Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has become a must have for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Businesses have realised that if they do not have a solution which keeps all customer information in one place, it will result in gaps in employee knowledge and therefore the level of service they deliver may be lower than that of competitors. Unfortunately this will only have one consequence - the customer will go elsewhere. This is why CRM solutions have changed from being a nice to have which provide a competitive advantage to an essential component to ensure business success.

CRM solutions provide a way of improving business efficiency. Essentially they provide a central location to store all information relating to customers, prospects and suppliers alike. They also prevent duplication of effort in terms of data entry and avoid the problems caused by having multiple records for one company, reduce silos of information and increase staff productivity. However in order to deliver these benefits, you have to have a solution which meets the needs of your organisation and it needs to be implemented correctly.

There are lots of different CRM solutions on the market, some are aimed at large corporations, others smaller organisations. However, two very well known CRM solutions are Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Sage CRM, so how do they compare?

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a hugely popular CRM solution, the latest version Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 builds on the success of earlier versions of the software as its more feature rich, more powerful and more flexible.

Often the problem with implementing a new system into an organisation is that there is a poor user uptake due to the unfamiliarity of the software. However with Microsoft Dynamics CRM that is not likely to be a problem, as the solution looks and feels just like any other Microsoft program. What's more, the solution works from within Outlook and works the way that your users do, by giving them access to customer information without having to change screens.

In addition to this, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has Role Tailored Functionality. Research suggests that users do not use 90% of the icons on their desktop and as a result they can act as distractions. However, with the Role Tailored functionality in Microsoft Dynamics CRM the icons which users don't need are hidden and those which they do need are promoted. This significantly improves the productivity of the workforce and an increased level of productivity is likely to result in greater profitability.

Another advantage of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is that the solution is available either as an On-Premise solution or as a Cloud-Solution. What's more if you initially decide to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a Cloud solution and then some months later decide that you would actually like it to be an On-Premise solution, it's straightforward to change from one to another. Similarly, if you decide that you want an On-Premise solution converting to a cloud solution, this can also be done.

Sage CRM

Like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sage CRM is a leading mid-market CRM solution. One of the key advantages of Sage CRM is that it provides one central location to store all information relating to customers, suppliers and prospects. What's more, it improves knowledge across an organisation as all staff will have access to information as well as the CRM calendar. The CRM calendar allows anyone in the organisation to view another employees diary on a specific day and or month and also see those activities which are completed or pending. This enables appointments to be scheduled in a member of staff's diary without the worry that it is going to clash with another appointment.

Essentially Sage CRM will provide a 360 degree view of everything which is happening within an organisation. From a Sales perspective it will enable a user to use a dashboard to have a clear view of their leads and opportunities. It also has a workflow which will create tasks for the sales team. This is a really useful tool as someone in marketing could enter a lead and schedule a call for someone in the sales team and this will automatically appear as a task.

Another significant advantage of Sage CRM is that it integrates seamlessly with Sage 200 - Sage's mid-market ERP solution, eliminating the need to switch screens. This means that users will have access to a single view of customers, suppliers, partners, and channel members. This ensures that everyone has access to accurate and up-to-date information regardless of where it's held. This significantly enhances customer service, reduces errors, delays and streamlines a wide range of processes.

From a Marketing perspective, there is a marketing area where campaigns can be created which will enable the marketing team to track the cost of a campaign and the number of leads which it generated.

So which solution is best?

Both Sage CRM and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are extremely powerful solutions and have a lot more features, functions and workflows than those outlined here. So, it really isn't a case of one solution being better than the other as both solutions have their advantages. What it actually depends on is your organisations requirements and which solution you prefer the look and feel of.

What is clear is that both Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Sage CRM will deliver significant advantages to an organisation providing they are implemented correctly and the users are fully trained.
Norway, Notodden