Customer relationship management (CRM) software is among the most mature business software categories in the market today. CRM systems have evolved from small custom contact management tools into wide-ranging enterprise information portals.
Along with the core feature set of customer relationship management, the best CRM solutions can tie into other business processes and information systems, especially sales and marketing solutions like marketing automation platforms, to provide a holistic view of a company’s business.
There are numerous CRM solutions designed for businesses of all size, from small companies through enterprise corporations. In this article, we will focus on the three largest vendors: Salesforce vs. SugarCRM vs. Microsoft Dynamics. Other high-quality offerings, including Zoho, Insightly, and NetSuite, are solid options, but are not in the same tier as the aforementioned trio.
Simply put, Salesforce is the leader in CRM market and for good reasons. Apart from being the most established and popular offering in the market, Salesforce provides best-of-breed functions and support across the CRM space.
Along with the standard features of CRMs (e.g. – Contact Management, Lead Tracking, basic workflows, cloud-based CRM etc.) Salesforce has numerous enhancements to make the CRM more than just a simple tracking system. Of particular note is the Chatter social platform, which enables system users to easily collaborate on customers and leads.
The native iOS and Android mobile apps offer nearly full system functionality, which permits users complete independence from a computer which is particularly useful for field sales and business opportunities.
The Salesforce AppExchange marketplace for third party applications and integration is a critical piece in extending Salesforce capabilities. This third party support combined with the platform’s powerful and simple customization abilities makes Salesforce the leader in integrations and information tailoring. Additionally, the system’s interface is very easy to use, making adoption a breeze.
The main downsides to Salesforce are its price, which is among the highest in the market, and the lack of a self-hosting option (subscriptions/service are the only way to go).
Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is arguably the second most popular CRM vendor, a viable Salesforce alternative. Dynamics CRM offers all of the standard CRM features, but truly excels in a few areas. Foremost of these is reporting: MS Dynamics has an incredibly powerful and detailed reporting engine. The platform’s built-in analytics enable users to create meta-reports to gain business intelligence far beyond simple “which opportunities are assigned to which person”. It also has extensive automation abilities, including some of the best workflow management in the market.
Obviously, Dynamics has tight integration with the Microsoft Office stack, including Skype for instant messaging and video/phone calls and SharePoint for document storage. Unfortunately, Dynamics does not offer any built-in third party integration in order to keep the focus on MS. The marketplace for 3rd party solutions is rather anemic, especially when compared to SalesForce’s AppExchange.
Dynamics is available both as a subscription service as well as a self-hosted version. The service is the only major CRM offered on a month-by-month basis, rather than a yearly contract. Although the base price is somewhat steep, if you already have an Office 365 subscription, Dynamics CRM is quite affordable.
Overall, if you already have a heavy investment in Microsoft technologies or need a self-hosted CRM rather than a cloud service, Dynamics should be on your short-list of options.
SugarCRM can feel like the king of the also-ran crowd. It offers extensive customization, but is vastly more complex than Salesforce. It comes in a (free!) self-hosted open source Community edition, but management of the application requires specialized expertise, as compared to the relatively straight-forward administration of Dynamics. The hosted service is comparatively inexpensive per user, but requires the highest minimum number of users of any of the three solutions. It also has fairly low storage limits.
The CRM feature set of SugarCRM is comparable to both Salesforce and Dynamics, but the user interface is not as intuitive, resulting in a steeper learning curve. The available support options are somewhat lacking unless you subscribe to the higher service tiers.
SugarCRM integrates nicely with Google Docs, MS Office files, and various email clients. But it does not offer native support for 3rd party integration, and the SugarExchange application store is not as advanced as Salesforce’s AppExchange.
The main benefits of SugarCRM as compared to Salesforce or Dynamics are the free self-hosted edition and the extensive customization abilities, especially for organizations looking for something akin to an open source crm application. So if you need to host your own installation and are not already heavily bought into the Microsoft stack, SugarCRM is likely the best option.
Keep in mind throughout this vendor comparison article that these CRM platforms also share many features in common, too, like single sign-on, marketing automation integration, cloud/SaaS-based deployment and more.