Salesforce.com, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and dozens of others are offering cloud CRM (customer relationship management) services. There are accusations and counter-charges of "false clouds" and "roach motels." One once famously dismissed cloud talk as so much "water vapor," but is now all in.
The hype about the cloud is everywhere – as well as being the subject of every single keynote at trade shows, it arrives via prime time ads and billboards. Everyone has heard of it. We are in marketing nirvana here. And it shows in sales. Forrester Research forecasts the worldwide Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) market to grow to almost $12 billion in 2020.
With the gold rush ongoing, it's impossible to list every entrant into the Cloud CRM bonanza, so we'll focus here on the biggest players, with a few other interesting offerings added to the mix. For other possibilities, see our small business, midmarket and enterprise CRM buying guides, and if you have a personal favorite, submit it via the "submit a comment" link at the bottom of this article.
Microsoft's 'Cloud CRM for Less'
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is pushing "Cloud CRM for Less" as a means of tempting Oracle, Salesforce.com and SAP customers to switch from those online CRM tools to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. The company is even giving $150 cash per user seat for up to 500 seats as an incentive.
The offer is good through March 31, 2012, said Brad Wilson, general manager of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Product Management Group.
Like Larry Ellison at Oracle, Microsoft is going after cloud CRM market leader Salesforce.com. It went as far as to set up a site featuring people who switched to Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has been launched for both on-premises and hosted (cloud) deployment. The on-demand option – Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online – is backed by a 99.9% uptime SLA. Currently, it's priced at $44 per user per month, said Wilson.
SAP Sales OnDemand
SAP big on cloud computing? The enterprise applications giant may have been a little late to the party, but it had no choice but to get involved and seems to be doing a reasonable job. The company splits cloud needs into two categories. SAP Sales OnDemand, for instance, is a public cloud targeting the end user, a sales representative. Delivered as software as a service (SaaS), it offers enterprises running SAP Business Suite a pre-integrated on demand tool.
On the private cloud side is SAP CRM rapid deployment for sales, marketing and services. Users can enter that cloud to consume SAP CRM services in a secure space.
"SAP made an internal business case to redesign the software delivery model for SAP CRM customers," said Vinay Iyer, vice president of SAP CRM Marketing. "This led to the creation of the CRM rapid deployment packages, which can deliver SAP CRM installations within six to eight weeks, at a competitive price."
He said the company will be releasing another service on demand product in 2012 specifically for customer service. The company is also expanding its SAP CRM offerings to include private cloud-based mobility and analytics solutions.
Salesforce.com and the Social Cloud
Salesforce.com is pushing a cloud vision called the "social enterprise." It's all about engaging with customers, co-workers and partners via social media. This entails the establishment of a database that maintains and updates social profiles in real time. Accordingly, Salesforce has also been rolling out Database.com, which is being touted as a social, mobile cloud database. Additionally, Data.com taps into Dun & Bradstreet lists and services, and an upgrade to Salesforce Chatter is planned to bring external conversations into the picture rather than functioning as an employee-only social network.
"Chatter integrates collaboration services with Salesforce.com and partner apps," said Laurie McCabe, an analyst at SMB Group. "Chatter is also slated to get instant messaging, presence-awareness and screen sharing capabilities so you can do things such as have a video conference on the fly within Chatter."
Via its Radian6 acquisition, Salesforce is making it possible to analyze unstructured data from social media sources. And using HTML5, the company is rolling out Touch.salesforce.com, which renders the apps, data and customizations in Salesforce.com for use on any mobile platform.
Oracle Cloud CRM
Oracle CRM On Demand is the obvious cloud weapon in Oracle's arsenal, but the new Oracle Public Cloud could be the company's future cloud platform, as Oracle is "clouderizing" many of its CRM and other applications via its ongoing Fusion application initiative.
The most recent iteration of CRM On Demand introduces cloud and mobility features such as iPad tablet, iPhone, BlackBerry and Outlook support.
"Oracle CRM On Demand continues to be the focus of Oracle's play in the CRM SaaS solution segment, with steadily enhanced capabilities and a sound future road map, including industry vertical functional enhancement," said William Band, an analyst at Forrester Research.
And by acquiring Market2Lead, Oracle has gained tools for landing pages and microsites, digital prospect tracking, progressive profiling, lead scoring, email marketing, nurture campaigns, automated distribution of sales-ready leads to the sales team and marketing analytics.
SugarCRM seems to have thrown its hat in the ring with IBM's SmartCloud initiative. Recent updates build on the growing relationship, with the aim of helping organizations execute marketing programs, grow sales, retain customers and create custom business applications.
"These new combined solutions and connectors extend the existing relationship between SugarCRM and IBM," said Clint Oram, co-founder and CTO of SugarCRM.
Integration is available between SugarCRM and IBM LotusLive, IBM Cognos Business Intelligence Suite and IBM Websphere Cast Iron. SugarCRM for LotusLive places social business capabilities into the hands of SugarCRM users. By combining CRM and collaboration capabilities including Web conferencing and document sharing capabilities inside the SugarCRM system, sales, marketing and support professionals can better engage with their prospects and customers thus shortening sales cycles. On the business intelligence side, the tie in of Cognos and SugarCRM improves reporting, analytics, dashboarding and scorecarding of CRM data.
Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) has launched D&B360 with some impressive partners – Oracle and SAP. This cloud CRM service connects people to D&B data on more than 200 million businesses. As a result, D&B data can populate these CRM systems as a means of providing sales and marketing personnel with greater visibility of prospects and customers. D&B360 uses a combination of APIs and web services to integrate with these CRM tools.
"Our data is hosted in the cloud and provided in an on-demand manner through functionality embedded within these CRM applications," said Mike Sabin, D&B's senior vice president of sales and marketing solutions. "We conformed to each CRM's UI designs and constraints to provide an embedded solution."
Dell Cloud Business Applications
Dell Cloud Business Applications is an integrated, single sign-on approach to multiple cloud apps aimed at SMBs. The first release includes Salesforce.com and Boomi technology that integrates Salesforce with financial applications (either on-premises or in the cloud) that SMBs are already running, including those from Intuit, Microsoft and Sage.
"The Dell solution also features an analytics dashboard that provides an integrated view of their business by pulling in relevant in-formation from Salesforce and these accounting solutions," said Laurie McCabe, an analyst at SMB Group. "Dell will also serve as the single source of support for the applications and features a single invoice, monthly billing and financing plan."