The deal closer

CRM products are notoriously difficult to differentiate in terms of functionality, so ACN's here to help.

  • E-Mail
By  Imthishan Giado Published  July 26, 2008

CRM products are notoriously difficult to differentiate in terms of functionality - so ACN's here to help with a look at the latest offerings from vendors, including the burgeoning business intelligence sector.

Salesforce.com

By now, everyone's heard of Marc Benioff's on-demand sensation Salesforce.com. It's the one to beat, leading the market for on-demand CRM applications - and Middle East CIOs would be highly amiss if they ignored the potential lurking under the hype.

The key behind Salesforce's remarkable growth is its ease of deployment. While other more traditional - and server-bound - CRMs require careful study of an organisation's existing IT infrastructure and can take months - if not years - to set up, Salesforce's web-based system can deploy within weeks, with subsequent applications equally easy to rollout. The company also claims seamless upgrades, which must sound like music to overworked IT team's ears.

Other Salesforce highlights include integration with Google Apps - allowing sales executives to remain productive regardless of what they use to connect - and customer portals which are intended to create user communities with a repository of resources to get the best out of the available applications.

However, while it's easy to get caught up in the evangelical fervour of Salesforce.com, one mustn't forget that its products are entirely dependent on connectivity.

Many regional enterprises also prefer the familiarity and security of having 100% ownership of their applications - mindsets which Salesforce.com, for its all benefits, will take time to alter.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft has had to watch for a number of years now as beasts like Oracle and SAP have cornered the lion's share of the CRM market, while its own Dynamics product has been labelled only worthy of SMBs.

With the release of version 4.0, the software giant is hoping to get back into the enterprise game, so it's rolling out the big gun - Microsoft Excel.

All right, so Excel isn't new at all, but a lot of companies do still use it to store their customer data, so it makes sense for Microsoft to strengthen the link between the data.

Dynamics now sports a dynamic data connection with Excel sheets so users can combine the latter's analysis tools with live CRM data.

The other big selling point for Dynamics is the same one the Redmond firm uses to sell everything it creates - familiarity.

Even though it's a hideously complex CRM application, visually it resembles familiar Office applications like Outlook so it won't intimidate salespeople - who aren't exactly known for their IT savvy.

Microsoft touts a laundry list of other improvements - mostly borrowed from the new version of Office - such as AutoComplete, better mail merge capabilities, the ability to customise the Navigation Pane to user tastes and multi-tenancy, which allows multiple sales groups to share the same hardware while maintaining segregated data.

While Microsoft Dynamics CRM may still have some way to go to challenge the CRM leaders, the company's trump card may have just been played with the April release of a new on-demand version, which broadly compares to Salesforce.com in functionality.

Microsoft may yet be able to pull off an end-run around the big players - watch this space.

Oracle

It would be enormously difficult for any CRM feature to avoid Oracle - but it's also enormously difficult for potential end users to make sense of Oracle's vast and bewildering array of products.

For instance, just in the CRM space Oracle offers three distinct packages: Siebel (an acquisition from 2005 focusing on customer service applications), Oracle CRM (part of E-Business suite) and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne CRM (which is what became of PeopleSoft, also purchased in 2005).

In case one is not yet thoroughly confused, there's also another tier of products that deal with something called ‘Social CRM', and the now-obligatory on-demand version (which is up to release 15 as of this month).

Unfortunately, if Oracle's website is any guide, it's nigh-on impossible to work out what the differences are between these various products.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code