Forrester analyst Kate Leggett doesn't hold back in her latest assessment of enterprise-grade customer relationship management (CRM) suites. 

She calls out large CRM vendors for offering "broader and deeper capabilities that bloat their footprints and increase their complexity with features that many users can’t leverage" while simultaneously praising new point solution vendors with modern interfaces and mobile-first strategies.

Forrester Wave Findings

Leggett and fellow analysts Stephen Powers, Mark Grannan, Chad Rafferty and Peter Harrison evaluated eight vendors — Infor, Microsoft, NetSuite, Oracle, Pegasystems, Salesforce, SAP and SugarCRM — for the latest Forrester Wave for enterprise CRM suites.

They evaluated each according to their suitability for the enterprise using 36 criteria including platform architecture, sales force automation, marketing automation, customer service, field service, e-commerce, business intelligence, levels of integration between products within a suite and market presence. 

Forrester gave highest ratings to Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft and Pegasystems. It noted that SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer, SAP CRM, SugarCRM and NetSuite offer
competitive options, and added that Infor lags behind.

However, all of the vendors evaluated "can just about tick every box" on features, the analysts noted. That means enterprises shopping for CRM suites need to take a very close look at offered solutions and pay specific attention to the intricacies in terms of how they might help to deliver competitive advantage.

Forrester defines CRM as “the business processes and supporting technologies that support the key activities of targeting, acquiring, retaining, understanding and collaborating with customers." 

According to Forrester's models, good customer experiences can positively impact revenues by as much as 10 percent. More effusively, "the only source of competitive advantage is an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with and serving customers."

Learning Opportunities

Leading the CRM Wave

Forrester noted that most of the vendors it analyzed built their customer experience portfolios via acquisition and that the interfaces, experiences and administration may not be the same between various products in the suites. Vendors will almost certainly need to build these out which could take away from innovation.

Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle's CX Cloud Suite is maturing, and aims to deliver solutions across the customer lifecycle on all channels, touchpoints and devices. The suite is made up of clouds for commerce, configure price quote (CPQ), data, marketing, sales, service and social, six packaged industry solutions and 16 other lighter weight offerings. Oracle is working on better cross-cloud integration and integrations with third-party cloud and on-premises solutions, as well as providing an integration framework as a service. But customers contend it has a way to go, Forrester noted.

San Francisco-based Salesforce continues to lead when it comes to market share among CRM suite providers covered in the Wave, but its "current offering" does not rank much higher than Pegasystems and rates lower than Oracle's. While Forrester rates it highly for its sales force automation, customer service, and marketing capabilities, the analysts noted that it may have “lost some of its magic.” To be fair, it could be that Salesforce has been so busy acquiring companies that its "unified tooling across its suite" has yet to materialize. Salesforce offers three industry specific products--financial services, healthcare and government, and is probably depending on its wide partner network to build out many more. Forrester offers some very pointed recommendations to companies considering adopting Salesforce’s CRM Suite.

Redmond, Wa.-based Microsoft's CRM vision for CRM "rests on deep intelligence and prescriptive advice to deepen customer engagement," analysts said. Microsoft Dynamics 365 has made big gains since last year in terms of both vision and execution. Though it has a smaller market share than Salesforce, it is making headway from many angles, including its ability to offer insights based on predictive analytics and deep intelligence, provision of productivity tools, 32 industry templates and more. It's also fueled by "courageous acquisitions" such as LinkedIn, they noted. On the downside, Forrester cited its "variable partner network" and noted that this suite is best suited for B2B companies that are committed to the Microsoft technology stack and leverage other Microsoft solutions.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Pegasystems "grounds its CRM strategy in its strengths in business process and case management to orchestrate the end-to-end customer journey in real time, across communication channels, and with predictive analytics for next-best-action capabilities." Though its customer base is still small and its breadth is not as deep as the aforementioned vendors, it has some unique capabilities, such as an ability to predict a service agent’s next best action that sophisticated enterprises with complex needs might see as an important differentiator. Pega "empowers organizations to predictively engage," the analysts said. But they added that customers complain about a lack of trained resources and the developer ecosystem available to maintain and extend the solution. 

You can access the complete Forrester Wave here (fee charged).

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