The survey contains hundreds of questions about target customers, cost and features. The results are available by clicking here. You can also complete an online survey about your requirements, then view the 10 best systems for your needs based on percentage fit calculations here. As with all our surveys, we were unable to validate the information supplied to us by the vendors. However, we don’t think there will be that many intentional mistakes, partly because the vendors will lose credibility if they are caught making false claims.
We contacted Salesforce and Microsoft to get their perspective on CRM trends. Not surprisingly, both organizations ranked cloud computing, mobility and social networks at the top of the list.
First, cloud computing. Salesforce started life in the clouds before it became popular. In a true cloud environment (also known as a public cloud), the customer does not worry about upgrades. This is because of what is called multitenant architecture, whereby a single instance of a software application serves multiple customers. Thus when an upgrade occurs, multiple customers are upgraded at the same time.
However, some do not have multitenant architecture. Instead, they have what they call private clouds (or what Salesforce calls false clouds). These solutions have many of the advantages of the public clouds; the vendors also say they offer a more secure and customizable environment. However, customers have to think about upgrades, which can involve costs for services as well as additional computing power during the upgrade.
Mobility is another huge trend. Now, vendors must optimize their applications to run on mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones, Android smartphones and tablets. The objective is to be able to perform most, if not all, functions on a mobile device — whether it be entering or approving a quote or viewing the sales funnel.
Social networking continues to rock the computing world, with more than a billion users on Facebook, 500 million on Twitter and 250 million on LinkedIn. These users provide information about themselves when they sign up and when they comment or express their likes and dislikes. Now CRM vendors see this data as marketing gold and are building tools to exploit it.
One approach is to emulate a Facebook environment within CRM whereby you are notified of products, brands or competitors that are important to an organization. You could also track the number and quality (positive or negative) of posts. Microsoft calls it “social listening.” You might call it spying.
We also asked Microsoft and Salesforce about their unique features and/or differentiators. Microsoft spoke about its analytic functionality and its integration with Outlook, Lync and SharePoint. Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows a user to work in a browser or in Outlook, which is a compelling approach for anyone already spending a lot of their day in Outlook. We also asked about the delay in providing integration with Microsoft’s ERP systems. The answer was that there were higher priorities in responding to today’s big trends.
Salesforce sees its differentiators in its true cloud offering as well as its AppExchange, which includes 2,000 applications built with Salesforce tools. AppExchange includes tools for analytics, electronic signatures and full-blown applications such as FinancialForce, which is an accounting/ERP system. Salesforce has now taken an industry-specific approach and will focus on a number of industries. As part of the new strategy, the company will recruit industry experts who then serve as ambassadors for the product. This strategy has worked well in ERP and we expect the same to occur with CRM
Although Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are very popular, they are not the only game in town. Some organizations have ERP solutions that include an embedded CRM system. Other organizations are working with older applications that still work. Still others are looking for less expensive alternatives. Some vendors such as Insightly offer a free version until a certain number of users or records are reached. And finally there are CRM systems that have been designed for a specific industry. Since just about every organization — from corner groceries to the federal government — requires CRM, there is no shortage of software vendors in the marketplace, often with competitive pricing to offer.