When trying to decide what the best CRM solution might be, the situation has done a 180 from the way it once was. Once upon a time, before the advent of SaaS as a mainstream methodology, there weren’t a lot of CRM applications available to a mass market. Many larger companies had their own systems designed either by in house developers, or through contract with a company like IBM. They were expensive, seldom terribly intuitive, and were, even up until recent times, often very archaic in their implementation, basing around Unix or even the ancient CP/M system that predated it.
Now, however, with the explosion of SaaS making niche systems like CRM practical to mass market, choosing the best CRM is a challenge of picking one or even a few out of a bedlam. As the old saying goes, too many choices is better than too few, though, so it’s a good problem to have, all said and done.
The best choice will depend in part on your company’s needs, philosophy and budget, as well as a matter of taste, of course. But, we can at least narrow the field, and take a look at the top three CRM systems commonly adopted these days, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and Sugar CRM.
#1 – Salesforce
Salesforce is the most popular of the three, largely due to it being one of the pioneers of SaaS CRM implementations. Therefore, it does have the most experience under its belt as the type of solution it is striving to be.
Salesforce has a huge community of users, and with its flexible, programmable API (known as Apex), the developer community can offer a limitless supply of extensions to add to its functionality. This community, known as the Salesforce App Exhange is a big selling point of Salesforce, along with its ease of customization, quickness of adoption and its legendarily good support framework.
The problem Salesforce has, though, is that it’s very expensive. And I do mean, very.
#2 – Microsoft Dynamics
While you tend to hear less about this one than Salesforce or Sugar CRM, it’s actually the closest competition Salesforce has. Microsoft is somewhat new to the SaaS and cloud game, but what they lack in experience there, they can compensate for with their decades of experience in general business and data software design. They’re one of the original powerhouses for this, so despite being new at SaaS, surely their eons of experience amounts to something, right?
Well, mostly yes. Microsoft Dynamics is about on par with Salesforce on ease of use and customizability, but it lacks a little bit in the size of their user community as well as developer community. In spite of this, though, being an MS based system, the compatibility with standard .Net programming, rather than an odd proprietary API does mean that there’s a lot of potential for rapid growth in development around this system.
The other downside, however, is that while many people have tested browsers like Chrome, Dolphin and Firefox supporting this, they only –officially- support Explorer, which is a terrible browser. They’re also pricey, not unlike Salesforce.
#3 – Sugar CRM
Rather than looking at this as a competitor of the two corporate monsters above, it’s more accurate to think of this as a do it yourself kit. Sugar CRM is an open source system which can be installed locally, or be set up with their cloud infrastructure either way.
While it lacks the extension development proclivity of the two giants, the open source nature of this system does enable anyone with a little willingness to put their backs into it, the ability to shape this system into the custom, specific CRM solution perfect for a given company.
Those wishing to be proprietary and very self-branded might find the affordable if barebones Sugar CRM to be the best choice. Especially if budget is a big issue.
These are, in the eyes of most, the best CRM solutions going right now. Will this be the case tomorrow? Who knows.