The economy might be causing organizations to rethink technology investments, but according to Gartner Research, sales force automation (SFA) solutions are holding steady. Robert Desisto, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, writes in the 2009 Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation that SFA inquiries continue to stream in. He does note, however, that interest in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, given its flexible pricing proposition, is becoming more evident in the space. Gartner includes 14 SFA vendors in this year's analysis. Perhaps most interesting is that two Leaders, Oracle's Siebel CRM and Salesforce.com, reclaim their spots, while a third vendor, Oracle CRM On Demand, soaks up the Leader limelight for the first time.
Desisto writes that a yearly trend includes the "use of smartphones to drive salesperson adoption;" but that, "sales organizations have been relatively cautious in embracing social-networking integration with SFA." The analyst makes clear that sales force automation has unique implications for each company given that "factors like selling style, organizational size, sales processes, integration demands, diversity of roles, number of users and organizational structures are unique to each company." Choosing the right SFA solution provider boils down to asking the question, "Will this vendor help my sales organization sell more effectively?"
No new vendors graced the Magic Quadrant this year; however two players -- Consona and Infor -- were dropped from the list based on their roadmaps and positioning. Desisto notes that Consona CRM lost its spot because it is not focused on B2B SFA anymore. Similarly, the analyst writes that while Infor continues to sell its SFA solution, the company is not aggressively marketing the product.
The 2009 standings for SFA vendors play out as follows:
- Salesforce.com: The cloud company's strengths rest in overall impressive business performance, its focused customer advocacy programs, its functional improvements (including the Force.com platform), and proven infrastructure and reliability. Desisto dings Salesforce a bit for its reliance on AppExchange vendors to fill holes in areas such as incentive compensation, sales configuration, and pricing management. He also writes, "Salesforce.com Unlimited Edition is the most expensive SaaS SFA solution in the market, [so] make sure to evaluate … lower-end salesforce.com editions before committing to the Unlimited Edition."
- Oracle CRM On Demand: Central to Oracle's SaaS offering is its lower price point. Gartner estimates that Oracle CRM On Demand has seen a solid growth of customers resting in the 200,000 range.
- Oracle Siebel CRM: The solution is described as flexible, configurable, and customizable with deep sales functionality in myriad verticals. The product makes good use of Oracle's Middleware and infrastructure, but as with many enterprise-level products, Siebel brings a level of complexity to the product.
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Integration with other Microsoft products is a key advantage and with several large deployments, the vendor has proven it’s not just for the SMB. Gartner lauds Microsoft's large partner network, but points out that the solution itself lacks some functionality for sales effectiveness and performance management.
- SAP: SAP CRM Release 7.0 gives users a much improved interface. SAP CRM is easily integrated with other SAP products, but SAP's SFA offering can be costly when managing it within the SAP middleware.
- Sage SalesLogix: The provider is strong in supporting connected and disconnected laptop deployment models. With its largest deployment at 2,000 users, SalesLogix is a solid alternative for midmarket and upper-midmarket organizations. As a cautionary note, Desisto writes, "The functional footprint is focused more on core opportunity management, not on capabilities such as sales configuration, pricing management, incentive compensation or performance management functionality.”
- Landslide: The vendor's largest deployment is around 180 users, but it's priced like some of the upper-end SaaS SFA vendors at $120 per user per month. Desisto explains the company's positive positioning: "[Landslide provides] technology to align buying and selling processes through Landslide's input/output (I/O) channel.… [It has] the potential to improve forecast accuracy and salesperson effectiveness, but the concept is still visionary in nature."
- NetSuite: The company offers broad functionality and easy integration with other SaaS products. However, implementations with more than 150 users are hard to come by -- and NetSuite's delivery partners are more focused on ERP than CRM.
- CDC Software (Pivotal Sales): With expertise in the financial services vertical, CDC Software’s primary value proposition is its integration with the Microsoft. Given this specialty, it's not suitable for non-Microsoft-centric IT organizations.
- SageCRM: The provider's heart lies within opportunity management. Desisto writes that SageCRM is a "good solution for Sage ERP customers due to SageCRM integration focus on enabling end-to-end business process support, such as 'opportunity to cash.'" Sage CRM has a limited footprint due to its intentional focus on Sage ERP users.
- SugarCRM: The innovative open-source vendor has improved its sales applications over the last year, Gartner says. Sugar provides a good cost-to-value, but it lacks certain capabilities for sales-effectiveness management, such as sales configuration, incentive compensation and price management.
- ACT! By Sage: The low-cost, on-premises software has a large installed base with key functionality resting in contact management. The solution is not suitable for organizations with complex integration needs. Gartner points out that ACT! is experiencing – and will continue to experience — pressure from lower-end SaaS players.
- FrontRange Solutions (GoldMine): With fewer than 150 customers, FrontRange is on the lower-end of the SFA market, but it offers a great amount of configurability and customization to its customers. Gartner notes that the GoldMine Enterprise Edition had a few glitches in its first edition and hasn't gotten much adoption.
- Maximizer Software: Geared toward small businesses, the vendor excels at simplicity and ease-of-use; however, Gartner dings Maximizer for limited market awareness.
News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.