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Mobility and software as a service are changing customer relationship management and sales force software. Upstart Salesforce.com has made a significant dent in the market, and established vendors of licensed software are playing catchup. SAP AG’s recent alliance with Research in Motion Inc. is the latest development as CRM vendors try to meet customer growing demand for mobility. And user interfaces are evolving to meet the expectations of people who have grown up with the Web.

Here’s a quick survey of the major players.

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Microsoft Corp. came late to CRM, in 2002, but its Dynamics software has moved up in the pack quickly. A key reason is integration with other Microsoft software, says Robert DeSisto, analyst at Gartner Group Inc. — particularly Outlook, whose basic contact management, scheduling and e-mail capabilities make it popular with salespeople. Integration with Access database software helps too, adds Vinay Nair, research manager for Canadian enterprise applications at International Data Corp. (Canada) Ltd.

Microsoft has a “huge” installed base in small to medium business, Nair says, but isn’t as well established in enterprise software as vendors like Oracle and SAP. However, he says Microsoft is using its strong SMB and desktop base to challenge enterprise incumbents. Gartner agrees, placing Dynamics CRM in the challengers segment of its sales force automation magic quadrant for 2007.

The challenge now, DeSisto says, is launching Dynamics Live, Microsoft’s Software as a service offering. The company is pursuing a price strategy, he says, undercutting Salesforce.com’s pricing. Whether that will work remains to be seen.


Acquisition fever has given Oracle Corp. a mixed bag of CRM and sales software. Its Canadian emphasis remains on large enterprise customers running software on premises, says Nair, while CRM on Demand, its SaaS offering, has made limited inroads here.

Gartner says Oracle on Demand combines large-vendor viability with price competitiveness, though, and Oracle’s emphasis on integration with its on-premises software, plus strong analytics and reporting features, help put it in Gartner’s visionary quadrant.

While Oracle’s Siebel CRM is one of two products in Gartner’s leaders quadrant for sales force automation, PeopleSoft Enterprise and E-Business Suite CRM are well back in the niche players corner. “I don’t see quite frankly much activity there,” DeSisto says. Oracle was not available for comment.

Sage Software

Sage Software has three distinct CRM and sales automation lines: SageCRM, ACT! and SalesLogix. Sage isn’t investing much in converging acquisitions into a common code base, Nair says. What it is doing, DeSisto says, is integrating SageCRM with ERP offerings.

Larry Ritter, Sage’s senior vice-president and global CRM product manager, says Sage is aiming at interoperability and code re-use. “We’re specifically trying not to say that we’re going to migrate or merge any of our products together.”

ACT! offers mobile-device synchronization, and SalesLogix supports mobiles for “pretty much everything you can do from the Windows client,” Ritter says.

Sage’s Accpac accounting software is a strong asset, says Nair, and SageCRM and SalesLogix are doing well in the SMB space. Gartner places SalesLogix along with Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM in its challengers quadrant for sales force automation. ACT! provides basic opportunity and contact management, Gartner says; it’s not for companies requiring deeper functionality.


With SaaS among the clearest trends in CRM and sales force software, it’s no surprise SaaS poster boy Salesforce.com is thriving. It’s capitalizing on interest in SaaS, Gartner’s DeSisto says, and its strategy of selling to sales and marketing executives rather than IT is working well.

Ease of use is a big attraction, Nair says. “It’s a lot easier to get up and running within the workflow,” and Salesforce’s online offering provides 75 to 80 per cent of what mid-sized organizations need.

Much of Salesforce’s success in Canada is tied to its popularity south of the border, Nair says. Branch plants of U.S.-based companies have been picking up head offices’ adoption of the hosted system.

Al Falcione, senior director of product marketing, says Salesforce is building on its position with more applications — developed by itself, customers and partners — running on its Force SaaS platform. An alliance with Google creates links between Salesforce and Google Apps.


DeSisto says SAP’s CRM on Demand product is struggling. Vinay Iyer, SAP’s vice-president of solutions marketing, says SAP is in the process of upgrading the product, which hasn’t been launched in Canada yet. The company’s on-premises software is a happier story. With a new release late in 2007, SAP completely revamped the user interface, a move that will “remove that one major hurdle we had with our customers,” says Iyer. “The early returns on that have been generally positive,” says DeSisto.

Nair says SAP is working to make its systems less complex and increase end-user adoption. Another step in that direction is SAP’s recent alliance with Waterloo, Ont.–based Research in Motion Inc. to offer access to SAP from the BlackBerry. And Iyer says the company is improving its ability to bring in unstructured data from outside sources and do mash-ups with services like Google Maps.


Next to the big names, SugarCRM is somewhat obscure. In Gartner’s magic quadrant, it’s well down among the niche players. But it’s interesting as the open source contender.

Nair says SugarCRM is gaining momentum, though he doesn’t expect it to be a great threat to leading vendors soon. DeSisto says SugarCRM is trying to compete on price, but needs more market visibility.

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