Dynamics 365 vs Salesforce: Features

In this post comparing Dynamics 365 and Salesforce features, I’m going to put the functionality of Dynamics 365 and Salesforce up against one another.

It’s going to be an interesting article, because CRM features are difficult to compare across different solutions. This is especially true when you’re talking about two of the market leaders. We’ve blogged about this before – “feature-function” comparisons often result in a stalemate and ignore the most critical components of your new software implementation.

Regardless, let’s get into it. To start off, I’m going to look at some various analyst reports and then dive into my own evaluation of Dynamics 365 vs Salesforce features. Then, I’ll offer some advice for making a decision.

Introduction

I’ve covered this in other articles, but I just want to make clear which “modules” of each CRM I’m looking at here. For Dynamics 365, I’m evaluating “Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise Edition”. For Salesforce, I’m evaluating “Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Enterprise”.

Existing Comparisons from Market Analysts

Gartner and Forrester are probably the most widely-circulated providers of market analysis and industry benchmarks. What do they have to say about Dynamics 365 and Salesforce functionality?

A little – they rate vendors in terms of “Ability to Execute” and “Current Offering”. Here are is the most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for Salesforce Automation, and the most recent Forrester Wave for CRM:

In both evaluations, it’s clear that Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 are leaders, with Salesforce scoring higher on feature-type evaluations.

Deeper Dive: Salesforce and Dynamics 365 Features

These graphs are useful, but I want to look at the current versions of each product and evaluate their features more closely. To proceed, I’m going to be using Gartner’s CRM Application Functionality Starfish – and work my way through the categories (somewhat selectively).

Each of the tips on the Starfish have 5-10 things to evaluate, and each each of these 5-10 things has another list of sub-points for evaluation. Instead of covering every single point, I’m going to focus the closest on the “Sales” tip of the starfish. Remember, I’m evaluating the core CRM modules here – Dynamics 365 for Sales vs Salesforce Sales Cloud. However, I will also dip my toes into each of the other categories.

If you want to get really fine-grained in your approach, check out Gartner’s full application selection criteria.

Sales Features

Alright, onto the comparison. Sales features includes how the application handles Sales Execution, Enablement, Effectiveness, Performance, Analytics, and Social Sales.

Sales Execution

When it comes to “Sales Execution”, the most important sub-category is Sales Force Automation (SFA): the core Contact, Account, Lead and Opportunity Management features, and to what degree the system facilitates the automation of your salespeople’s’ responsibilities.

Here, I think the systems are essentially equivalent. Both Salesforce and Dynamics 365 have fully adequate customer profiles, allowing you to store any kind of data you want on your contacts and related sales activities. Both solutions will need to be lightly customized for partner relationships.

As for automation, Microsoft and Salesforce both have good offerings around automating data entry and associating data to CRM records; one of the most time-consuming things sales people do. Looking forward, I think Microsoft will develop an edge here as they further integrate Exchange/Office 365 with Dynamics 365. Also be on the lookout for Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights. Scheduling reminders and follow-up tasks is also fluid in both Salesforce and Dynamics 365.

The Forrester Wave I linked earlier reports a score of 3.34/5 for Microsoft and 4/5 for Salesforce when it comes to SFA. I believe the difference comes from Salesforce’s particular abilities in sales process management.

Sales Enablement

Sales Enablement concerns how the system can make your sales team’s job easier. This point tries to address how productive your employees will be using the system, how easy it is to get started, and how easy it is conform to process. Things like sales content management, training, coaching, onboarding, and mobility factor in here.

Again, Salesforce’s sales process customization is regarded highly by their customers; therefore Salesforce’s guided sales abilities are quite good. Guided sales processes are a crucial component of this category.

As for user experience, Salesforce doesn’t quite have the reputation for usability that Dynamics 365 has – though Salesforce has been making improvements in this area over the past few years. Microsoft is also starting to pull away from Salesforce here, in my opinion. Recent developments in the Dynamics 365 Outlook App, for example, mean that Dynamics 365 is quickly becoming a much more natural system to work with. Generally, I have also found the Dynamics user interface much nicer to work with. The decision regarding UX is more likely to come down to personal taste at this point.

Salesforce is also well-renowned for their customer orientation, whereas Microsoft relies on their partner network to configure the system for usability and to train customers. In this case, Salesforce wins unless you pick a great Microsoft Partner.  To be frank, however, the topics of training and onboarding rely more on the training commitment and processes you have around the system than the system itself.

Finally, I would say that Salesforce’s mobile app is better than Dynamics 365’s right now. Expect Microsoft to release an updated app very soon.

Sales Effectiveness

This category focuses mostly on the “closing” features – managing contracts, invoices,  proposals, etc.

Both Salesforce and Dynamics 365 offer the ability to manage your products, associate those products/quantities/prices with opportunities, and generate documents such as proposals. However, Salesforce has put a lot more historical effort into creating a real “Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ)” software platform, whereas Microsoft’s offering is more a mixture of different system entities.

Microsoft has one key advantage in this area, however – and that is their suite of Enterprise Resource Planning tools in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. Integration across the various Dynamics 365 modules means that you can manage your sales quotes all the way through to customer billing and payment.

Sales Performance

Sales Performance refers to the logistics of managing sales compensations and territories, and the features in the system that help you get a sense of individual/team performance.

In this category, Dynamics 365 and Salesforce are pulling up about equal. Both have the necessary territory management options, and they both have good Quota/Goal entities in their systems. However, Microsoft looks like they win the “gamification” sub-category.

Neither vendor is particularly adept at the “compensation” sub-category, since paying commissions is usually done outside the core CRM. Once again, though – note that Microsoft’s full Dynamics 365 for Financials and Operations offering allows deals to flow directly through quoting, invoicing, payment, and into employee commissions.

Sales Analytics

Last up is Sales Analytics. I’ve used both of the reporting solutions that come embedded within the Salesforce and Dynamics 365 interfaces – and neither of them are very good. I’m calling a draw there.

Both applications are equally accessible to more capable external tools like Power BI or Tableau, but it’s worth mentioning that Microsoft owns Power BI and that it is well integrated with Dynamics 365. +1 to Microsoft!

Finally, both vendors are aggressively pursuing what Artificial Intelligence could mean for predictive sales analytics and customer behaviour analysis. As of yet, though, it’s too early to call a winner or even fully analyze how either company is doing.

Social Sales

Categories in this section include social engagement, social analytics, internal communities, and contact enrichment.

Dynamics 365 and Salesforce have comparables in every category. (for example: Yammer vs Chatter,  3rd-party contact enrichment partnerships, etc.) But I think Microsoft wins this category. Microsoft’s LinkedIn acquisition was one of the biggest game-changers in the CRM industry of this past year. Particularly, the acquisition really pushes them over the top in the “social engagement” category with the addition of LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

The Other Tips of the Starfish

Now that I’ve gone over the Sales features, I’ll touch briefly on the other broad categories.

Customer Service

Customer Service software primarily manages customer support incidents. Forrester Ranks both Dynamics 365 and Salesforce at 5/5 in this category. Salesforce’s offering is more widely adopted – and the Gartner Quadrant in this category puts Salesforce well ahead of Microsoft (note that they are evaluating an outdated Microsoft Dynamics version). Microsoft has recently invested heavily in this Category with Dynamics 365 for Customer Service.

I think the two vendors are more equal than is credit is given for – especially if you evaluate the presence of core features like case management, escalation, channel interactions, knowledge bases, and self-serve capabilities.

Field Service

Both Dynamics 365 and Salesforce have modules for Field Service. Dynamics 365 for Field Service is quite “central” to the Dynamics 365 platform, whereas Salesforce’s Field Service offering didn’t even make it onto the Gartner Quadrant.

Likewise, Forrester ranks Microsoft a 5/5 in this category and Salesforce scored a 3.

Digital Commerce

Salesforce takes the eCommerce battle. Their recent acquisition of Demandware brings an industry-leading eCommerce platform to the table. The closest you get with Microsoft would be something built on Azure.

Marketing

This is a category where Salesforce has had a presence for quite a while and Microsoft is just getting started. Microsoft is entering the category with Dynamics 365 for Marketing; only available in the lower, Business Edition. On the other hand, Salesforce has been in the game for a while and scored a 5/5 in Forrester’s evaluation.

Dynamics 365 vs Salesforce Feature Comparison Table

Let’s reduce it as much as possible – on a 3-point scale, (Poor, Good, Very Good) where does each vendor rank?

Feature/Product Dynamics 365 Salesforce
Sales – Execution Good Very Good
Sales – Enablement Good Good
Sales – Effectiveness Good Very Good
Sales – Performance Very Good Good
Sales – Analytics Good Good
Sales – Social Very Good Good
Customer Service Very Good Very Good
Field Service Very Good Poor
Digital Commerce Poor Good
Marketing Poor Good

Conclusions

I’m going to stray away from declaring a winner. I’d rather not lead anyone down one path over another – your decision will be far more nuanced than the overview I’ve provided in this article. Here is some advice for making a decision, though:

Create Your Own List of Requirements

It’s way easier to compare Salesforce and Dynamics 365 on a feature by feature basis if you have a specific vision for how the CRM will operate within the context of your business. Come up with a big list of “nice to haves” and “must haves”, and use that to figure out what you need going forward.

Don’t Discount Your Gut Feelings

In order to get the most out of your CRM, you’ve got to like using it every day. If there’s a voice inside of your head that’s pushing you to one solution over the other – listen to it for a while. Figure out why that’s the case.

It’s a Change Management Project

Regardless of which solution you choose, it will all go south if you don’t take the right approach to implementing your CRM. Your people, processes, and technology must be in alignment! In all likelihood, you’ll need to engage a Dynamics 365 Partner or Salesforce consultant. Make sure they are the best in the business before embarking on your journey together.

Consider Your Existing Systems

Do you already have an information system that will need to integrate with your CRM? Have you thought about your overarching IT strategy and how that fits into what Dynamics 365 has to offer vs Salesforce?

Listen to the Experts

Forrester rates Microsoft Dynamics 365 as particularly suitable for B2B Organizations and those with a large Microsoft footprint. I definitely agree with this sentiment; many of our Dynamics customers fit into this category. On the other hand, Salesforce is often regarded as a better solution for B2C companies. Obviously, these rules don’t apply in every scenario – but if you’re stuck – it’s as good of a starting point as any.

Value

Are you getting your money’s worth? Budget naturally plays into every decision. Be sure to evaluate the pricing of Dynamics 365 and Salesforce.

Licensing and Deployment Options

This is becoming a minor point, but if you want an on-premise system, Salesforce is not an option! However, Dynamics 365 for Sales is available for installation on your own servers.

Look at the Company’s Future and Track Record

You should feel good about the vendor’s overall strategy for their product offerings. What’s on the roadmap? How do you feel about the messaging the company is putting forward regarding the future of their solutions? How have they handled data security and privacy?

Compare More Than Just Features

I have written some other blog articles on market share, pricing, and integration. These are three areas you might also look at before making a decision. Good luck!

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