web-based e-commerce system with full accounts and help desk, falling back to a maximum of £6,300 in year two, assuming no price increases. That’s good value in anyone’s language, especially when you remember that there is no need for any onsite server or database management setup or maintenance.
There is a lot more to Pearl than this brief overview can do justice. We plan to give Pearl a deep dive in the not too distant future. In the meantime, this is one that is definitely worth consideration if you’re going beyond simple sales and purchase recording but need to integrate trading into your web based activities.
In the meantime and for an alterntive view, check out what Nigel Harris had to say last autumn.