Siebel CRM software vs. Microsoft CRM software for the midmarket

Is Siebel's reputation as a CRM leader enough to win over SMBs? Or do SMBs want CRM software from a vendor that specifically caters to the small business and midmarket sector, like Microsoft? Two editors duked it out over this hot topic.

Today's small and midsized businesses (SMBs) have more CRM software options than ever before. Enterprise vendors like Siebel and SAP have moved down market, while Microsoft and other players are working hard to migrate SMBs in their customer base to CRM. But which vendor can you trust? Which CRM product is really the best for SMBs? Is Siebel's reputation as a CRM market leader enough to win over SMBs? Or do SMBs want CRM software from a vendor that specifically caters to the small business and midmarket sector? Two editors decided to duke it out over this hot topic.

Below are two columns -- one expert makes the case for Oracle's Siebel CRM Professional Edition, while the other touts Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the midmarket. You be the judge. We invite you to send in your comments. Did the authors miss something? Do you have something to add? If you chose Siebel CRM software for your SMB, we want to know why. On the other hand, if you chose Microsoft CRM software, we also want to hear about it.

The case for Siebel
By Lauren Hoyt

Why chance it with Microsoft when you can trust Siebel?

There's a reason Siebel was the undisputed leader in the CRM software market for years. Actually, there are many reasons.

Siebel built its reputation on functionally rich CRM applications that are technically sound and boast a top-notch interface. It also set the standard with CRM products tailored for vertical industries. Perhaps most importantly, Siebel pays attention to what customers have to say -- going so far as to survey every customer before creating some new versions.

Siebel's market leadership outranks recent competition

Not long ago, Siebel was the clear market leader in CRM -- it peaked at close to 45% of the CRM market share in 2002 -- with some of the biggest companies on the planet in its customer and partner base. Yet Siebel continued to roll out new functionality on a consistent basis, instead of resting on its laurels and waiting for the competition to catch up.

Eventually, the competition did start to catch up, and some analysts today question Siebel's leadership status. It's no secret that saturation of the enterprise market is what led Siebel (as well as enterprise competitor SAP) down market, where they regularly face Microsoft, a company that has traditionally been focused on SMBs. But Siebel brought its top game to the midmarket, and while Microsoft may have a hold on SMBs who are familiar with the Office suite of products, Oracle's Siebel CRM Professional Edition is now a leader in the midmarket space.

Looking for proof? In a Forrester research report from February 2007 that reviewed CRM software for SMBs (1,000 employees or fewer), Siebel was deemed one of the most complete applications (again, along with SAP). Siebel's products were noted for broad functionality, vast industry-specific capabilities and deep global support organizations.

Furthermore, Siebel's midmarket product was the most outstanding application Forrester surveyed, earning a score of 3.96 out of 5. The product edged out competitors -- including Microsoft Dynamics CRM, RightNow, NetSuite and -- with top scores in sales, marketing, analytics, field service, product strategy, internationalization, partner channel management, customer data management, architecture, and platform and industry business process support.

Siebel can scale with your business

Oracle's Siebel CRM Professional Edition provides flexibility for organizations at both ends of the SMB market. With the Professional Edition, Siebel offers small businesses the choice of six modules from the enterprise product, so they get the functionality they need in a less complicated application. Midmarket organizations with more complex needs will benefit from the Professional Edition's deep customization potential and capable integration tools befitting an enterprise product.

Forrester also notes that the Professional Edition has a similar look and feel to Siebel's enterprise on-premise product, meaning companies that outgrow the midmarket offering can easily transition to the enterprise level. This is something Microsoft has overlooked. The Microsoft product line offers nothing for a midsized business that may outgrow the limited functionality of Office and Dynamics. While these applications may be the right choice for 500 employees, what happens once your company grows to thousands? Why limit your organization with Microsoft Dynamics when you can rely on the Siebel product line to scale with your business?

Unparalleled functionality

Perhaps Siebel's biggest strength is the sheer depth and breadth of its functionality. Siebel products are continually rated at the top in sales, marketing and customer service, as well as peripheral CRM areas.

Forrester is not the only analyst firm touting Siebel. Gartner's Magic Quadrant for sales force automation (SFA) released in July 2006 named Siebel the sole vendor in the leader position. Industry-specific CRM is another area where Siebel shines. Financial services, pharmaceuticals, telecom and high-tech manufacturing are just a few industries where Siebel's vertical solutions have a strong and established presence.

Siebel's not going anywhere

Some may argue that Oracle's acquisition of Siebel, completed in January 2006, means the beginning of the end for the Siebel product line. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Since the acquisition, there's no sign Siebel customers should be concerned about support for their product of choice. Oracle has promised to make Siebel the basis of its CRM product moving forward, while bringing together the functionality of all its acquisitions under Fusion. Oracle's recent release of Siebel 8.0 is one indicator they intend to keep their promise.

Sure, Microsoft has demonstrated strong performance in the CRM market since it stepped into the realm in 2004, but it has yet to prove itself as a CRM leader. Microsoft hasn't had the time in market to mature its functionality, either. If I have to choose between a newcomer on a hot streak or a stable, demonstrated veteran with no signs of slowing down, the choice is clear.

Lauren joined in May 2006. As Associate Editor, her top priority is to work with the rest of the editorial team to uphold a high editorial standard for the site and all of the site products and newsletters. She is responsible for keeping up-to-date with the market and developing new site products based on reader interest. She also works closely with the site experts who are a critical component of the site's information vault.

Lauren brings to this position knowledge of the enterprise applications market from her 15-month role as Assistant Editor for our sister site, She also brings editorial skills from her Journalism and English degree from Lehigh University.

The case for Microsoft

By Christine Cignoli 

Microsoft's CRM a natural fit

Yes, it's really as easy as it seems. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the natural choice for SMBs. Microsoft is a relative newcomer to the CRM market, but its simple implementation and ease of use is causing worry for old-school stalwart Siebel.

A majority of SMBs are already using Microsoft Office -- which includes the all-important Outlook email tool -- and Dynamics' integration with Office is obviously organic. Forget the claims of other vendors that they've mastered Outlook integration -- Microsoft invented Outlook. Who better to offer a CRM product that easily meshes with it?

Straightforward integration extends to other Office applications as well. Dynamics CRM lets users pull customer data into Word and Excel, utilizing proven Office functionality for many tasks. Office integration also saves time, since the CRM system and its familiar interface require less training. New users of Siebel CRM will find a totally unfamiliar product and won't be able to depend on an intuitive interface to guide them.

Simplifying CRM

Microsoft CRM makes life easier for everyone who's involved: call center agents, sales reps, marketers, managers, IT administrators and ultimately customers. Microsoft CRM's out-of-the-box functionality and installation ease is unparalleled in the market. Richard Smith, a Microsoft expert with Green Beacon Solutions, said, "Microsoft is easier to install and manage than others, and there is not a lot an administrator has to do with it" to get it up and running.

Plenty of new and improved functions enhance simplicity: Users have expanded privileges and can filter customer data by relevant category. And all CRM functions are available through Outlook, whether users are logged into the CRM system or not. Microsoft CRM synchronizes data automatically at the next login.

Plenty to please sales teams

Sales teams will love their newfound independence with Microsoft CRM. Any user can create sales reports without needing an IT administrator. Sales reps can also create customer Quick Campaigns on their own.

Convenient individualized Excel reports allow managers and reps to see different sets of data, so a manager can view an entire team's statistics while the salesperson sees only the necessary subset of information. A manager can pull a quick report to find key values and set up recurring reminder emails or reports.

Sales users on the road can rely on automatic synchronization with Dynamics CRM. Mobile devices load data back into CRM and collect new information each time the rep synchronizes. The rep on the road has the most up-to-date information -- without depending on a laptop.

Tools that drive a business

New SQL Reporting Services now drive Microsoft CRM's reports. These powerful services now enable businesses to track key performance indicators (KPIs) and trend analysis. According to Smith, "'mere mortals' are now able to build reports," and for advanced needs, SQL reporting allows administrators to build complex reports.

Call center agent efficiency skyrockets with Microsoft's service scheduling capabilities and reporting. Agents will also find customer data quickly and see complete customer history, demographics and preferences. Companies are also able to collect Web site data and integrate into Dynamics.

Further perks for SMBs are the professional (on-premise) and small business (hosted) editions, and the 14 non-English language editions that are available. Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes pre-made sales reports and step-by-step wizards. "You get a lot out of the box with Microsoft CRM," said Smith.

Microsoft in it for the long haul

Product and company stability and support certainly aren't concerns for Microsoft CRM customers. Microsoft is committed to CRM as recent announcements have shown. They're devoting plenty of further time and resources to Dynamics CRM (after spending years consulting with customers and developing the software), and they can provide SMBs with both stability and ongoing product development. Microsoft's Live and Titan news mean more platform flexibility ahead and continued expansion of Microsoft's enterprise planning capabilities.

Behemoth Oracle Corp., Siebel's parent company, has been on an acquisition tear. This doesn't bode well for Siebel users, who can expect upheaval as Oracle tries to sort out its new holdings, and can't count on the new parent company to devote much energy to them. Microsoft customers can be satisfied knowing that the company has a clear focus and plan for the future, both short- and long-term.

After migrating to Microsoft Dynamics 3.0 last year, Travis Haines of Next Step Systems Inc. says, "By far, the flexibility and customization were the best aspects of the product. The integration with other Microsoft products was an added benefit we found unique."

Haines's experience is shared by others. Microsoft CRM makes the most sense for a growing midmarket company. I'd take Microsoft's user-friendly software built on a stable, unified platform over Siebel's complicated product in flux any day. Overwhelmed Siebel users may well end up as casualties in Oracle's battle for supremacy, losing support from Oracle or being forced to migrate to Fusion, a mishmash of products that certainly isn't market-proven. Microsoft CRM businesses -- and their customers -- can be sure of a seamless transition into customer service run by Microsoft Dynamics.

Christine joined in July 2006. As Assistant Editor, she assists with day-to-day site operations, including assembling newsletters, updating content and keeping up with readers and market trends. Before joining TechTarget, Christine gained experience in marketing, sales and editorial positions in Boulder, Colorado. She recently earned a master's degree in publishing and writing from Emerson College in Boston.


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