Anybody who works or runs a business knows how important CRM (customer relationship management) is to their success, and this in turn has led to the growth in CRM tools from software vendors.
In one corner there is San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, which has made its living from its CRM software, and in the other corner is the giant from Redmond, Microsoft, with its Dynamics solution.
But how does one select between Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics?
Microsoft Australia Dynamics director, Thomas Gudman, said the reason businesses go to Redmond’s solution is for the familiar Microsoft experience.
“There is an instant feeling that you’ve been here before, because it works the same way Outlook does and other Microsoft technologies,” he said.
As a result, Gudman sees the adoption by users being “very fast”, making the familiar user experience one of the core differentiators for customers coming to Dynamics.
A second differentiator from Salesforce.com that Gudman highlights relates to the cost of ownership, as business will know how much Dynamics is going to cost when they sign up with and use it.
“There is no hidden cost because you buy the full suite and get access to all of it, and not point by point,” he said.
The other key advantage that Gudman points to is uptime.
“When you go online and you buy an application for a service, and you put your data in the Cloud, it is very important for the users to be able to access it,” he said.
“So what we give to you as a customer, and as the only vendor in the marketplace, is a 99.9 per cent uptime guarantee.”
With more than 100,000 existing customers, Salesforce.com A/NZ enterprise sales VP, Tony Armfield, sees businesses being attracted to its “social enterprise” approach, where social, mobile and open Cloud technologies are leveraged to put customers “at the heart of their business.”
“The industry has already voted for a different computing model, one that is social, mobile and open,” he said.
“There are nearly a billion people using Facebook to collaborate through status updates, groups and real-time feeds.”
While Microsoft Dynamics prides itself on its familiarity and long legacy, Armfield sees this approach as being counter-intutive.
"Microsoft still bases its ‘next generation’ CRM on desktops, proprietary systems and Outlook,” he said.
“That’s a snapshot of history and not a modern app for the social revolution.”
Referring to research done by Andy Pattinson from ProQuest Consulting, Armfield highlights that Microsoft’s Outlook, CRM and Sharepoint are not one product suite, because they all run on different databases. This creates challenges in moving and sharing data.
“Salesforce.com runs on the force.com platform, which itself runs on top of database.com, enabling all of the data to be in one place and easy to access,” he said.
This might all change when Microsoft announces its new CRM application in the second quarter of the 2012 calendar year, a development that Microsoft’s partners are no doubt keeping a close eye on.
As Microsoft’s business model is an indirect one, Gudman expects the company to continue to work through and with partners to market in order to focus on what he feels has been the company’s traditional strength, namely building software solutions.
“We help partners take these platforms to market and build the solutions that customers need,” he said.
“So we’re working very closely with partners to inform them about the new release, which we announced at the Big Convergence conference in the U.S. recently.”
Some of the ways Microsoft Dynamics keeps its partners abreast on new developments is an early adopter program.
“Partners and select customers can come and have a preview under NDA to see what’s in the new release and commit to giving us feedback,” Gudman said.
“They will work closely with us because they build solutions on platforms we take to market.”