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

Chris Bliss

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Over a year ago we spoke with Jon Ferrara, CEO at Nimble, the up-and-coming CRM and sales platform for small teams. Nimble wasn’t much to look at back then, but a year is a long time in the world of software – long enough to gain 30,000 users, 2,800 companies, and a host of new features. Pretty nimble of them if you ask us (get it?!).

Last week saw the launch of Nimble 2.0 and a paid version of the service (until now it has been entirely free). Without going into a full review, we want to show readers what the new Nimble is all about.

Contacts, plain and simple

Everything in Nimble centers on contacts (hence the “C” in CRM). Like most CRMs, Nimble gives each contact and company their own page, capturing key information and providing a place for notes, tasks and deals. Unlike most CRMs, Nimble does a great job with this page: tabs, columns, and a few UI tricks make a huge amount of information available without cluttering the contact’s page. It’s both elegant and functional.

Also of note is Nimble’s tight integration with social networks. See that box in the upper right? That lets you match profiles from social networks with the contact you’re viewing, and it pulls over any potentially useful, available information (contact info, status updates, etc). Sounds underwhelming at first, but having extensively demoed Nimble I can say it’s an impressive value-add. Just by matching a Linkedin profile with a lead, for example, I automatically get their (available) contact information, as well as insights from their status updates, all in one place. Nimble turns publicly available information into a tool I didn’t really have before. #veryimpressed

Swimming in the social river

Nimble’s use of social platforms goes beyond matching contacts with social profiles. Click the “Social” tab in the upper left and you’ll see a Hootsuite-like social media dashboard. This view aggregates all of your social profiles, giving a horizontal view of all your (social) networks. You can send messages here, manage twitter lists and facebook pages, and even add contacts straight from your stream (pretty cool, if you think about it). Social media dashboards have been doing this kind of thing for years  - again, think Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Crowdbooster – but we’ve never seen such tight integration in a CRM.

Obviously, the relevance of social media channels depends on the business (and the sales team). Nimble is betting that those channels will be increasingly important for small business sales – as our services page should tell you, we’re certainly betting with them.

Still a way to go

For all its innovation, Nimble is still a young product. “Deals” – the device by which Nimble manages sales opportunities – are a bit incomplete, especially if you’re coming from a sales automation tool like Capsule or Salesforce. Specifically, we’d love to see more reports (well, any reports) and the ability to sort deals by date.

Other issues involve permissions (you can’t grant users granular view/modify permissions), lack of integrations (where’s my Gmail widget?) and zero options for templates or workflow automation. In the big picture, it’d be nice to see Nimble move into integrated project management – what are we to do when we win a deal? Create silos and move to another system?

At the end of the day, though, Nimble is doing some very cool things. We love the exceptional UI and the innovative work with social networks. Keep up the brisk jog, Nimble – you’re on the right track! ;)

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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.