Thoughts on what businesses actually need from the Cloud, not what vendors wish they needed.

Chris Bliss

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“D” is for Do Not Use (Yet): Our Review of Nutshell CRM

Maybe it was just a targeted AdWords blitz, but we’ve recently seen more and more buzz surrounding Nutshell, a lead management tool aimed at small and mid sized businesses. Having launched our new review process last week, we’ve been eager for some fresh meat and, well, the self-described “Next CRM” seemed a perfect target. Here goes.

The Quick and Dirty Verdict

Nutshell is a promising but immature product that we don’t advise adopting (yet). We’re giving it a 67/100, a D by our scale, with the caveat that it’s probably going to improve, perhaps drastically. The potential is certainly there. For now, however, we recommend looking elsewhere (try Capsule for sales-heavy work or Solve360 for project heavy collaboration).

The details

Functionality = 22/30 points

Nutshell has some powerful sales management features but it misses some key functions as well.

  • Dashboard: On the plus side, the Nutshell dashboard is relatively customizable and includes a nice actual and projected sales project, delivery a clear snapshot of the state of sales. On the downside, the upcoming activities list gets very long and can’t be filtered by date, activity type, etc. That makes it awkward for real use.
  • Lead/Sales Management: Nutshell organizes relationships into leads, accounts and contacts. There are ups and downs to this approach. It lends itself to repetitious sales-heavy workflows, providing a functional snapshot of where each lead stands in the sales process, and an easy means of moving them down the pipe. On the flip side, it’s downright awkward if you don’t sell product: the hourly rate system is confusing and inflexible. There’s no project management either, meaning once you’ve won a deal you then… have to use some other software. Oh well.
  • Reports: Reports are a strong point here, and predictably so: well defined sales milestones means you can report on them easily. There’s a nice custom report tool which makes it easy to build custom datasets, a welcome feature. We’d like to see some integration with Google Spreadsheets.

Usability = 13/20 points

The Nutshell UX is a bit underwhelming. On the one hand, it’s always easy to create new leads, accounts and contacts from just about any page. On the other hand, it’s difficult to do everything else. Check out the screenshot below – that’s six call to actions, just to add a lead! As a user, where am I? What am I doing? What is this? Also, it’s pretty unclear what the obvious steps in a workflow are: do I add the contact first? Or a lead first? And then an account? This needs to be obvious in a CRM that’s catering toward sales-driven businesses, but it’s obscure in Nutshell.

Security = 10/20 points

Nutshell has no security information on its public website, which is concerning. When you visit the homepages of more mature systems, there’s typically a security page to display their (ostensibly) powerful security systems. Since Nutshell is such a young product we’re not removing all 20 points for this section, but we’re not happy with it. Businesses have enough concerns about cloud computing already.

Integrations = 5/10 points

We like most of Nutshell’s integration features. There’s a strong integration between Nutshell and Google Apps, including a Gmail gadget that lets users add and update Nutshell contacts from inside Gmail. That’s nice. Ditto for saving emails, and for a few other notable integrations (Mailchimp, Wufoo, Twitter). There’s also an integration with MS exchange – we haven’t seen that before, nor did we test it, but we suspect there are a few old-timers out there who’d love that.

That said, it’s strange that Nutshell doesn’t integrate with any accounting or project management solutions. They’re targeting SMB, yet there’s no easy means for SMBs to use this product and invoice customers, or manage deals once they’ve won them. That’s a major oversight and one we hope they rectify soon.

Price = 8/10

Nutshell is competitively priced, with a tiered structure starting at 5 users for $49/month, then $99/month for up to 15 users and $149/month for up to 25 users. Not the best deal for businesses with, say, 6 employees, but that’s par for course.

Support = 9/10 points

Nutshells has a quite nice support page and knowledge base, and their support staff were responsive when we entered a request. The developer’s page is adequate as well. That said, it’d be nice to see a user forum here, both for developers and customers – we dig transparency. :)

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.