of Natural Resources (IDNR) had a similar need: a low-cost way to deploy CRM sans laborious and time-consuming installation hassles. According to J. J. Pohlman, director of Office Administration, the Illinois IT landscape a few years ago made SaaS an attractive option.

"The state of Illinois was going through some major reorganization efforts as it relates to IT support," Pohlman said. "It was centralizing into a central management services area, so I was losing some of my support capabilities as an agency."

The IDNR needed a CRM tool to communicate with partners who were helping the department build the World Shooting and Recreation Complex in Sparta, Ill., which has more than 100 trap-shooting fields and houses numerous vendors that sell and repair shotguns. The agency also needed a way to contact and manage the information of gun manufacturers and other companies involved in hunting and shooting sports.

Pay as You Go

Both New Jersey Transit and the IDNR opted for SaaS so they could subscribe to what they needed and save on upfront deployment pricing.

"I didn't have to go through the development process. It was already a developed product," Pohlman said. "It did everything that I wanted it to do. I didn't have to support it afterward."

Ditto for Wierzbicki, who's relieved that he can benefit from upgrades and support for his SaaS solution without expending the internal manpower needed to maintain an onsite application.

"With traditional software, there's always -- you buy a package, you install it on the computer, and then, when a new version comes out or a new upgrade comes out, often, you have to buy that and then install that as well," he said.

In New Jersey's case, the new CRM tool vastly improved the jurisdiction's productivity. In 2004, before SaaS, the transit authority handled about 8,300 cases in Wierzbicki's estimation. It handled nearly 60,000 cases in 2008 with SaaS -- all with the same number of staff. According to Wierzbicki, this production boon comes from the streamlined, unified customer-information system.

"[Before the deployment], inquiries would get handled twice, three times, four times, and a customer could get multiple responses. And unfortunately, sometimes different responses to the same questions, so we needed to find a way to streamline that and to make sure that we eliminated the duplication," Wierzbicki said.

Both he and Pohlman chose solutions from Salesforce.com, a prominent SaaS CRM provider. Pohlman said the IDNR pays less than $10,000 a year for its SaaS solution that's used by fewer than 10 people. Wierzbicki, who wouldn't disclose specific amounts, said New Jersey Transit pays an annual fee for 200 users.

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  | 

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.