Microsoft Dynamics CRM vs. Salesforce’s Sales Cloud – Part 1: Real-Time Collaboration Comparison

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I love playful competition, but I’m not a big fan of rivalries. Specifically, I don’t appreciate the false representations and imbalanced criticisms that sometimes accompany them. In Los Angeles, there’s a huge college rivalry between USC and UCLA. Some of the things people from each side say about the other university can get pretty nasty. I happened to attend USC, but I think very highly of both. Years ago, when choosing which college to attend, I did so based on which met my requirements. UCLA has a strong MBA program and you can receive an undergraduate degree in economics, but they don’t have an undergrad business school. I received my Bachelor degree from USC because it has a fantastic undergraduate business school. I still think UCLA is great, but when it came to spending my money and fulfilling a need, USC fit the bill,

What does this have to do with CRM software, you ask?

Two of the top CRM programs, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce’s Sales Cloud, have quite a rivalry going on. As with USC and UCLA, the competition between the two can get pretty heated. And comparisons between them can be faulty. Similarly to selecting a college, I recommend choosing a CRM that fulfills your needs. Both may be attractive and have positive qualities, but pick the best fit for your circumstances. Figuring this out, however, can be difficult, especially when there’s some misleading or confusing information out there.

An example of this kind of situation is a page on Salesforce’s website that shows Salesforce having all of the seven listed advantages while Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s Outlook integration is the only one advantage it seems to have. The table on this webpage consists of 3 columns: Advantage, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Salesforce. The advantages are as follows:

  • World’s #1 Cloud CRM
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Any mobile device
  • Automatic upgrades
  • Open platform
  • Easy to customize
  • Outlook integration

Unfortunately, Salesforce does not provide a description for each “Advantage.” In the Microsoft Dynamics CRM column there is a red X mark for each advantage, except Outlook integration which has a green checkmark. Salesforce has a green checkmark for every row. Salesforce doesn’t explain what they mean by the red X mark or green checkmark, but the implication is that Salesforce has each of these Advantages and CRM doesn’t have any except Outlook integration. As simple and concise as this chart seems, it is not a very accurate product comparison. My intention with this blog post and the ones to follow is to provide a balanced assessment of these advantages and offer more information with respect to Microsoft’s products

First of all, I’d like to note a subtle way in which the table column headings themselves may add to the confusion and faulty information. The table is comparing Dynamics CRM (a product) with Salesforce (a company with a line of products). Rather than compare CRM to Sales Cloud or compare Microsoft to Salesforce, this table compares a single Microsoft product with Salesforce’s product portfolio. Given that Salesforce’s examples offered to the right of the table include products beyond Sales Cloud, I’ve expanded the evaluation to include other Microsoft products that are designed to work together, such as Microsoft SharePoint.

That being said, let’s start with “Real-time Collaboration”…

For this row in the chart, Salesforce has a demo video on “how Chatter works with the Sales Cloud to make your sales teams more collaborative.” Similar to Facebook, in Chatter employees can update their status, share a picture, and fill out a profile. Perhaps indicating what they mean by Real-time collaboration, the demo says, “People can see his status in real time and respond immediately with helpful insights.” Sales people can “follow” each other as well as documents (like presentations and spreadsheets), and application data (like sales deals and customer accounts). According to the demo, “Anytime someone makes an update to one of these records Scott (the demo subject) will know immediately.” You would see all of these updates if you click on your Home Page and then click on Main Feed, which lists these updates much like Facebook’s News Feed.

I’m not sure what Salesforce is communicating by the red X mark for Microsoft Dynamics CRM on this topic, given that Dynamics CRM offers users the means to receive relevant and meaningful business information as soon as it’s available. One great method to provide this functionality with Dynamics CRM is using workflows. In fact, a workflow can be set up to notify someone when another user changes a record, for example when a service case has been escalated. A workflow can even notify users when a record hasn’t changed by a given time. For instance, a sales manager can be notified if phone calls are not being completed in a timely manner. Thus, workflows can help users stay aware of the most important changes that matter most to their jobs and their organization.

Besides sending notifications about record changes, workflows can automatically create or assign tasks and activities when rules are triggered, facilitate simple or multilevel approval processes, automate the distribution of leads, send alerts for key events or milestones, and encourage consistent business practices across the organization.

Actually, workflows may satisfy an organization’s need for real-time collaboration more effectively than Chatter. Based on Salesforce’s demo of Chatter, I’d need to go to my Home Page then go to my Main Feed in order to see what updates may have been posted rather than having an email immediately sent to me specifically about the issues that matter most. Secondly, while Chatter offers some ability to filter on what kinds of entities users can follow (i.e. Opportunities, Accounts, etc.); I believe it currently does not offer the ability to apply criteria to the filters to indicate what kind of information is pushed onto my Chatter page. So I’d receive an update on every change that occurs to anything I choose to follow, including every address correction or fixed misspelling. For some, this laundry list of constant updates may create a field of noise that users have to read through in order to sift out the relevant bits. The way this feed works seems like it could be time consuming and distracting. Also, as with Facebook, if I’m not carefully and constantly checking my feed, I might miss a valuable post that then gets buried under a litany of non-essential updates. Given that customers and prospects email me all day, and Outlook notifies me every time a new email arrives, I’m more likely to keep on top of my email and see important workflow-sent messages.

Regarding the “Collaboration” part of the “Advantage,” Microsoft Dynamics CRM itself has many capabilities that facilitate collaboration, such as team-based ownership to enable effective team selling and customer service, team queues to manage support cases, and a centralized view of service calendars and resources.

Furthermore, just as Chatter and Sales Cloud are different products that work together, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint are designed to work together and offer group collaboration capabilities. But, while Chatter is currently limited to employee-to-employee collaboration, SharePoint provides employee-and-customer, -prospect and -vendor collaboration. For many organizations, SharePoint offers greater business value by not constraining group collaboration to internal employees, and instead expanding the available interactions to external parties. Given that customers are becoming more and more accustomed to being able to log in to a site and access their account information, I’ve noticed an ever increasing desire to create customer portals integrated with the company’s CRM.

Plus, if a Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer really wants a Facebook-like collaboration solution besides SharePoint, there are several partner solutions available, such as Sonoma Partners’ product called Vibe, and Neudesic’s, Pulse product.

I will continue to compare Salesforce Cloud to Microsoft Dynamics CRM with my next post featuring, “Any mobile device” however you may want to do a quick cost comparison in the meantime.

By Sara Corbett, Systematica Inc. a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Nevada Partner.

8 thoughts on “Microsoft Dynamics CRM vs. Salesforce’s Sales Cloud – Part 1: Real-Time Collaboration Comparison”

  1. I do not agree with the article at all. I have used both Sharepoint and recently Salesforce. The difference between the two are beyond comparison. The ease and use of Salesforce makes the experience of a CRM pleasant. Chatter, hands down, beats Sharepoints IM. It's mobile capabilities are fantastic, the desktop portion is a great bonus...beyond Chatter, Content beats Sharepoint by allowing a granular view of each piece in the workspace. Sharepoint does a great job with sharing content but SF allows the user to see analytics on the piece. Don't get me wrong, Sharepoint did what it needed to do for a CRM but when our company transitioned to Salesforce, collaboration internally and externally increased exponentially. Good luck to those with this decision but on a personal level, my choice is Salesforce.

  2. I dont agree with above. I have used both and salesforce is easier to use and create reports across my business and sales team.

  3. Sara, you are so right! The Salesforce marketing machine is so misleading and tries to hide the details. Glad that you are here to help shine the light on how super Dynamics really is.

  4. elizabeth davidson

    I've seen a lot of links to this article, hard to believe there are no comments--

  5. Your intro sounded very promising. I actually had very high hopes for an objective, knowledgeable comparison, which, you're right about that, is very hard to find.

    I didn't have to read a lot beyond the intro to realize the intro was very misleading in this area. Your article does not hide your bias, nor lack of understanding of the topic, in fact, it emphasizes both!

    You're comparing real-time collaboration as offered by Salesforce's Chatter with MS CRM's workflow (!!??). The scope of use for both is completely different (Salesforce also offers workflow). Besides the fact that you're comparing apples with pears, you also lack to mention the desktop and mobile capabilites of SFDC Chatter, which are important components of the whole concept of real-time collaboration..... disappointing

    I really hope your next article, comparing the mobile features, offers a more knowledgeable and objective point of view.

  6. Seems pretty obvious that you have never used Salesforce. Comparing workflow (which is also available in SFDC) to Chatter is totally missing the point of what collaboration is. Getting an email when something has changed is not the same as having a conversation stream in the context of CRM data. Also, Chatter is not an add-on - it is included and tightly integrated with not only the Salesforce Sales Cloud, but all aspects of Salesforce, including Service Cloud and Custom Cloud (which are included in the same license as Sales Cloud). Based on this "review" I'll be sure to tune into your following posts to see how much further from reality you can get. Talk about misleading...

  7. Just some clarification as it seems the information provided in this article are somewhat devoid of proper research.

    Salesforce does also contain Workflow with all the same functionality that is referenced that Microsoft Dynamics CRM can do. It should be challenged that Workflow is "real-time collaboration" because in the fullest sense of collaboration Workflow does not allow team dialog and participation that Chatter can provide. Chatter is more than updates to a feed on your home tab. Chatter is meaningful information (whether real-time updates or colleague dialog or file collaboration) pushed to me in a meaningful way.

    Chatter informs you in many different channels and in many locations. Chatter has its own desktop application, mobile application, Seesmic integration and Zobni integration to name a few, all informing you of what is happening when and where you most need it.

    Within Salesforce Chatter informs you at a record level (Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities etc) on your Profile page/tab on the Chatter page/tab and on the Home page/tab all with collapsible feeds to not distract you from other Salesforce activities.

    The writer of this article also misrepresents Chatter's real-time updates as "noise" and without filtering. Chatter allows for any field on any object (Account, Contact, Opportunity etc) to be chosen to push updates to your Chatter feed. It will not blast you with information that you do not want to be informed about.

    Also, if your medium of information is Outlook Chatter has a Email Settings page available to all users to allow them to adjust when and what information Chatter will send them via Email.

    Agreed that comparisons should be more representative and explanatory but so should the information provided to your readers in this article.

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