Today, we’re comparing two of the major customer relationship management (CRM) software applications on the market, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce. We will be looking at the following factors: choice and flexibility, cost, ownership of data, ease of use, access to CRM and email, and support.

Choice and Flexibility

With a multitenant CRM solution, Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers any number of deployment options, depending on your needs. On-demand, on-premise, and partner-hosted models are available for Microsoft Dynamic CRM. If your deployment requirements change so too can your CRM software deployment options as each deployment option is built on the same modern architecture and data model.  For example, you can take your configurations and data hosted by Microsoft and move to in-house or to a Microsoft Partner web-based CRM software hosted model.

Salesforce platform offers SaaS by the cloud and you don’t own the software and configurations. If you want to change to an in-house solution you need to move to another CRM application.  You need to factor the cost of getting your data out of Salesforce. Depending on the level of subscription you purchase for Salesforce there have been reports of your data being held, hostage. This is, depending on your level of subscription, you may need to upgrade your subscription in order to export your data.


Salesforce claims to cost significantly less but Microsoft Dynamics CRM insists that the comparison is not for like services. A-la-carte pricing that is additional to potential price hikes at contract renewal time can significantly affect the total cost of Salesforce. When assessing comparable online products between the two opponents, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is available for much less than the Salesforce fee.

The entry price for Salesforce is cheaper but if you want more functionality you obviously have to pay more.  With Microsoft CRM you have access to the complete system from the moment you first purchase.  Your purchase decision should never be based on solely on price as it is only one component in the decision-making process.  Those who buy the first time around on price usually call back 6-24 months later asking for help.  From personal experience decision makers who purchase solely on price first time around re-purchase the second time around on service.  To compare in-house versus hosted pricing you need to calculate over a 3-5 year period and not just 1 year.

Ownership of Data

Salesforce, as a software-as-a-service provider, does not own the data collected by its customers. Instead, its data centers are outsourced to Equinix, a third party company in the USA and Singapore. With Microsoft CRM for in-house, and partner hosted options, customers have full control over the security and physical location of their data.  You can swap and take your data between these options. Again, you will have the ability to move from hosted to in-house but the online model will have some restrictions around customization code. In order for Salesforce customers to get development platform capabilities, they must buy the unlimited version.

Ease of Use

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is designed for easy user adoption because of its similarity and compatibility with Microsoft Office and Outlook. Simply put, it is designed to minimize the need for training, reduce application switching, and produce high productivity.

Salesforce graphical interface is modern and should be easy to use for most users.  The integration to Microsoft Outlook and Office is reported as not as strong as Dynamics CRM especially for MS Excel and Outlook.  Those using Google Mail will find Salesforce to their liking.

Both Salesforce and Dynamics CRM have similar modules including sales force automation, customer service and support, marketing automation, document management, contract management, product catalogue management and reports.   Although each module for each product has its strengths and weaknesses side by side you need to evaluate each application module against your business requirements (and not user likeability).

Often an organization short lists three CRM applications to be presented to its users. Evaluation should not be based heavily (if at all) on the users liking the look and feel of the graphical interface.  The users of an organization tend to agree on one CRM application as by nature we feel most comfortable with what we already know. If you ask a salesperson who has been using a paper diary for 30 years, what is better? A paper-based or CRM system the answer is always paper!   Over the years I have witnessed three different systems put in front of users at different organizations and there is never a clear winner for the CRM application chosen.

At present, Salesforce has a lot of easy to use business add-on products for its core offerings built on its platform.  Microsoft has a host of ISV Partners who have built add-on products to Microsoft CRM but it’s not as easy to find these add-on’s spread out across the globe on various websites.   Microsoft has just launched PinPoint that allows you to search globally for Partner software solutions.  Also, Microsoft CRM Dynamics Online does not provide the same access to write custom code in a sandbox because Microsoft did not want outside code in its own application, but with Microsoft Azure, ISVs can execute their own code.

Access to CRM and Email

Microsoft CRM is available either through a web browser, through a mobile device or through a plug-in to MS Outlook.  Salesforce integrates with Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, or Google App’s.  Salesforce will run on a mobile device, through a web browser and if you want some level of Email (Outlook, Lotus Notes, or Google App’s) integration, however, you will still need to download and install a Salesforce connector.


Salesforce offers reasonable phone support based on varying fee structures; however, they have few on-site consulting options. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM support is much larger and more mature, giving customers more options at competitive rates.