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Salesforce versus Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Chuck Schaeffer | Aug 2, 2016 3,858 views 9 Comments

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A Head to Head Comparison of the Top 2 CRM Systems

1. User Experience Advantage: Salesforce
2. Sales Force Automation Advantage: Salesforce
3. Marketing Advantage: Salesforce
4. Customer Service Advantage: Dynamics CRM
5. Business Intelligence Advantage: Dynamics CRM
6. Platform Advantage: Dynamics CRM
7. Tools Advantage: Salesforce
8. Ecosystem Advantage: Salesforce
9. Value Advantage: Dynamics CRM
10. Customer Support Advantage: Dynamics CRM

I’ve been an active participant in the CRM software industry for 27 years, and had the good fortune to work with the top four CRM systems. However, while Oracle and SAP have viable CRM products for their ERP install bases, their CRM market share is in decline. It’s clear the chase for the top CRM software position has reached a two horse race. Salesforce is the market leader and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the challenger.

I’ve also been writing Microsoft Dynamics CRM reviews and Salesforce reviews for clients, analysts, CRM publishers and the public at large for many years. However, prior to this post I’ve never put these two market leaders into a direct comparison.

Determining the best fit CRM software solution is of course subject to your specific business objectives. But with said, there are 10 objectives commonly shared in CRM software selections that I’ve used to illustrate the similarities and differences between Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.

  1. User Experience

    Salesforce: The CRM user experience is a balanced combination of a well-designed user interface with application utility that meets user expectations. Salesforce CRM software was born from consumer technologies. The user interface is simple, intuitive and easily customizable. I think the user experience litmus test is user enthusiasm, and one benchmark which compares enthusiasm is each company’s annual partner and user conference. The last Dreamforce attracted over 150,000 attendees while the last Microsoft Envision conference attracted around 8,000 attendees. Winner

    Dynamics CRM: Since the Dynamics 2013 release, Microsoft has steadily improved the user interface and actually delivers a more modern user experience. However, the difficulty in modifying tabs, stylesheets, themes and typography (fonts, headlines, etc.) make the user interface less adaptable to user preferences and objectives.

  2. Sales Force Automation

    Salesforce: SFA was the original flagship product for both Microsoft and Salesforce, and both products are similarly positioned. However, my discussions with sales professionals pretty consistently reveal better testimonials for Salesforce. Winner

    Dynamics CRM: Microsoft’s SFA is feature rich, but when compared to Salesforce, incurs a longer learning curve and a lesser mobile experience.

  3. Marketing

    Salesforce: The company’s acquisition of ExactTarget and Pardot offers customers superb solutions for email marketing and marketing automation. The Salesforce Marketing Cloud is hands down superior to Microsoft CRM for digital marketing or any of the six marketing automation capabilities (i.e. lead tracking, lead acquisitions, lead scoring, lead nurturing, lead transfer to sales or lead analytics). Winner

    Dynamics CRM: Microsoft’s acquisition of MarketingPilot and the subsequent rationalization and renaming to Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM) has been clumsy and disappointing. While its lead management capabilities are under whelming, one area MDM does offer unique value is Marketing Resource Management (MRM).

  4. Service

    Salesforce: The Salesforce Service Cloud has come a long way and offers respectable case management, knowledge management and social service capabilities.

    Dynamics CRM: Microsoft CRM has made service a point of differentiation. The company’s acquisitions of Parature, Adxstudio and FieldOne combine for a single CRM solution that delivers assisted service, self-service, field service and support for professional services. Winner

  5. Business Intelligence

    Salesforce: The Salesforce Analytics Cloud is powered by Wave ― a mobile-first, simple data visualization solution that operates on the NoSQL database. It can consume CRM data, external data, Chatter data, social data and enriched data from Data.com. It lacks data integration tools but several third party solutions are available on AppExchange. In my opinion, it’s a good starter solution but lacks extensibility, requires learning a proprietary language (Salesforce Analytic Query Language) and incurs additional costs that can really rack up the monthly subscription.

    Dynamics CRM: Microsoft’s Power BI facilitates user generated, agile data analysis with self-service BI analytics managed in the cloud for collaboration and sharing. It’s a simple all in one analytics solution to facilitate extract and transform functions, model and analyze capabilities, and powerful data visualizations. Power BI is still in early days but appears destined to become a category leader. This solution is heads and shoulders beyond Wave. Interestingly though, Power BI offers a packaged integration to Salesforce. Winner

  6. Platform

    Salesforce: The CRM software leader has steadily been transitioning from a best of breed sales force automation (SFA) software as a service (SaaS) provider to an application development platform as a service (PaaS) company. The company’s PaaS tools such as Salesforce1 and Force.com enhance CRM integration, customization and extensibility. Using these platforms, developers inherit cloud infrastructure components such as multi-tenant architectures, security and scalability as well as application technologies such as analytics, mobility and social media tools. On the flip side, many ISVs (independent software vendors) are reluctant to commit to a proprietary development environment that does not have the maturity, depth or market acceptance as compared to more mainstream products such as Microsoft .NET or Java/J2EE. Also, as Salesforce does not offer cloud portability programmers and customers become locked-in to Salesforce’s technology, application and hosted delivery network.

    Dynamics CRM: In addition to the Microsoft CRM framework called xRM (eXtensible Relationship Management), Dynamics leverages the Microsoft stack, including the SQL Server stack (i.e. Reporting Services for reports, Analysis Services for data warehousing, Windows Workflow Foundation for business process automation); the .NET framework for customization and integration; Office integration; and native integration with other popular Microsoft products such as Exchange and SharePoint. Such top to bottom leverage tends to facilitate straight-forward IT efforts in terms of reducing complexity, time and cost. Also, only Microsoft offers choice in CRM software delivery – be it online, on-premise or a hybrid combination – and permits cloud portability so that customers can run Dynamics CRM on Microsoft’s cloud or any other cloud. Winner

  7. Tools

    Salesforce: Which CRM tools are most important depends upon your needs. However, it’s been my experience that Salesforce delivers more tools that are needed more of the time – such as tools for social media engagement, mobility, data upload, routing & approval and flexible APIs. Winner

    Dynamics CRM: Some unique tools from Microsoft include its process guides (to facilitate guided-navigation) and its Outlook integration which improves user adoption and provides an offline operation. However, particularly at the enterprise level, Microsoft just doesn’t match Salesforce when it comes to CRM tools.

  8. Ecosystem

    Salesforce: The CRM leader pioneered the cloud expansion strategy whereby the publisher delivers a comprehensive platform suite with accompanying tools and then embraces partners to deliver industry, application, process and niche solutions through an organized online ecosystem. Salesforce AppExchange is the most comprehensive third party directory in the CRM industry. Winner

    Dynamics CRM: Microsoft supports a partner product portal called Pinpoint which is a decent online partner marketplace, however, lacks the breadth, social rating features and usefulness of AppExchange.

  9. Value

    Salesforce: The company effectively uses its market leadership, disruptive brand and continuous innovation to command a significant price premium. While admirable from a company perspective, this creates the highest cost CRM solution in the industry. It’s also incumbent on customers to ensure they are purchasing the right edition in order to avoid version-creep and future pricing surprises. Many Salesforce customers have reported being forced into a higher than expected edition (and monthly subscription fee) due to the need for more functionality or the addition of third party products.

    Dynamics CRM: In my experience Microsoft CRM Online is roughly one-half the cost of Salesforce. Unlike Salesforce, Microsoft permits more flexible tiered pricing so that customers can mix different user licenses based on their needs and avoid being charged the price of the most expensive user license for every user. Microsoft also bundles more of the software in fewer SKUs which avoids the all too common problem of up-selling and incremental fees for product add-ons. In typical Microsoft fashion, the company seeks grow their market share by lowering subscription pricing and backing on-demand software delivery with a solid Service Level Agreement (SLA); something Salesforce doesn’t offer. Winner

  10. Customer Support

    Salesforce: The company provides reasonable telephone support based on varying fee structures. However, customers have fewer options when onsite consulting help is needed. The volume of Salesforce partners supporting small and midsize businesses is very low.

    Dynamics CRM: While the Salesforce AppExchange ecosystem provides a broader and richer third party software ecosystem, the Microsoft Dynamics channel is a much larger and more mature consultant network. This gives customers more options and competitive rates. Winner

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9 Responses to Salesforce versus Microsoft Dynamics CRM

  1. Eric Menzie August 3, 2016 at 5:20 am (1 comment) #

    This is an excellent deep dive analysis and I agree that we certainly appear to be in a two horse race. Great post Chuck!

  2. Chuck Schaeffer August 3, 2016 at 8:40 am (30 comments) #

    Thanks Eric. I think the increased competition between Salesforce and Microsoft will result in both companies stepping up their games.

  3. AJ August 3, 2016 at 10:14 am (1 comment) #

    “Dynamics CRM: Microsoft supports a partner product portal called Pinpoint which is a decent online partner marketplace, however, lacks the breadth, social rating features and usefulness of AppExchange.”

    it’s now called appsource and although nowhere near what SF has, it is rapidly catching up.

    Overal agree with everything but when it comes to Salesforce automation, you have to remember in the last SF release they copied generously from MS Dynamics, things like inline dashboards, process flow ribbon etc.
    Also, SF has crappy integration with email systems which I think should be something which is mentioned in this analysis and dynamics wins hands down here.

  4. Steve Chipman August 8, 2016 at 7:11 pm (2 comments) #

    AJ – one vendor copying another not is necessarily a relative disadvantage. It’s something that happens all the time in a competitive marketplace.

    Also, if by “SF has crappy integration with email systems”, you mean that Dynamics has better native integration with Outlook, Exchange Server and Office 365, you may have a point.

    On the other hand, Salesforce’s ecosystem vendors do offer some non-crappy integrations for the two major corporate email providers. These vendors include LinkPoint360 and CirrusPath. However, these do come at a cost.

    Chuck – “Parature, Adxstudio and FieldOne combine for a single CRM solution” may be an overstatement as to the degree to which these have been fully integrated into the platform.

  5. Chuck Schaeffer August 9, 2016 at 5:29 pm (30 comments) #

    With regard to Parature, Adxstudio and FieldOne integration, you raise a fair point. All three products are tightly integrated to Dynamics CRM, but the integrations among each other are still in early days. Parature and Adxstudio are going through a rationalization process that is showing progress. There’s a FieldOne integration with Adxstudio but its not yet vendor supported. I hear from some MS folks its on the delivery block for Q1 2017 but we’ll see.

  6. dan vardell August 16, 2016 at 5:25 am (2 comments) #

    Speaking as an Oracle employee who dates back to Siebel — and was building CRM well before that — its only a 2 horse race if you’re standing behind these two horses. Perhaps if you were to get out from behind them, you’d see a broader picture. Your primary basis for this contention is market share so first note that Microsoft is not a share leader and is not yet trending to become one (see your own link). More importantly, both Salesforce’s and Microsoft’s share greatly benefited from the mass migration of small business to cloud as both these companies focused there. Oracle and SAP’s on premise tools were geared toward large businesses and their huge CRM success in that area slowed transition to these new customers. So its misleading to use past market share as a basis for evaluating current product capabilities.

    Usability: Both Salesforce and Microsoft get dinged on UI in head to head competitions with other leading vendors. Salesforce, in particular, is running a 17 year old UI that customers never liked much (lots of lists, scrolling, white space and inflexibility for mobile) so now they are trying desperately to change the engines while the plane is in flight and shift to Lightning UI. Lightning offers many improvements, but you don’t have to look far to find customers on the internet complaining its being pushed out too early, doesn’t meet needs, and doesn’t go far enough. Still, Microsoft with their latest updates (mostly good) and Salesforce (even with Lightning) are missing some of the key role-based flexibility capabilities one finds in leading products from Oracle and others. As you already noted, both continue to trail in terms of key mobile capabilities and experience — exactly the place CRM is moving next.

    SFA: Due to its Siebel roots, Oracle long had much deeper SFA than Salesforce whose product started with ‘simply the basics’ and is still building up from there. That’s fine for the very small business market they built their business on (somewhere around 10 seats on average), but more complex businesses want more – especially today.

    Marketing: Salesforce was forced to buy a second tier Marketing solution when Oracle purchased the cloud leader Eloqua (which Salesforce themselves used). While Salesforce has put a lot of investment into integrating ExactTarget (and now Pardot) into their multi-acquisition ecosystem; ExactTarget’s capabilities still lag Eloqua.

    Service: This is one of the few home-grown areas for Salesforce – they would have been better off acquiring a leading cloud vendor I think.

    BI: Salesforce has many deficiencies in BI and Wave does little to address them. Expect more acquisitions in this area in future. Microsoft does a better job, but the solution remains fragmented and overly reliant on Excel for business analysis. This is an artifact of Microsoft relying on integrations to its Office Productivity tools to shore up gaps in CRM. In some ways, this is creative leverage – but mostly its just awkward band-aids (and somewhat costly in terms of licensing). Neither company’s approach compares to the out-of-box value offered by leading BI tools like Oracle’s OBI suite. The key here is BI integrated with business processes to deliver direct, timely value so managers can impact ongoing operations and not simply get pretty month-end reports.

    Platform & Ecosystem: Salesforce built their business with a platform in mind as this allowed them to leverage the developer community to support the product as they grew. While it remains a strong platform, customers must question how much of a multi-vendor CRM solution they really want as most Salesforce customers are finding themselves contracting with a wide variety of add-ons to get to a complete solution. Microsoft’s platform approach is very configurable but split between the Dynamics CRM platform and Azure – with all reports indicating the primary D-CRM platform is going away and customers are going to be forced to migrate. Microsoft has a huge partner network and they’ll all be glad to sell you LOTS of custom D-CRM services to rebuild all the gaps in Microsoft’s product just the way you want ($$ cha-ching! $$).

    Tools: Both vendors are missing key tools customers want: Incentive Compensation and Sales Performance Management, Partner Relationship Mgmt, Configure/Price/Quote (although Salesforce did just acquire the somewhat minimalist Steelbrick CPQ), and many others.

    Value: I’ll stop here as this is the one where you really should have stepped back from market share and taken a look at what other vendors are offering. Salesforce now gets the lowest scores of any vendor for value (example: in Gartner’s latest SFA evaluation they said “Customer references gave Salesforce the lowest score of all providers for perception of product value”). Microsoft specifically targets being the low-cost CRM provider – but this is partly because once you add in all the Office licenses, Azure services, and partner custom-build contracts; they also offer some of the lowest value. Compare this to Oracle with the deepest and broadest set of CRM functionality available in the cloud. Oracle includes in the base product many of the tools Salesforce and Microsoft customers need partners for. They also don’t nickel and dime customers for storage, transactions, and API calls the way Salesforce and other vendors do. Oracle offers functionality for ~20 specific industries while all others mostly offer whitepapers on how to work with partners to configure something on your own.

    CRM is not a 2-horse race and never was. If you’re going by Market share, it’s a one-horse race – but that should make it pretty obvious finding the best solution requires a broader perspective. Cloud is still changing fast and there’s more and better solutions out there now.

  7. Steve Chipman August 16, 2016 at 8:56 am (2 comments) #

    Many valid points, Dan.

    However, it seems to me that Oracle acquired its way into a CRM identity crisis that it is trying to dig its way out of — much the way Sage did on a smaller scale when they woke up one day and realized they owned ACT!, SalesLogix and Sage CRM. Now, NetSuite has ostensibly been added to the Oracle CRM pile.

    If Oracle wants to get outside of its ERP base and enter the general CRM market horse race along side Salesforce and Microsoft, the company needs to be a lot clearer about what the CRM product is. If you look at the G2 Crowd Grid for CRM Software, there are four Oracle CRM products in the contender quadrant.

    Maybe “Oracle CX — Customer Experience Solutions” is the attempt at that clarity. However, Oracle CX comes off more like a concept than a tangible product offering.

    Ecosystem is and will continue to be very important, as you can’t invent and/or acquire everything. You need to be able to connect to or natively host a wide variety apps to be among the most relevant in the general CRM marketplace.

  8. dan vardell August 17, 2016 at 7:49 am (2 comments) #

    Hi Steve.

    People like to tag Oracle as ‘buying its way into CRM’, but since they truly did this by buying the market leading Siebel (and still King by any functional standard), Salesforce has acquired more CRM companies than Oracle by far. So its helpful to be aware of the actual components driving current software. Oracle’s CX solution is natively hosted on a stack built entirely by Oracle.

    Oracle “got outside its ERP base” in 2005/06 with the PeopleSoft (HR) and Siebel (CRM) acquisitions. Those products are long since integrated into the Oracle fabric and have re-emerged in fully Oracle cloud offerings.

    As to the supposed offering confusion, customer survey sites like G2 Crowd simply reflect the many customers who remain happy to use earlier generation products and have not yet chosen to move to the latest cloud services (and we’re happy to continue supporting them there!). Yes, pundits often ding Oracle for not being able to walk away from past successes; but our customers appreciate it.

    Oracle CX was a ‘concept’ back in 2007. Since then, Oracle Sales Cloud was built 100% in house on Oracle’s modern ‘Fusion’ cloud stack and first released in 2010. Oracle offers the widest array of cloud products natively hosted of any vendor I’m aware of. Oracle’s standards-based stack is built on the most commonly used and open technologies available (like Java). And given the predominance of Oracle products, we couldn’t exist if we couldn’t easily integrate with everyone else (including Salesforce who is still a major source of customers for Marketing, CPQ, and more).

    All vendors take complicated paths to build these sophisticated systems. But when you need a solution, the vendor’s path is less important than the end result.

  9. Abhishek December 20, 2016 at 10:56 pm (1 comment) #

    Agree with Steve on oracles standards it has set, yet Microsoft dynamics lacks itself in the integration properties too. The tools and scope of integration with oracle is a lot bigger than that of limited integration in dynamics.

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