Sales force automation solutions are nothing new.

In fact, some companies cited in Gartner's Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Sales Force Automation (SFA) are almost 20 years old. But instead of the market consolidating and thinning out over the years, it’s still growing, both in the number of vendors with viable offerings and in new capabilities.

Gartner analysts Tad Travis, Ilona Hansen, Joanne M. Correia and Julian Poulter, who authored the MQ, reported that there are more than 70 vendors offering SFA capabilities. 

Not only that, but some are innovating with a fervor similar to startups, adding features like predictive analytics, business process modeling functionalities, and vertical-specific offerings to their portfolios. And though this MQ was released just one week ago, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to play big in offerings this year; Microsoft already includes it in its cloud offering and Salesforce purchased BeyondCore earlier this week.

According to Gartner, "the sales force automation market grew 9.8 percent in 2015, to almost $6 billion. IT leaders supporting sales have new mobile, business process modeling and predictive analytics options."

If Gartner is right, SFA  — an umbrella term for software  that automates business tasks such as inventory control, sales processing and tracking of customer interactions, as well as analyzing sales forecasts and performance — will be a $9.4 billion market by 2019.

gartner's sales force automation MQ

Salesforce Is the Market Leader

All of that being said, most CMSWire readers can readily guess who Gartner named as the clear market leader: yes, the company that sounds very much like the category itself, the mighty Salesforce.

Salesforce, Gartner concluded, stands above the crowd both in its "completeness of vision" and in its "ability to execute" CEO Marc Benioff and his team are continuously building at the edge and acquiring companies to fill out its offerings. 

Consider that in the past four months Salesforce has acquired PredictionIO (machine learning/AI), Implisit (predictive analytics), Demandware (eCommerce), Quip (document/content management/collaboration) and BeyondCore (analytics/AI). 

Although Gartner rated Salesforce low in content management capabilities,that recent Quip acquisition might close the gap. But, hey, if Benioff is in the mood for shopping, EMC ECD with Documentum and LEAP look to be up for sale ... and with the Dell deal due to close any minute, and Dell getting out of the software business ... there are other options on the table.

Microsoft Is Also Highly Rated

Microsoft earned two places in Gartner's Leaders Quadrant, one for its on-premises product, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and another for its online counterpart, appropriately named Microsoft Dynamics CRM online. According to the analysts, the two share the same codebase, offer a complete set of capabilities for B2B and B2C, and inter-operate with other Microsoft products like Outlook, Office365, SharePoint and Skype for Business. The significance of the latter cannot be overstated.

The analysts pointed to a few strengths in the online CRM version that are truly market leading; namely Microsoft Power BI predictive analytics and Azure advanced analytics which are already embedded into Dynamics CRM. (Maybe that is what prompted some of Salesforce's recent acquisitions?)

Learning Opportunities

They also highlighted some of the purchases Microsoft has made of late which could potentially be leveraged in the CRM offerings: VoloMetrix and FantasySalesTeam and, of course, LinkedIn.

Of course, Gartner found areas where Microsoft fell short, and they are interesting. For example CRM on premises customers cited the company's large partner network as strength, while the CRM online customers complained about it, they had expected a more support from Microsoft itself. The analysts also placed the Outlook integration as a “caution” in the on-premises offering (if anyone should be able to get this right, it would be Microsoft, right?). Finally the CRM Online App Store is short on sales specific apps.

Other SFA Companies Worth Noting

SAP has two products in the MQ: SAP CRM which qualified as a Challenger for its ability to execute (high scores for professional services and its customer support organization) but fell short of the Leaders in vision. SAP's Cloud SFA product (Hybris Cloud for Sales) fell just short of making it into the Leaders Quadrant because of its ability to execute in areas like providing help to customers, training materials and negotiating and being more flexible with customers.

Like Microsoft, SAP has a strong foothold with a large customer base outside of the CRM space. SAP leverages that by offering integrations into its ERP solutions, like opportunity to cash (Note: Salesforce acquired SteelBrick in 2015 to deliver a similar capability) and by providing CRM offerings geared to specific verticals.

SugarCRM was spotlighted by the analysts for several reasons. First, it was the third-most considered offering according to the respondents to Gartner's survey (only Salesforce and Microsoft ranked higher). And, second, SugarCRM is the only product in this MQ based on an open source technology stack.

This year, bpm'online made its debut in the SFA MQ. Of all of the vendors in this MQ, it earned the highest score for "perception of contract value" and "satisfaction of the contract process", and the second-highest for customer service and support — areas where some Leaders fell short. In addition, bpm'online offers 24 vertical products, which makes it a good bet for companies who have extensive sales process complexity or business rules.

Oracle just missed the Leaders MQ falling short on execution. It got high marks as a Visionary for its industry-specific capabilities (Gartner said it had "one of the deepest vertical-specific product offerings of any vendor in the market", full set of SFA capabilities, and product enhancements (it released Sales Predictor, a predictive analytics solution for opportunity management this year, a new REST API and improved sales content management functionality).

Why did Oracle fall short on execution? Its customers had trouble finding implementation partners who know the product well and do good work. Not only that, but Oracle CRM customers gave it subpar scores in sales execution, contracting and pricing.

Title image by Timothy Muza