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 Chuck SchaefferSalesforce versus Microsoft Dynamics CRM

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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 that 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 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 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 AppSource 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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Comments (9) — Comments for this page are closed —
Guest Ferguson1982
  when would a company consider microsoft crm over salesforce?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    It has been my experience that Microsoft may be favored for companies seeking better integration with other Microsoft apps, tighter integration with Outlook, a lower cost CRM solution or the desire for an on-premise or hybrid (cloud and on-premise) deployment.

Guest Shelly Shifley
  Great CRM software comparison! Although I'm sure you will get the knee-jerk reactions from both the and Microsoft crowds that say you understated their capabilities :)
  Guest meenasibasin
    Hard to discredit the comparison. I would expect bigger knee jerk reactions from Oracle and SAP. It seems the CRM market has left these 2 ERP giants behind but they didn't get the memo.

Guest Jas
  SAP CRM is only ever considered if SAP ERP is already in place and even then most SAP customers also consider Salesforce or Microsoft CRM. Oracle has transitioned from CRM to CX to Fusion CRM to confusion CRM. Both companies have little to no credibility in the CRM market.
  Guest Cellian York
    SAP is without institutional CRM expertise. Sure, they have some people in the company who get CRM, but that knowledge does not extend to the company’s senior leaders who clearly have missed the CRM evolution and seem to wonder why. CRM at SAP is clearly an afterthought, at best, and is not well represented in the companys R&D, messaging or go to market. Oracle looks at CRM as the next big thing, but has confused itself and the market with a mix of questionable acquisitions and product strategies that leave customers and even analysts scratching their heads. Both companies credibility in this market are moving from bad to worse.
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    I don't disagree, but I also recognize both Oracle and SAP have the smart people and resources to establish a CRM turnaround if they truly commit.

Guest nicolsi
  You did not mention that Salesforce has severe licensing restrictions. For example, for, appended data cannot cascade to other systems (from CRM to ERP or customer billing system). And if you ever terminate Salesforce subscription, Salesforce requires removal of any data acquired from Its an impractical exercise to know what customer data came from what system and then somehow remove it.
  Guest Anonymous
    The top 3 reasons why customers leave Salesforce are price, platform (they don't desire to bring in and learn another proprietary platform such as or Salesforce1) and delivery (not everybody wants to be on a proprietary cloud, many companies want a more portable cloud CRM solution, or even a combination of both cloud and on prem)




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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 CRM leadership has reached a two horse race. Salesforce is the market leader and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the challenger.


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