It’s been a while since I wrote my last comparison post. I am at the point where most of the major features have been addressed and I am left with a choice: either I can focus on the minutia or wrap up this series.

When it comes to world class CRM’s, Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce are the standouts. Both are robust, scalable, integrate well with other systems and boast security features that businesses and governmental agencies rely upon. The choice between the two, in my opinion, should not be based on “the little things.” Rather, a decision of this magnitude should be based on the big picture.

This is my argument for winding down my comparison blog series and instead helping you make the decision that is best for your organization.

Looking at the Forest

What role will the CRM play in two years, five years and beyond? Who will be using the product? Will it expand to integrate other legacy systems, become a system of record, or consume data from other sources?

These and similar questions should be discussed in depth by all levels of your organization before you begin the evaluation process. This creates your foundation. A stable foundation is an anchor that keeps you from drifting too far from your ultimate goals.

Ignoring the Trees

Don’t get hung up on the fact that one platform has a specific feature that the other doesn’t.

For example, Dynamics has had global “option sets” for years. This allows a set of picklist values to be reused in many locations. As of Spring ’16, Salesforce has global picklists as well. These CRM’s are competitors, and if a feature is important enough, it will eventually be present in both.

From my perspective, I have never found a “showstopper” feature in either platform. However, there are “modes of operation” that will sway a decision. This will be discussed later.

Where to Begin

I assume you narrowed down your CRM selection to these two contenders and will be implementing one of them. The first thing I would consider is your current political environment. Who are the decision makers? What and who are they influenced by? What systems are currently in place? Have any employees worked with either of these products before? If so, how many years ago, and what was the extent of the implementation? Keep in mind that what these products offered even three years ago is almost irrelevant. In other words, an individual’s likes and dislikes are time-sensitive!

The Microsoft Factor

Microsoft has done an excellent job at proliferating the one-stop shopping experience. It is rare to find a business that is not running on multiple Microsoft platforms. This includes Windows, Active Directory, Outlook, Excel, Visual Studio and SQL Server just to name a few. Many businesses have extensive IT departments with developers that routinely write in C# and other Microsoft languages.

Dynamics at its core is almost inseparable from these Microsoft offerings. SQL Server is the database engine, Visual Studio is used to write plug-ins, SQL Server Reporting Services provide the basis for reports, etc.

The bottom line is that a Microsoft-focused IT department is naturally going to recommend staying with the status quo, citing many compelling arguments. These include utilizing current talent, better integration with other Microsoft products, development in Visual Studio and single sign-on using Active Directory.

Is This Relevant?

Possibly, but not at the outset. IT generally does not have a handle on the high level business requirements. The workflow of too many businesses are driven by the whims of IT rather than by the needs of the ultimate customers. These customers may be internal or external, salespeople or clients.

My advice is to not bring IT into the picture until the business analysts, managers and department heads have clearly determined why a CRM is needed in the first place and how the CRM will impact the business. Neither of these are the domain of IT.

Once you have selected your evaluation committee, what is the next step?

Find a Consultant

CRM subscriptions are big business. If your company is of any substantial size, the potential licensing revenue is going to push the vendors into overdrive and you will be drowning in a sea of conflicting information. The bottom line is that you do not know enough about the two systems to filter out the sales talk and determine which solution is a better fit for your company. A good decision is made on much more than a feature comparison.

Consultants who know both products will assist you in asking the right questions and guiding the vendors in a demo that is applicable to your needs. The next post addresses what I call the “big questions” and will illustrate why consultants play a critical role in helping you answer them.