CRM leadership: Buying, managing and running a system
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Today, with companies wanting a more dynamic way to work with employees and customers, the CRM software market...
A solid customer relationship management (CRM) system is one of the cornerstones in company competitiveness by enabling companies to better interact with and understand their customers' preferences and fulfill service more efficiently. But today, CRM systems abound in the marketplace, and not all are created equal, leaving organizations with questions about which system makes sense in their technology, staffing and budget environments. Sometimes the consideration may be price or certain features. In other cases, the superior system for a company may be the one that requires less coding and is more intuitive for a nontechnical administrator to manage on a regular basis, or has a healthy ecosystem of resources.
With multiple companies entering the market at various price points and with various capabilities, this article compares two of the major players: Salesforce vs. Microsoft Dynamics, each of which have dominant subscriber bases and, with each new release, try to differentiate themselves in the market. I have used both systems in enterprise contexts, and I believe Salesforce can offer an advantage for most companies' needs, even though its base subscriptions can be more costly than Microsoft Dynamics.
The average price for an Enterprise subscription for Salesforce is $125 for the Sales Cloud, with additions like Service Cloud or "unlimited" licenses reaching $300. When compared to Microsoft Dynamics -- at $65 per average license and an additional $65 for Service Cloud -- it seems like a no-brainer. But the adage "You get what you pay for" is true here. I recommend every company do its research on the real costs of each platform before making a decision.
Salesforce is built with a very friendly user interface that doesn't require technical knowledge to run. If you use it for its main purpose -- funnel management and reporting -- watching a few YouTube tutorials will get you up to speed.
A dedicated administrator can take even greater advantage and enhance use of the system for multiple departments through the "clicks not code" aspect of Salesforce, which means you don't need to be a developer to make changes. A developer is only needed for larger-scale customizations or connections to legacy systems like accounting software or an ERP system. While Microsoft Dynamics allows for configuration by an administrator, it's more labor-intensive and code can be necessary to perform tasks that require only a simple workflow in Salesforce. So, ironically, a Salesforce admin or developer may have a higher pay scale than the equivalent for Microsoft Dynamics; you need a more skilled employee to run Dynamics compared with Salesforce.
Salesforce has a large community that expands from its app store to its Salesforce Success Community to multiple independent blogs and YouTube channels. The app store alone has hundreds of free add-on applications to improve the platform for industry-specific needs, such as expanded ticketing systems, product management tracking and nonprofit fundraising. Microsoft Dynamics, by contrast, has a growing community that may reach this level of resources, but it's not there yet. You can find plenty of YouTube stations, but I found the resources for add-ons to be few and far between. Microsoft's app store is not intuitive or well-stocked, and your administrator would need to become more involved with GitHub and other online resources to find improvement packages for Dynamics CRM.
Salesforce releases new improvements three times a year that offer new features and improve old problems. Salesforce is attentive to its community, where ideas are posted and voted on by other users. The releases were never major enough to cause anxiety to users, but administrators could make improvements gradually to an already full-featured system.
In comparison, I went through only a few releases with Microsoft Dynamics, but each iteration was painful. The transition from 2011 to 2013 involved essentially training users on an entirely new system because the platform had changed so much, and many areas were broken for months after the release. Entities would disappear and reappear, email workflows failed to trigger, and random spacing appeared on page layouts after the release, with Microsoft only promising to fix it within three months. But three months is a long time to wait, particularly for a pseudo-release that didn't fix the problem. And consider that all my users had to revert from Internet Explorer 11 to 10 because Microsoft's own browser lacked the functionality Dynamics needed -- despite the fact that the only browser you can use with Dynamics is Explorer. A major reason my company chose Microsoft was to link to Outlook, which we were later advised by our Microsoft partner not to use, given its inconsistencies.
At the same time, there are reasons to buy Microsoft: The coding language is familiar and companies can bring the system on-premises rather than have concerns about customer data in the cloud.
But if your company plans to keep customer data in the cloud and wants to keep IT staff focused on other projects, I recommend Salesforce. Salesforce has continued to improve its system on the back and front ends, while Microsoft has a large number of products and has little focus on its Dynamics development. Now, Microsoft has even signed on to allow Salesforce to work with the Office 365 platform with improved integrations with Power BI and Excel, which has eliminated some of the advantages of using Dynamics with Microsoft applications.
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