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[Interview] Salesforce vs Dynamics CRM: Community, User Experience and Licensing

Salesforce vs Dynamics CRM

In this blog post, two of Catapult’s CRM experts compare community, licensing, and user experience.

Salesforce vs Dynamics CRM

Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are two of the top rated CRM solutions in the world. Recognizing that there is a demand for both products from midsized businesses, Catapult has expanded our service offering to include Salesforce. Since then Andrew Rymes and Monica Heir, our most experienced Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultants, have completed Salesforce training and gained some implementation experience. So we thought it would be a great time to pick their brains on some of the differences they have seen so far!

This interview focuses on the technology at a very high level and their initial reactions to the product. It will also provide valuable information on what to keep in mind if you are choosing between the two CRM platforms: Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Q1: What are your first impressions of the Salesforce ecosystem?

Monica – If I think about business tech versus consumer tech, I really see a parallel between Apple and Android. I find the Salesforce ecosystem far more curated and controlled, like Apple. Microsoft is more akin to an Android, where you’re required to seek it out wherever you can find it. The ecosystem is maybe not as controlled and the products don’t need to be as mature to go to market. For instance, one of the first things to make sure of when purchasing a Microsoft add-on is that it’s legitimately an add-on. There are no controls around it so you need to check how often it’s updated. With Salesforce, to be able to offer an app is a very controlled process with strict standards.

Andrew – Because Salesforce is really the market leader, a lot of companies have built add-ons and extensions for the Salesforce AppExchange – the business app store from Salesforce. It’s a far richer and engaging marketplace in terms of add-ons that are available. This is one area that we find is a bit less developed in the Dynamics world. They also offer vertical solutions that are not doing CRM at all, but want Salesforce as the backbone.To me  this speaks to the diversification of the product and the ecosystem it plays in. Comparatively, you’re not going to fine tune any products that are built off Dynamics CRM that don’t involve some sort of relationship management system.

Q2: How does Salesforce compare to the training resources and user group forums that the Microsoft community offers?

Andrew – Salesforce has a really great set of help resources and the community is quite active. There is a lot of information out there on Dynamics CRM and the resources are quite extensive. However, they can be difficult to navigate. I would say the answers that you get from the Salesforce community are easier to find and understand.

Monica –  I definitely that the content is easier to navigate. But as a newbie to the Salesforce community, I find the amount of resources is a lot to digest!

Q3: Starting out, what platform is easier to learn?

Monica – When learning the ropes I think Salesforce makes it easier for organizations to learn as you go. Whereas with Microsoft you need to be a bit more deliberate in how you extend the platform. Having a self-guided resource like Trailhead being available for free is pretty huge for us when it comes to training. Trailhead is the self-learning program Salesforce offers where you pick your own pace and path.

Andrew – It seems as though Salesforce recognized that because it is a service, a lot of their customers aren’t going through a program. The solution is easy to turn on and the expectation is that if they’ve got somebody technical in their organization they can probably turn on some of the features and get it working. That being said, the product is quite broad and I think people that take that approach only scratch the surface of what Salesforce can offer.

Monica – I think that’s my biggest takeaway – Salesforce is so so so so big! And I feel like you really need to understand what you want to do with the product.

Q4: What is the difference between Salesforce and Dynamics CRM licensing?

Monica – The licensing in Salesforce is one of the biggest differences from Dynamics CRM. You can’t just buy a standard vanilla license in Salesforce. It’s more modular. With this kind of licensing, you want to make sure you are purchasing the license with the correct access to the base product that you want. Once again, you really want to understand how you’ll be using the system.

Andrew – Exactly. They are basically different modules within the same tenant. If you bought Dynamics CRM, all of the capabilities are there. You get service, sales, and marketing pre-installed in your system but you only have access to those modules depending on if you buy a basic license or a pro license (which is what most customers go with). With Salesforce you need to actually purchase the module to see it.

Q5: Are there any differences you’ve noticed in the overall user experience?

Andrew – From a technology perspective, I would say that my first impression of the Salesforce user interface (UI) is that the system is maybe showing its age a little bit in terms of design. Salesforce is definitely user friendly and really great at surfacing and presenting information in a way that’s easy to digest. But the interface is dated. They’re introducing Salesforce Lighting, a new design paradigm. However it’s shifting towards a more Dynamics CRM look and feel with a flat UI and lots of white space. It will be interesting to see how the Salesforce community in general will receive Lighting. Its a very different experience and users who currently love Salesforce might not like the new look.

What’s funny is that what users like about Salesforce is having to move away from the same reasons Microsoft did 3 years ago. There are technical reasons for it – people just have different design preferences. The impression that I get is that Salesforce has evolved a bit more organically. Consequently making broad changes to the platform and overhauling the UI is probably difficult.

Monica – Personally, I find Dynamics CRM more centralized. From an administrator point of view, Salesforce can feel a little redundant in some aspects. But no doubt, I do agree that Salesforce is really great at surfacing information. I would find it surprising, beyond a few of the technical things like multi-select picklist, anything that you can do in Salesforce you can do in Dynamics CRM – from a functional point of view. And vice versa.

The major difference is the experience and how the users interact. If you’re an organization that is a Microsoft shop, all those rules you learn in the Microsoft universe that apply in Word or Excel make it easier for you to learn the Dynamics UI. It’s a shortcut because you have all of that knowledge you can build upon. Although even with the updated UI it looks more modern, I still feel that if you are a more traditional shop or speak the Microsoft language, it’ll be easier for your users to maybe learn how to interact with Microsoft.

If you’re a Google shop or a cloud shop it makes more sense to go to Salesforce than it would if you were using Outlook and Word. In terms of functionality you could accomplish the same. It just may be a little easier in a particular system that’s geared to your business.

Andrew – I would also say that Salesforce looks to be a bit more public facing as well. It seems easier it to invite customers into your Chatter groups or create a Web to Case form. It’s all possible in Dynamics CRM but it’s a little more involved than Salesforce. It’s really quite easy to get working within Salesforce.

Monica – Right. Salesforce is very external facing while Dynamics CRM is internally facing. Dynamics CRM is easy to get up and running but to make it externally facing is more work. Salesforce does it out of the box.

Q6: How does Salesforce being more externally facing impact the end user?

Andrew – Looking at the adoption rates of both social networks, Salesforce Chatter, for one reason or another, seems to be more intuitive or easier to adopt. A lot of organizations don’t know Microsoft Yammer exists or how to use it.  And they don’t understand where or how that would complement things like document storage in Sharepoint – which is something Dynamics CRM does really well. With Microsoft, it’s a little less clear how and when to use the different technologies.

Monica – Salesforce is very upfront about the value proposition. They’re much more in your face, providing guidance and best practices. With these enterprise social networks you need to provide your end users with rules. For example, when they should use them, how they should use them, and when it’s appropriate. Microsoft doesn’t provide any leadership that I know of from this perspective. On the other hand anytime we go to a Salesforce meeting – even if it’s not about Chatter – they bring up joining new Chatter groups or starting a Chatter group. So they’re not passive, they really push what you will use it for and how it will help you.

Salesforce vs Dynamics CRM: The Devil is in the Details

At the end of the day, in the Salesforce vs Dynamics CRM showdown there is no clear winner. Both are extremely capable CRM systems that deliver the same core objects and key concepts. Even administration and security are very similar. Once you understand what the equivalent features are, essentially your decision comes down to your preferences as a company. If your company uses Microsoft and speaks the language, Dynamics CRM is a natural choice. If your business is running in the cloud, Salesforce is probably your best option. They both accomplish the same thing, it just may be a little easier in a particular system that’s designed to complement your business.

CRM Questions?

We’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions related to the interview or about choosing a CRM system feel free to reach out to us!

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