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Cloud Options for the African Market

Cloud Options for the African Market

As businesses look to streamline business processes and align them to IT requirements whilst keeping cost on the low the cloud seems to be the place to go. Managing and interacting with your customers is paramount to business success and one of the best ways to go about is by choosing the right applications.

Gone are the days in Africa where the first thing you request when you intend to keep in touch with a friend is ‘your phone number’, now it is either ‘your facebook id’, ‘your blackberry pin’, ‘your twitter handle’, ‘your email for whatsapp’ etc. This means for businesses to stay in contact with their customers, social media cannot be ignored.

A combination of cloud apps that enable easy integration with social media will be good for African businesses. There are many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications that live in the cloud and are free or very cheap to acquire. I will list a few apps here

  • SalesForce: Salesforce is a leading CRM system and it is used by many companies, forbes.com estimates that the number of paying salesforce.com subscribers increased from about 230,000 in 2004 to 1.7 million by the end of 2009, why is salesforce so popular?
    • Price: It is cheap, for example, the Salesforce Contact Manager service costs just $5 per month per user. And it is pay as you go, no upfront fees.
    • Customisable: You can customise salesforce to suit your business processes, your products, and your plans.
    • Integration; Many third party applications and cloud services currently integrate with salesforce, it is extensible, and you can develop your own applications and integrate with salesforce.
    • Salesforce and Social media: With salesforce you can connect your facebook and twitter users to your applications, you can converse with them and move your facebook contacts and friends into your CRM
    • Free CRM: Like its name suggests this is a free CRM app in the cloud, helps you keep in touch with contacts, keep tabs on your leads. Track the performance of your campaigns for events, adverts, sales, forcasting etc. For a start-up or small business looking to save money, free CRM is advisable as you can have up to 50 users for free,  10mb storage (small though),  5000 records. There is an enterprise version of Free CRM which you have to pay for and gives more flexibility and options.
    • Zoho CRM: This is another free CRM, it has similar capabilities to salesforce and Free CRM, you can track customers, do your sales and marketing and integrate them with forms for users to fill, you can install Microsoft office products and google apps addons, create reports, forecasting etc. There are also many zoho specific addons for chat, meetings, project management etc. For a small business, you can certainly start out using the free zoho version and upgrade to a paid version when you are comfortable with the system.
    • Really Simple System CRM: This is another good CRM, free for two users and 100 companies. Upgradable to Premium Edition.

There are many other free or cheap CRM systems in the market, using these CRM systems, building your social media apps and integrating both will be good for many African businesses. The reason I advocate building of social media apps is because in Africa at least 70% of youths who can read and write have a social media account, if you want to connect to your customers in real time, you should get them in the social media circle.

This post can also be read at: http://www.ifeadebayo.com/2011/08/cloud-options-for-the-african-mar...

Written by Ifeoluwa Adebayo - http://www.ifeadebayo.com/

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