Sales force automation (SFA) has to help salespeople sell. But how do you sell SFA when buying is unpopular? Increased delivery options and partnerships are enabling customers to get more bang for their SFA buck, and vendors that aren't adapting are being eclipsed-note the absence this year of perennial leaders Kadient and Sage, not to mention Entellium's book-cooking. Salespeople are interested in new approaches, with a strong emphasis on social media. Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at Beagle Research, says that "will change the way we sell." SFA has failed to leverage such power in the past, he says, but "this time could be different."
Microsoft, a new face on this leaderboard, is largely known for its deep relationship with Microsoft Outlook, but has leveraged this connection to become known for ease of integration among customers of all sizes. Among small and midsize businesses (SMBs), Microsoft has brand cachet, and for larger enterprises the attraction is in the on-premises version's low license cost. "We see Microsoft CRM replacing many SAP and Oracle/Siebel CRM scenarios," says Ray Wang, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Despite developments in 2009 of cloud integration and lead capturing services,Microsoft earned one of the lowest scores in the category for company direction. Pombriant says that the product may be overly complex: "The company needs to stop being all things to all people."
Back in 2006, Oracle/Siebel was our One to Watch. Three years of integration later, Oracle has emerged as a clear leader.With on-premises and on-demand products available, the company has been able to develop a large customer base. This vendor has already begun to delve into social media-based applications, included in the November 2008 release of Siebel CRM 8.1.1, and we can expect to see more of this in 2010. "Lots of interesting Web 2.0 developments are on the horizon,"Wang says.
RightNow Technologies, a returning leader, tried to rebuild some momentum this year, following its 2006 acquisition of Salesnet-the success of which many analysts now question-by signing an alliance with SFA Strategies, a Georgia-based consulting and technology services provider, to maintain and enhance RightNow's SFA solution. With an emphasis on the customer-facing role of sales, Mark Smith, the chief executive officer and executive vice president of research at Ventana Research, says, "They continue to be known for their integration and workflow across the suite." RightNow also ramped up its social media integration through tie-ins with sites such as Twitter and YouTube and vendors such as on-demand analytics provider Birst, proving itself a vendor that can stay ahead of the curve.
With SFA capabilities built into its CRM suite,SAP is far from a pure-play vendor.However, broad functionality for sales reps-including developments in account and contact management, quote management, and sales analytics-makes this vendor a top choice for SFA. Aimed at the high end of the market, analysts praise SAP's functionality for supporting complex business processes. Jim Dickie, managing partner for CSO Insights, adds, "[SAP]'s ability to integrate to other systems and [its] mobile device support are both very strong." Despite a shaky start to 2009 with reported financial losses in the first quarter, expect to see more from this Germany-based vendor in the upcoming year.
Despite shakeups in this year's leaderboard, the winner should come as no surprise. Salesforce.com easily takes the win for the fourth year in a row, proving once more that it continues to live up to the self-prophecy of its name. Pombriant says there is "a lot to like here." The on-demand king earned the top rating for both depth of functionality and company direction, and the proof was in the pudding this February when the company announced it had broken through the billion-dollar threshold on annual revenue. Advancing the shared platform model with AppExchange and the Sales Cloud, Salesforce.com stays ahead of the game through partnerships that provide customers with widespread availability of customizable offerings.Will a broadening corporate vision mean reduced attention to SFA? "It will be interesting," Dickie says, "to see how [Salesforce.com] manages supporting sales while they expand their focus on Force.com as a general purpose development platform." -Jessica Sebor
One to Watch - Sales Force Automation
A renewed focus on SFA-and a big nod toward Salesforce.com users with both an integration offering (SuiteCloud Connect) and a 50 percent-off price promotion for converts (RenewForce)-makes NetSuite one to watch for 2009. Leslie Ament, research director and managing partner of Hypatia Research, says, "This is a highly efficient and economic offering for customer-driven SMB and midmarket companies as front to back office data integration is built in." In tough financial times, customers are acutely aware of cost and transparency, making NetSuite's competitive pricing for its on-demand offerings and its position as a public company increasingly attractive for new adopters.
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