Friday, 24 June 2011

Comparisons in The Cloud

Hot foot from The Cloud Computing Forum with my free trial of Microsoft Dynamics, I thought I would give the whole thing a go.

So I got my MS Dynamics trial going with a little bit of sweat and some clunky processes of verifications. Finally the beast arrived. Neatly, you can sign in with your MS Live ID.
From there I went about importing my contacts from ACT, my old and tired CRM package. There is a process to follow and I adhered to it religiously. When I viewed my contacts I got loads of blank entries that corresponded to null contacts found in companies. Then you notice that it has picked up first names only for the Full Name. I follow the procedure to wipe out the data and start again. The same thing happened although this time I had carefully followed the mapping of the data columns as per the instructions. I did it again. Same thing.

Annoyed, I turned to I signed up for the trial of the Group version although it is arguable that as a small, small company I only needed the entry level Contact Manager. The sign up took seconds and I was provisioned immediately. I pressed the button for Outlook synchronisation and a small program was downloaded and then I followed the steps. Outlook was synchronised with some errors which I manually checked and corrected - that took about 30 minutes in total.

Then I uploaded my ACT from the same file I used on MS Dynamics. It worked. Nothing more to say than this. All my contacts were there as required. I had a little tweaking to do on some accounts where contacts were not assigned but that took about 10 minutes in total which for 9,500 contacts in total isn't bad.

Salesforce allows you to send emails and it records them. But if I am honest that functionality is better in ACT where you use native Outlook and a copy is recorded in ACT. For Salesforce, you have to use its editor and it's not as nice. Plus it makes nothing ad hoc. Even scheduling meetings seems to not affect the Outlook calendar. What this forces you to do is to work entirely in Salesforce and I am a little uncomfortable with this and can see why salespeople rebel against the time taken to do things in Salesforce.

By this time MS Dynamics has been ditched. I can't see where it links with Outlook and although the tabs on the left are good, it is not as intuitive as Salesforce which has everything you need to work a contact or opportunity in front of you.

Then came the price. I could have started on a special offer on Salesforce Contact Manager at £1.20/user/month but I splashed out and did the next offer for Group at £10.20/user/month. The comparable offer on MS Dynamics is one flavour at £22.75/user/month for this month, £29.50 after the end of June.

No brainer - Salesforce wins it.

And here is the issue for Microsoft in The Cloud. Everything is about getting the same product down into The Cloud and amortised on price. There is no understanding of the different needs of an Enterprise of one man or 10,000. The price and product is the same. But the businesses are radically different.

One size does not fit all, sadly. Whereas Salesforce does escalate to a high price, that depends on the user status in a very hierarchical fashion and you go into the realms of unlimited customisation. But for me, Salesforce Group is perfect and I am working happily in it as we speak.

This is where Microsoft's strategy is critically flawed. Businesses of my size do not compare with the likes of BP International. My requirements are simple and limited. Salesforce Group gives me a raft of features perfect for my business. MS Dynamics is clunky and overloaded while making it difficult for a user to get started. I don't want to have to be trained to do something as simple as inputing data, thanks, or importing a .csv blinking file. If that isn't easy, then you are onto a losing battle with SMEs.

Salesforce has cracked it. It worked perfectly on my iPad and I don't have to worry about file management. It also has a custom app for iPhone which works on iPad. Then it has something called Chatter which is free and is an imbedded Twitter type application which allows you to create working teams on accounts or groups of accounts from people within your company or even outside. People then see updates and you can 'chatter' any news or success or share ideas as well. It's a neat function and this works on iPad and my Android too.

The Cloud isn't just about sticking an application in a hosted environment. It's about solutions. Microsoft is using old mentality to try to get into The Cloud. Microsoft should take a leaf out of the books of the likes of Salesforce. To make matters worse, salesforce seemless links into Google Apps which are free.

They are already there and doing it brilliantly. They are the benchmark.

No comments: