CRM Buyer's Guide: Which Enterprise CRM Tool Is Right for You?

by Drew Robb

From Oracle and Salesforce.com to Sword Ciboodle, we've got the customer relationship management (CRM) market covered.

When it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) software and services, there are a lot of choices out there. But which one is right for you?

We'll look at a handful of enterprise CRM vendors — Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP, Microsoft, RightNow, Pegasystems and Sword Ciboodle — to give you a sense of what to look for in a CRM product and which ones might meet your needs.

Editor's note: Be sure to check out our midrange CRM and small business CRM buying guides.

The selection process for CRM is a complex affair. No cookie cutter formula exists. Each of the analyst firms has their own methods of evaluating. Forrester has its CRM Wave, Gartner its Magic Quadrant, and Info-Tech has a Decision Diamond, a tailored approach that allows a company to enter its own weighting factors into the equation. But such tools can only act as a rough guide, and the specifics of the intended environment often steer the decision in a specific direction.

"No two organizations are alike," said Tim Hickernell, an analyst for Info-Tech Research Group.

Not so long ago, the enterprise market allowed only on-premise CRM. But software as a service (SaaS) had matured to the point where it, too, is considered to be fit for prime time.

"More organizations are considering lower-cost CRM products, especially SaaS deployments with fewer upfront costs," said Hickernell. "Concerns about SaaS immaturity are no longer biasing CRM decision."

His company ranks Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Oracle Siebel as the leaders. The first two have moved up into the enterprise space but also have a dominant position in SMB deployments. Hickernell added that Salesforce.com has legitimized CRM SaaS.

"Organizations that need a rapid time to market should consider Salesforce.com," he said.

On the red side of the ledger, Salesforce.com isn't strong when it comes to back office integration and continues to lack a partner to cover the ERP side, which can be a deal breaker in the enterprise space.

Microsoft is another company that has moved into the upper bracket in the last couple of years. Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform provides full integration with Microsoft Office, Outlook and SharePoint. It is available hosted or on-premise and is regarded as relatively easy to administer. Surprisingly, Info-Tech said that the CRM module isn't well integrated with the rest of the Microsoft Dynamics Suite, but that is changing.

Meanwhile, Info-Tech characterizes Oracle as the 10,000-pound gorilla, with unparalleled features, functionality and breadth of industry solutions. Consequently, it is recommended for organizations with extreme vertical industry requirements.

"Oracle Siebel continues to dominate CRM features, but its reputation for cost and complexity are well earned," he said.

After that come RightNow and SAP. RightNow CX is deemed to be the category leader in customer service and support and customer service knowledge management. It is SaaS only.

SAP CRM, on the other hand, is only recommended by Info-Tech for companies already deploying SAP ERP. In addition to leveraging existing investments, it is a good way to negotiate attractive pricing.


CRM Buyer's Guide: Analyst View

While methodologies differ, analysts generally agree on who the enterprise players are in CRM.

"Oracle Siebel and SAP CRM still offer the most complete solutions, albeit at higher price tags," said William Band, an analyst at Forrester.

He said Oracle offers several CRM options. As well as Siebel, it has the Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) CRM, PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM and Oracle CRM On Demand. Forrester also adds Sword Ciboodle, Chordiant and Pegasystems to the enterprise list (Pegasystems recently acquired Chordiant).

"Microsoft, RightNow and Salesforce get high marks for ease of use and relatively fast deployment times," said Band.

These SaaS solutions may not be full-featured, but they are gaining acceptance by large and mid-sized organizations looking for fast time-to-value and flexibility. This hasn't escaped the notice of the big boys, SAP and Oracle. SAP has been working hard to address user complains about usability, cost and lengthy implementation times, as well as improving integration, said Band. Oracle has been steering a similar course with Siebel. The user interface has been improved to make tasks simpler to execute. And Oracle CRM On Demand is the company's answer to the growing SaaS market. Forrester gives it high marks.

How about the other Oracle products? Band believes they are each good options for ERP customers. EBS CRM provides ease of integration into the rest of the Oracle EBS suite. It is also strong in field service and sales compensation management. Similarly, PeopleSoft CRM attracts companies using PeopleSoft for ERP.

"Both products offer strong capabilities across the broad footprint of most CRM functionalities, including marketing, sales, service, field service and partner channel management, but they remain less robust for customer data management and e-commerce," said Band.

The other candidates in the enterprise category include Pegasystems and Sword Ciboodle. They fare best in organizations strong in business process management (BPM) spheres such as multi-channel customer service processes that cut across functional silos. Sword Ciboodle, said Band, has pushed into the CRM market with a focus on the intersection of business process modeling, customer service and customer interaction management. Pegasystems combines customer service, BPM and templates for customer-facing processes. Its recent merger with Chordiant adds advanced decision-making tools to orchestrate multi-channel interactions to support real-time customer interaction management.


CRM Vendors State Their Case

That's the analyst view. The vendors offer a different perspective. Fergus Griffin, vice president of product marketing for the Service Cloud at Salesforce.com, believes his organization's SaaS focus is strengthened by the move to the cloud as represented by its Service Cloud 2. It brings together traditional contact center technologies like phone, email and chat with cloud computing and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google as a means of capturing every customer service interaction.

Features such as Salesforce Chatter permit agents to collaborate across all departments to share knowledge and solve customer cases faster (see Six Ways That Salesforce.com Uses Chatter). Salesforce for Twitter allows companies to capture, monitor and join Twitter tweets in real-time. And Salesforce.com has moved into knowledge management.

"By using the technology from Salesforce.com's acquisition of Instranet last year, knowledge base is the world's first multi-tenant knowledge management application designed for cloud computing," said Griffin. "It provides businesses using Service Cloud 2 with the technology to organize customer service information into an organized repository, allowing service reps to find the right answer to an inquiry in the most efficient way."

Bill Patterson, director of product management for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, describes his offering as a "powerful and yet affordable CRM suite that offers flexible, versatile solutions to help organizations drive sales effectiveness and customer satisfaction."

It combines marketing, sales and service capabilities with a consistent user experience based on Microsoft Office and Outlook. Dynamics CRM 4.0 is available as an on-premises or as a partner-hosted solution, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is its cloud-based SaaS offering.

The beta for Dynamics CRM 2011 was released last month (see Top 10 Features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011).

"The strategy for Microsoft Dynamics is to continue to simplify complexity for business users to boost productivity and reduce operational expense, use Microsoft's ongoing advancements in technology to bring forth the most modern business solutions, and ensure interoperability with the products customers use every day such as Office, SharePoint and SQL Server," said Patterson. "The cloud will also continue to be our focus to help our customers drive impactful business results."

Andrew Hull, director of product marketing at RightNow, said that RightNow CX is all about enabling superior interactions across web, social, and contact center touch points. RightNow's top three verticals are retail, government and higher education, according to Hull.

Pegasystems CPM claims to deliver a rich framework of customer service processes utilizing the company's patented SmartBPM technology to intelligently integrate application functions, essential enterprise customer data, and human tasks into efficient and streamlined customer-centric processes. Additionally, Pegasystems offers three cloud computing products: Instant Edition, Instance Manager and Enterprise Edition. Instant Edition and Instance Manager has a monthly fee per environment. The Enterprise Edition is priced on a per-user, per-month basis, and that fee includes everything needed to run a Pegasystems application, including software, middleware, infrastructure, and managed services via the cloud. Lastly, Pegasystems BPM Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering is the SaaS version.

Paul White, CEO of Americas for Sword Ciboodle, said the company delivers process-managed CRM software services to contact centers worldwide. Its software promotes customer intelligence and choice, highlighted through cross-channel CRM modules known as intelligent desktop Ciboodle One, Web-based self-service Ciboodle Live, and case management software Ciboodle Flow. It is not available as SaaS.

"Leveraging SAS Real Time decision manager technology within Ciboodle One, SAS and Ciboodle created customer intelligence in the contact center," said White. "By providing real time, dynamic customer intelligence and offers for customers based on past customer service data, the solution makes interactions smarter, customer satisfaction soar and sales conversion rates go through the roof."


  This article was originally published on Thursday Oct 7th 2010
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