CRM Software solutions are an integral part of the sales, marketing, and customer service of most organizations. Today, CRM Software dwells far further than these functions to manage all business requirements. This has been termed by the people at Microsoft as xRM – (x) anything Relationship Management. Choosing which solution is right for your company is not easy and often companies compare different CRM offerings. Two of the major CRM Software applications on the market today are Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.
There was a time with these two CRM software applications the choice was more black and white. You either looked at software deployed in-house (Microsoft Dynamics CRM) v the software-as-a-service model (Salesforce).
Now that Microsoft has moved into the cloud with its software as a service model and Salesforce now has a development platform with its “Force” offering your options are now blurred.
Salesforce was founded in 1999 with a vision to create an on-demand information management service that would replace traditional enterprise software technology. Salesforce calls itself “the enterprise cloud-computing company”. Sales Cloud™ and Service Cloud™ are Salesforce’s applications for sales and customer service. Their approach to the cloud computing deployment model has led to them developing the force.com cloud platform that allows developers and users to build business applications on top of the Salesforce offering.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM, created by the Microsoft product team with vast resources was designed with a long-term vision that will allow Customers to use CRM with multiple Microsoft products and choose deployment options to meet organizational needs.
The magazine also referred to customer relationship management software as the most popular SaaS application (35 percent) and that “companies in Australia are using SaaS because it’s cheaper, rather than because it’s easier to use. Only 9 percent cited “ease of use” as the reason for choosing SaaS.
Choice and Flexibility
With a multitenant CRM solution, Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers any number of deployment options, depending on your needs. On-demand, on-premise, and partner-hosted models are available for Microsoft Dynamic CRM. If your deployment requirements change so too can your CRM software deployment options as each deployment option is built on the same modern architecture and data model. For example, you can take your configurations and data hosted by Microsoft and move to In-House or a Microsoft Partner web-based CRM software-hosted model. Salesforce platform offers SaaS by the Cloud and you don’t own the software and configurations. If you want to change to an in-house solution you need to move to another CRM application. You need to factor in the cost of getting your data out of Salesforce. Depending on the level of subscription you purchase for Salesforce there have been reports of your data being held, hostage. This is, depending on your level of subscription you need to upgrade your subscription to export your data.
Salesforce claims to cost significantly less but Microsoft Dynamics CRM insists that the comparison is not for like services. A-la-carte pricing that is additional to potential price hikes at contract renewal time can significantly affect the total cost of Salesforce. When assessing comparable online products between the two opponents, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is available for less than 50% of the Salesforce fee. The latest pricing in the USA indicates that “Microsoft CRM [Online] runs 44-59 per user per month, compared to 125 for Salesforce” Professional Edition.
The entry price for Salesforce is cheaper but if you want more functionality you have to pay more. With Microsoft CRM you have access to the complete system from the moment you first purchase. Your purchase decision should never be based solely on price as it’s only one component in the decision-making process. Those that buy the first time around on price usually call back 6-24 months later asking for help. From personal experience decision-makers who purchase solely on price the first time around re-purchase the second time around on service. To compare in-house versus hosted pricing you need to calculate over a 3-5 year period and not just 1 year.
Ownership of Data
Salesforce, as a software-as-a-service provider, does not own the data collected by its customers. Instead, its data centers are outsourced to Equinix, a third-party company in the USA and Singapore. With Microsoft CRM for in-house, and partner-hosted options, customers have full control over the security and physical location of their data. You can swap and take your data between these options. Microsoft CRM Online hosted by Microsoft will be released in Australia in late 2010 and the data will be hosted in Singapore. Again, you will have the ability to move from hosted to in-house but the online model will have some restrictions around the customization code. For Salesforce customers to get development platform capabilities they must buy the unlimited version.
Ease of Use
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is designed for easy user adoption because of its similarity and compatibility with Microsoft Office and Outlook. Simply put, it is designed to minimize the need for training, reduce application switching, and produce high productivity. With the launch of Microsoft CRM 5 2011 its release name), Office 2010, and SharePoint 2010 the GUI (interface) between the three product suites becomes very similar in look and feel. This provides users with an easy-to-learn experience and a greater chance of user uptake.
Salesforce’s graphical interface is modern and should be easy to use for most users. The integration to Microsoft Outlook and Office is reported as not as strong as Dynamics CRM, especially for MS Excel and Outlook. Those using Google Mail will find Salesforce to their liking.
Both Salesforce and Dynamics CRM have similar modules including sales force automation, customer service and support, marketing automation, document management, contract management, product catalog management, and reports. Although each module for each product has its strengths and weaknesses side by side you need to evaluate each application module against your business requirements (and not user likeability).
Often an organization shortlists three CRM applications to be presented to its users. Evaluation should not be based heavily (if at all) on the users liking the look and feel of the graphical interface. The users of an organization tend to agree on one CRM application as by nature we feel most comfortable with what we already know. If you ask a salesperson who has been using a paper diary for 30 years, what is better? A paper-based or CRM system the answer is always paper! Over the years I have witnessed three different systems put in front of users at different organizations and there is never a clear winner for the CRM application chosen.
At present, Salesforce has a lot of easy-to-use business add-on products for its core offerings built on its force.com platform. Microsoft has a host of ISV Partners who have built add-on products to Microsoft CRM but it’s not as easy to find these add-ons spread out across the globe on various websites. Microsoft has just launched PinPoint which allows you to search globally for Partner software solutions. Also, Microsoft CRM Dynamics Online does not provide the same access to write custom code in a sandbox because Microsoft did not want outside code in its application, but with Microsoft Azure, ISVs can execute their code.
Access to CRM and Email
Microsoft CRM is available either through a web browser, through a mobile device, or through a plug-in to MS Outlook. Salesforce integrates with Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, and Google Apps. Salesforce will run on a mobile device, through a web browser and if you want some level of Email (Outlook, Lotus Notes, or Google Apps) integration, however, you will still need to download and install a Salesforce connector.
Scope and Support
According to Wikipedia, Salesforce offers support for 16 languages, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers support for 25. Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s ecosystem includes 750,000 solutions partners; 2,200 user groups, and 400 community websites globally. Standard support included in Salesforce’s subscription fee allows for a 2 business day response time. With Microsoft, support is dependent on the licensing module used to purchase the software and the support offered by a Microsoft CRM Partner. You can choose from ad-hoc through to dedicated support.