What’s in a name, you might wonder?!
However, unlike a rose, whether you call a CRM – Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, or LinkedIn, they are all going to behave differently. So, how do we determine which is the best CRM of them all?
How they were all built
Salesforce.com is one of a kind, in the sense that it built everything – features, functionality, and development tools, from the ground up, in a blank state. The advantage being that it is not encumbered by legacy systems or interfaces, and can cater to user needs fully.
In contrast, all the other three players – Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Oracle CRM and LinkedIn CRM has at its core a wide variety of pre-existing technologies, which they co-opted into the CRM. Microsoft has a host of legacy features from its Office suite, while Oracle CRM is a continuation of Siebel CRM, which Oracle acquired in 2005. Even LinkedIn, the newest entry on the block as well as a social media channel, developed its CRM by acquiring another CRM called Connected, and building on its legacy features.
The Front End
The “fresh slate” approach resulted in Salesforce.com being designed as a web application initially, with optimal design interface. In contrast, Micosoft Dynamics CRM was originally a desktop app modified to a browser app, and is clearly inferior to Salesforce.com’s interface. A minor example of the user convenience this brings is the Save button on both the top and bottom of Salesforce.com’s edit screens, which Dynamics lacks. Oracle’s CRM scores better than Microsoft’s in this regard, as it is very easy to customize the homepage and page layouts.
The Back End
Salesforce.com prides itself on its flexibility, and for this, it relies on its AppExchange. From here, users can pick and choose the features and functionality they need. The strong ecosystem of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), with proven infrastructure and reliability lend strength to Salesforce.com. This is similar to how Andorid’s App market is more diverse and vibrant, as compared to Windows’ or iOS’.
Salesforce.com’s Chatter combines with its acquisition Assistly for customer support, and these are enhanced by other acquisitions like Radian 6 for social media listening, Buddy Media for social media marketing, and ExactTarget for marketing automation. Together, they add immense breadth and capabilities to the CRM.
Other CRMs offer many of the capabilities offered by Salesforce.com, but do not match its flexibility. In many cases, the capabilities offered are from in-house legacy systems. Microsoft CRM for instance, integrates with Microsoft SharePoint for collaboration and content management, Microsoft Lync for Presence and Instant Messaging, Microsoft Visual Studio for extended customization, Microsoft Outlook email server and Moreover Power View for reports. The highly configurable role-based workflows, business intelligence (BI) and analytics, add to the strength of this CRM. However, such in-house technology need not always mean seamless integration. Microsoft still relies on solution providers to furnish a complete solution. A case in point – for direct server-to-server integration between Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, customers have to rely on partner solutions.
Oracle’s underlying architecture is perhaps the strongest among the lot. However, that does not translate to substantial benefit for the user. Oracle CRM integrates with Oracle’s in-house Commerce Solution, to offer broad and deep capabilities, but again lacks the flexibility or range that Salesforce.com provides. Also, it does not offer support to integrate third-party features including Outlook, which could restrict functionality for many users.
Salesforce.com uses Oracle’s database, which is much more scalable that Microsoft’s legacy SQL server. However, Salesforce.com architects the database in a very specific way, to support multi-tenant scalability and security, as well as efficient updates.
Microsoft’s pre-developed reporting engine, SQL Server Reporting Services remains more rigid than Salesforce.com’s reporting engine, which was built from scratch. Oracle CRM also scores on its ability to generate custom reports easily, without any technical knowledge.
Social Media Integration
LinkedIn CRM, being an offshoot of a social media network would naturally count social media integration as its strong USP. However, Salesforce.com comes with Chatter and Radian6, allowing it to match whatever LinkedIn can offer. The other two big players – Microsoft and Oracle lag behind in the social space.
To hear it from the horse’s mouth, Gartner’s 2013 Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation, which compared all the dominant CRM suites in the market, lists Salesforce.com at the top, and Microsoft CRM in second place – a verdict we definitely agree with!
Image Credit: John Kratz on Flickr