Salesforce vs. Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Which Should You Choose?

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Curt Finch in spelling out some of the key differences between Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are two leaders in the customer relationship management software market. While Salesforce may be the 800-pound gorilla, Microsoft has made significant headway in recent years by building a solid foundation with Dynamics CRM and then expanding on it strategically. These two companies are dominating the growth in the CRM industry, outshining IBM, SAP and Oracle.

If your company is looking to invest in CRM software, how do you choose between these two solutions? Beyond identifying differences in the current products, make sure your decision factors in product momentum and the prospects for future success.

Common Ground

To answer that question, we first need to acknowledge that neither company is going away anytime soon. Both Microsoft and Salesforce are successful companies in their own rights with well-known products, established user bases, and continually-updated platforms paired with robust support staff. They’re both obviously doing something right. On top of that, both companies’ products are well-respected and reviewed by peers, journals and actual users alike.

Because each company is so well-established, it’s also unlikely that either company would ever be able to gain such an upper hand as to drive the other out of the market. Both companies have the talent and resources to adapt to the market, as well as the innovations their competitors bring to the market.

In analyzing which software you should choose, another way of asking the question might be: “Which product better aligns with your company’s needs?” To answer that, it’s advantageous to consider where they differ.

The Differences

One of the main differences between these two companies is the approach each of them took to build their CRM systems from the ground up. These different approaches have led to products that are very different from each other in significant ways.

In the case of Salesforce, when the company was founded in 1999, they started with nothing. They had no preexisting software or intellectual property on which to base their product. Everything was developed from scratch with no real foundation to latch onto.

This influenced not only the web-based approach Salesforce ended up taking, but also the degree of loyalty, or lack thereof, to a specific platform or software. Salesforce didn’t own an operating system, office suite, web browser or email client. Therefore, their CRM was designed to be as agnostic as possible. Salesforce1 is a good example of this approach. It represents the company’s next-generation platform aimed at making up for their deficiencies in the mobile market. It serves as a way to connect third-party services and applications.

This agnostic approach, however, has definite downsides. The most significant is Salesforce’s reliance on other companies for key parts of its infrastructure. For example, in 2013, Salesforce inked a 9-year partnership with Oracle to use their software and technology to power Salesforce applications and services.

Microsoft, on the other hand, approached the CRM market with a vast collection of existing software at their disposal. This proved to be an advantage for Microsoft, since they could leverage existing, tried-and-true applications, APIs, and other tools with which to develop their CRM system. This also gives Microsoft more independence than Salesforce over their own infrastructure.

An important side effect to this approach for the Dynamics CRM end-user is a level of comfort and familiarity with Microsoft’s products that may not already be there with Salesforce. Users, especially those with years of experience using Microsoft’s other products, often speak favorably of how comfortable and intuitive Dynamics CRM is.

In some ways, however, it could also be seen as a disadvantage, especially in times past. Because Microsoft was so invested in Windows, Outlook, Office, Internet Explorer and other technologies, the company initially integrated so heavily with these applications that it automatically excluded some users if they were not running Microsoft software.

Under their new CEO, Satya Nadella, Microsoft has changed its tune. “When we say mobile first, we really mean mobility first,” Nadella explained. “It’s about offering users a great experience across devices, some ours, some not ours, that we can power uniquely.”

This new philosophy has resulted in a refreshing platform-agnostic approach to Microsoft’s development. Their new goal seems to be to make their productivity software run on virtually every available platform, and it’s working for them.

So How Do You Choose?

As stated, neither of these companies are going away anytime soon. They both offer great products with legions of loyal customers.

That being said, there’s a reason that Microsoft is making so much headway in the CRM market. As they have many times throughout their history, Microsoft entered a market with an, at best, average product and then slowly built on it and improved it. The end result, as it has been so many times before, is that Microsoft goes from being the newcomer to an industry leader, and they’re still making forward progress. At their heart, Microsoft is a company that understands the value of continuing to build on a solid foundation, adding the features and abilities their customers want. It’s for that reason, Microsoft has a clear advantage in the days ahead.