The software that independent sales organizations use to run their businesses–sometimes called customer relationship management tools–is coming of age as vendors make their products easier to customize for individual businesses.

“Making it highly configurable is the strategy players in the space have been following,” Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst at Boston-based consultancy Aite Group LLC, tells PaymentsSource.

That strategy has been working for Sacramento, Calif.-based POS Portal Inc., says Joe Villamil, the firm’s vice president of business development.

Users of two of the company’s products, P2 ISO Office and P2 Enterprise, can mold either system to their own business rules by checking boxes on a Web page, Villamil tells PaymentsSource.

That ease of use has enabled smaller ISOs to take advantage of the software because they no longer must start costly IT departments or hire outside vendors to write computer code to customize the programming, he notes.

The software offers sales automation that delivers leads to reps and enables reps to push deals through the sales process, according to the POS Portal website. Its referral partner portal helps manage business from trade associations and banks, providing those partners with status updates and reports on residuals, the site says.

The sale-agent portal helps users manage opportunities, view merchant profitability and review monthly residuals, according to the site. Managers use it track agents’ profitability, it says.

The product’s application processing provides email notification and status updates on how far applications have progressed, the site says. The company also has integrated equipment deployment and portfolio analytics into the process, it notes.

Not many ISOs are using systems that bring so many elements of the business into a single system, Oglesby says.

Many have cobbled together systems, using whatever vendor’s offering fit best with the way their business actually worked, he notes.

Consequently, many vendors have specialized in some elements of the whole process.

Even after discovering whole systems that fit their needs, some ISOs have shied away from replacing all of the elements at once because they fear long periods of down time, Oglesby says.

ISOs used to build systems for their own businesses and then offered them for sale, trying to stretch the software to fit other, differing ISOs, he notes. Now, however, vendors tend to begin by basing systems on changeable parameters instead of a single business model.

At POS Portal, for example, the P2 products came out in January 2011 after a “soft launch” late in the previous year, Villamil says.

Nearly 50 clients were using it by the end of last year, and about 70 now are putting it to use or are getting ready to do so soon, he says. That amounts to more than 1,500 users, notes Evan Manning, a POS Portal product specialist.

Clients make a 12-month commitment and pay for licenses based on the users’ functions, manning says.

The company based P2 on the platform from but modified it to fit the acquiring business, Villamil notes.

New ISOs can use just a few elements of the system, such as statuses and referral partners, and then use more functions as their companies become more complex and they become more skilled in handling the system, Villamil suggests.

“ISOs don’t need terribly sophisticated equipment at first,” agrees Oglesby. “But as they grow, they need more.”

Some smaller ISOs rely on processors’ software for some functions, but they would do well to add their layer to the system, analysts agree.

Problems occur, however, because processors work with hundreds of ISOs and sales agents, and thus they create generic systems that may not fit well with a particular ISO’s approach to the business, Oglesby says.

Overall, however, specialization is becoming easier with the software, he notes.

“The ISOs have been savvy for a while,” Oglesby observes. “The technology providers are catching up with their needs.”

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