Daylite – The Little CRM That Could

Daylite – The Little CRM That Could

I’ve tried a wide range of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions. From ‘cloud’ based applications, like Elements CRM, to the old tried and true like SugarCRM. Each of them had things I liked…as well as things that I didn’t like.

elementsCRM_iconFor example, Elements CRM has a great user interface – one that is very inviting. As a designer, my right brain always kicks in first and the overall design of the application either catches my attention – or doesn’t. If it draws me in, my left-brain developer side steps up to further explore the application, determining whether or not it meets my specific needs.

sugarcrm-logoSugarCRM is feature rich, complex, and … uninviting. While it is customizable, customization is more complex to achieve, and the results are ultimately unintuitive. Nonetheless, it is the CRM I’ve been using for the past few years. But one of my goals this year was to find a CRM that really was a good fit for us.

daylite_logoFinally, I think I’ve found a CRM that’s…just right. Daylite. The Little CRM that Could.

First, let me clarify. Years ago, I tried Marketcircles’s Daylite and there was something about it that just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Unfortunately, since it was long ago, I don’t recall why I rejected Daylite as my choice for a CRM. Fortunately, I decided to give it another go in my recent search for a new CRM, and have been pleasantly surprised.

Making the initial cut.

My life is very busy. It seems like there’s never enough time. In fact, one of the common themes in my writing and speaking is “When Time is of the Essence“. Because of this, my process in evaluating CRMs took on its own ‘efficient workflow’. How could I select a new CRM while expending a minimal amount of time? The first step was to narrow down my choices to just a few CRMs that met my initial criteria, making the initial cut.

As I mentioned, user interace is high on my list. Additionally, I had to consider the other people in our organization who will be using the CRM. While there are only a few of us, in general everyone is a right-brain creative – with very little left-brain ‘geekiness’. In fact, I’m the only member of our team with a right-down-the-middle-left-brain-right-brain-split. The extension of this? Any customization of the application will fall into my realm, so I better select one that is relatively simple to customize as a means to minimize my time investment.

Upon initial inspection, Daylite met all of these requirements and made the first cut.

Stage two.

The next stage of evaluation involved exploring the basics. How well does the CRM handle the basics? For me, this includes contact management, calendars, tasks, and projects. I started putting Daylite to the test, and was excited at the outcome. All of these aspects are intuitive in Daylite – making it easy to use.

Plays well with others.

AddressBookIconTo make the cut to the next level, the CRM had to play well with others. Since the CRM I select will be used in a multi-user/multi-device environment, it must easily sync data among users and devices. How easy is it to sync with other applications that we commonly use? Being Mac based, this means it has to smoothly integrate with Address Book and iCal. If it works with Mac Mail, it’s a bonus. On the device side, it must have the ability to sync with our iPhones and iPads.

icalDaylite almost met all of these requirements. On the plus side, Daylite includes a free server based application – Daylite Server – which acts as the central database. It’s perfect for our environment where we use a Mac Mini Server as our shared server. I installed Daylite Server on this box. It was simple to install, setup, and easily connected to our desktop and laptop computers.

But, this is the point in my exploration where Daylite was almost eliminated.

Daylite has a sync feature that shares data with both Address Book and iCal. From Daylite > Preferences, select Sync.

sync1The following window appears:

sync2

From here, you select to sync the Address Book and iCal.

sync3Daylite did it’s thing and tried to sync with Address Book and iCal. Unfortunately, each time it tried – it crashed. I tried several times, with no success. My first reaction was – if it can’t sync with Address Book or iCal – it’s not an option.

Because I really liked what I had seen thus far, I wanted to give Daylite the benefit of the doubt. So I decided to submit a support request.

Unfortunately, I also knew that I needed to return to my day-to-day tasks at hand and would have to get back to evaluating CRMs at another time. I submitted the support request and at the same time, requested an extension of the trial expiration. James Spencer at Marketcircle was very responsive and honored my request to extend the evaluation. I also heard back from the support team as well, but didn’t have time to follow-up with the request.

This ultimately ended up being a good thing. When I got back to the CRM evaluation process, it was the weekend and Marketcircle’s support was closed. I decided to forget about attempting to sync, and instead explore other features that were important to our workflow.

I decided to switch my focus to exploring the device apps – Daylite iPad on my iPad and Daylite Touch on my iPhone. And it was a good thing I did.

It was at this point I realized that because of my prior experience with other CRMs, I was ‘cutting off my nose to spite my face’. Let me explain. Most CRMs heavily emphasize the ability to sync with Address Book and iCal. Knowing that I needed to share data with multiple users – and across multiple devices, I was fixated on the concept that the ability to sync with Address Book and iCal was the only way to make this happen.

I was wrong. It was time for a major mind shift.

So let’s forget everything we’ve ever learned that says it is critical to be able to sync with Address Book and iCal. Not that you can’t do this with Daylite. (Daylite support ultimately resolved my sync issue.) Instead, the question that begs to be asked is – why do you want to sync with Address Book and iCal?

Seriously. Take some time to ponder this question. What are you hoping to achieve by syncing with Address Book and iCal?

Let me help you shift your perspective.

  • Step one: spend a bit of time looking at Daylite Touch for the iPad.
  • Step two: spend a bit of time looking at Daylite Touch for the iPhone.

To better understand the Daylite Ecosystem, from Marketcircle’s website:

The Daylite Ecosystem

The Daylite ecosystem is comprised of three key components, built for today’s leading edge hardware built by Apple; Daylite for Mac, Daylite Touch for iPhone, and Daylite Touch for iPad.

No matter where you are – in the office, on the road, or standing in line for a movie, you’ll have access to your critical business information. You’ll have the data you need to make important business decisions, and the tools to move things forward even when you and your employees are on different sides on the world.

First off, I love the user interface of both of Daylite Touch for the iPad and the iPhone. In fact, if Daylite wants to take their desktop application to the next level, I would recommend redesigning the Graphical User Interface (GUI) to look more like their mobile devices counterparts. Very clean. Extremely inviting.

dlpadhomeAfter a bit of time using both of these mobile applications, a light bulb went off in my head. If I can use these Daylite apps on my iPhone and iPad, why would I need – or want to use Address Book or iCal?

I had been approaching this from the wrong angle.

Looking at it with new eyes: the final criteria.

Now I was really excited. Daylite met all of my initial criteria. It was time to take it to the extreme – how customizable is Daylite?

Short answer? Extremely.

While almost all CRMs offer the basics: contact management, calendars, tasks, and project management – their ability to be customized to meet specific needs varies drastically.

zocolocoStudios125_125bwFor some companies, the ability to customize may not be necessary. But for us – it is critical.

A bit of background. We’re a small company. There are just three of us and the occasional freelancer. But there are many parts to our two companies: the motion group and zocoloco | studios.

motionGroupLogoWhitethe motion group includes multiple resources for the motion graphics, visual effects and animation community: motion.tv – the ‘hulu’ for our industry, cgnews – industry related news, motion+connect – our live, online event, and motion – our annual conference.

We all wear many hats. We all have numerous projects, tasks, and contacts that need to be well organized and easily shared. Efficiency in workflow is critical. Given this, the ability to highly customize our CRM – distinguishing the two companies as well as the primary components of the motion group is paramount.

Fortunately, Daylite can be easily customized. In fact, Daylite is so customizable that you have to be careful not to micro-customize your workflow to the point that it becomes overly complicated. Keep it simple. Make sure that each customization you add ultimately helps you save time – especially when time is of the essence. What do I mean by this? On the most basic level, here’s an example.

In Daylite you can set custom labels for types of electronic addresses (email, web, and IM). When you add a custom label, ask yourself – will I need to search by this criteria at some point?

For example, let’s look at email. Over the years the labels that I’ve added for email addresses in Apple’s Address Book have become…messy. Work, Home, Gmail, MobileMe…you get the picture. Is there any reason why I would need to search for all email addresses in my contact list that are Gmail? MobileMe? I can’t think of any. And, if by slim chance there were, I could search for all addresses that contained the gmail.com or mobileme.com domain. These are obviously extraneous labels. In fact, when it comes down to it, for my purposes I really only need to know if this is the contact’s work email address or home email address. Period.

In the Daylite incarnation of my contact list, ‘work’ and ‘home’ are the only two categories I’ve decided to use for email addresses.

labelsOn the other hand, let’s take a look at websites. In our industry it is common for people to have a variety of sites: the company website, company blog, their personal blog, and a reel or portfolio site – to name a few. In addition to these, many of our contacts have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, and because our industry centers around the motion picture and broadcast industries, a Vimeo account.

All of this is information we need. So I defined a custom label for each type of website.

The IM category is a bit ‘old school’ and could possibly be more flexible in the next iteration of Daylite. Many of our contacts have AIM IDs, so that works. Additionally, because we broadcast live interviews with some of the amazing talent in the motion community, many also have Skype accounts. I would suggest that Marketcircle engineers change this category to be similar to the email and web categories. It should be utilized for anything that contains a user ID.

First, Daylite could change the category name from IM to Connect, Social – or something similar. Then, instead of two additional drop down menus, eliminate the one that contains AIM, Jabber, MSM, Yahoo, and ICQ. Leave the remaining drop down menu for the user to customize. The drop down could include AIM, Jabber, MSM, Yahoo, and ICQ – but additionally it could contain Twitter, Skype, and any other electronic addresses that are user ID based.

The tip of the iceberg.

taskLabels are just the tip of the iceberg. Additionally, there are numerous types of customizations that you can achieve with Daylite including categories, keywords, contact roles, organization roles, relationships between contacts, organization types, industries, regions, opportunity types, event locations, and more.

You can also set default values for many of the standard fields – and they can be different for each Daylite user. For example, the majority of our contacts are in the United States. I can set the default country to ‘United States’ and it will save a few keystrokes when it comes to data entry. I could set the default priority level for a task to high, medium or low and set the default due date to be ‘x’ number of days after the creation date. The options go on and on.

You can also create custom fields for contacts, groups, projects, organizations, opportunities, and products/services. These include both custom text fields, and custom date fields. So let’s say for each organization, in addition to their SIC code, I want to know their NAICS code, annual sales, and the year they were established. I simply create a custom field for each of these items.

You can add custom ‘resources’, including facilities, rooms, equipment, etc. Then you can schedule when these resources are in use.

You can assign permissions for each user, group users by teams – and even select what information is visibile to each user.

Productivity tools.

Additionally, I can create a variety of ‘tools’ that aid productivity including custom forms, custom letters, activity sets, and pipelines. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

pipelines :: Pipelines are a way to indicate your progress in a project. For example, a common pipeline used in sales ispipeline

  • research viability
  • initial contact
  • meeting/presentation
  • proposal
  • negotiation
  • commitment
  • contract
  • invoice

For our company we also create pipelines for common projects like motion+connect – our live monthly online broadcast.

activity sets :: Activity sets are very useful. Basically, these are pre-determined sets of tasks that you follow each time you work on a specific project. For example, with each episode of motion+connect there is a certain set of tasks that must be accomplished. In fact, in the case of  motion+connect, we have two activity sets for each episode: one that leads up to the show, and a second that takes place post-show. For example, prior to the show we must determine the content, find the speakers, create the motion graphics, promote the event, prepare the Tricaster for broadcast, etc. Then post-show we have to break down the equipment, follow-up with sponsors, send out giveaways to winners, and repurpose the content for motion.tv – just to name a few.

motion_connect_symbolWhen it comes time for each motion+connect, I simply add the episode as a project in Daylite, and then add the two activity sets. All of the tasks that need to be accomplished for the show are automatically added. Sweet.

letter templates :: For each motion+connect broadcast, we send a detailed email to our invited guests that explains the process, provides an overview of the show schedule, as well as the FTP login details for uploading their video content. With Daylite, we can create this template once, and then easily merge contact information including the recipient’s name, date of their show, and their content upload deadline to create a personalized message.

custom forms :: Custom forms are also an amazing feature. Here’s an example of how we use them in our workflow.

motion_symbolEach year our annual motion conference consists of industry changing, mind-boggling presentations from the brightest and most creative minds in the motion picture, broadcast, and gaming industry. For each speaker I fill-out the custom form I created that includes the speaker’s name, title, company, bio, and what part of the show they are speaking at: motionfest, motion, or The Adobe Post Show.

The_Adobe_Post_Show_Logo_roundedAdditionally, I created a custom form to be used for each session they are presenting. This form includes: session title, session description, target audience, skill level, location, date and time. Because Daylite is a relational database, I can then link each session to its speaker. Simply amazing.

Conclusion.

My search for a CRM that is a good fit – turned out to be a great experience. One of the things I commonly discuss with attendees when speaking at events like NAB Post Production World, Adobe MAX, or our own event, motion – is the importance of looking at things from a different angle when brainstorming creative concepts. I was stuck on the concept that the CRM I selected had to integrate with Address Book and iCal in a specific way that I had envisioned. I almost eliminated Daylite from the running because of this. But fortunately, I was able to take my own advice, step back, and look at the concept of an ideal CRM multi-user/multi-device from a different angle. And I’m glad I did.

Daylite and the Daylite ecosphere – including Daylite Touch for the iPad, and Daylite Touch for the iPhone – provide an extremely powerful, and highly customizable CRM solution that just works.

I discovered the The Little CRM That…Does. Daylite.

 

Daylite CRM
8.2 Total Score
Users Score 8.2 (1 vote)
Pros

Very flexible. Very customizable. Because it is a relational database at it's core, you won't find anything more powerful

Cons

A bit of a learning curve, but for those who take the time…it's well worth it.

Features
Customizable
Software Interface
Learning Curve
Reliable
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9 Comments

  1. Why doesn’t your review mention Apple’s Lion OS?. Daylite is a good product, but how reliable can the software be if the company can’t keep up with Apple’s software?

    Reply
    • elaine

      @kyle I didn’t mention Lion, because I’m not yet using it. In many instances, I’m an early adopter of technology. But our work is primarily related to the motion picture industry, and tends to have really quick turn around times. The primary tools we use are the Adobe Production Premium pipeline.

      While Production Premium is Lion compatible in most ways – it’s not completely compatible. For me, it’s not worth the risk of upgrading my OS until I know it’s solid with the primary software applications I use.

      Adobe’s products – AND Daylite will eventually be fully compatible. Until then, I’ll be content using Snow Leopard.

      Thanks for the reply!

      Reply
    • @Kyle: That’s an unfair criticism, really. Lion has been out for less than two weeks; in that time there have been three public betas of a Lion-compatible version, so it’s not as if Marketcircle is standing stll.

      Your expectation that a version compatible with a new OS be available on that OS’s release is unreasonable and (I suspect) you likely had no pressing need to upgrade Mac OS — except, perhaps, to berate developers whom you perceived to be slacking. Save your criticisms of Daylite for real issues.

      Reply
    • I was using Daylite on Lion right after Lion was released. Since Lion was just released, the Daylite software was marked as beta, but it worked flawlessly.

      Reply
    • It also doesn’t mention that it cannot receive pushes from Filemaker Pro.

      Filemaker Pro is a more customizable and much more powerful database program. Daylite would be perfect software for a user-side database to distribute our data. Unfortunately, Filemaker Pro is not negotiable. We have super customized forms and sub routines working for us in ways that Daylite cannot. We have rate sets and invoicing/payment calculations. Buttons that auto PDF these documents and then email as attachments…etc.

      We are still looking for something that will allow us to push our data to. Daylite does not play nice with other databases in this way…only your Address book will sync…if that. But for a database in an office or multi-group setting that needs to receive updates…it’s not friendly.

      Reply
  2. Hi Elaine,

    at first I have to say, I like the design of your blog. And I like your review of Daylite. I’m a long time, most time, satisfied daylite user, nevertheless I’m continuous looking for better solutions. So in the meantime I know countless of this systems, but today I first time heard from Elements CRM, and I immediately checked it out. It’s really a nice GUI, but I know now, why you was coming to daylite. It’s slow a little bit confusing and not really focused.

    So still the basic daylite concept is winning, although it needs a GUI refresh. There a tons of wishes and feature requests for Daylite, but still I think, there is no better system in the whole market.

    I for myself made a decision a few days ago and bought another package of Daylite licenses, because I believe, that in the near future, many of our wishes for Daylite will become true soon, I hope 😉

    I wish you success with your business and Daylite.

    Harald

    Reply
    • elaine

      Thanks for the kudos Harold. I too was on the eternal search for the right CRM. Daylite definitely has met the challenge. I agree that it is in need of a GUI update – perhaps more along the lines of the iPad version. And…I’m also starting my wish list for feature requests.

      Having said that, I’ve never worked with a CRM that has as much customization possibilities as Daylite. This makes it extremely valuable to me.

      I’m lovin’ it!

      Reply
  3. Very thorough and honest assessment of Daylite wonderful upsides and the downsides/areas for improvement. And *huge* kudos to you for critically assessing your need for Address Book/iCal integration.
    I’ve been a Daylite Master partner for almost 10 years and after 15 years doing custom FileMaker databases, I now exclusively recommend Daylite to my clients. Marketcircle is an exceptionally hard working and forward thinking company and I’ve never once regretted my association with them.

    PS. on Lion: Daylite and Daylite Server worked on Lion right up till Apple made some last minute changes to the final seed that broke Daylite and Daylite Server. today, Marketcircle released what will hopefully be the final beta for Lion compatibility…just a few issues left to iron out. Marketcircle has never dropped the ball on an OS release, which to me is especially impressive because it’s a client-server app. not many are so they’re a lot easier to apply to new OSs.

    Reply
  4. Really liked your review, and comments above… me too have been looking for 35 years for CRM that worked … Siebel, Sales Logix, ACT, all sorts of different types… am new Daylite user, working to come up to speed… can you provide any pointers to books or articles on using and customising (other than those on Marketcircle site) ? cheers

    Reply

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