The Shell Game of Salesforce Reporting

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Now that I am writing a weekly tip for the CRM Tip of the Day, I have reduced my blog cadence down to one post a month. As Salesforce reports their finances quarterly, this means literally 1/3 of my posts in a year would be about Marc’s experiment in creative accounting.

With things like Flow, PowerApps, and the new unified interface, that is simply too much bandwidth to be devoted to the software Microsoft rejected. So I will do a financial report at the end of the fourth quarter and the lemonade stand cash flow analysis but save the rest for mostly Dynamics content.

It has been a big year for Salesforce from a financials perspective. Through one-off sales and tax write-offs in the past, Salesforce had shown an artificial profit. Now they seem to be generating a real one (the lemonade stand will confirm it but that will have to be another post). The margin is not great compared to the competition and, in my opinion, the stock price is expensive for what you get, but a profit is a good foundation for a business.

What is interesting about this quarter is what has NOT been reported. Salesforce love telling the good news and hiding the bad news. This is why they hold on to Non-GAAP accounting as tightly as they do. A couple of other trends have been working against them and these have mysteriously disappeared from the financials and their web site. Let us go to the numbers.

Salesforce in the News

Salesforce Workers Urge CEO To ‘Re-Examine’ Work With Customs And Border Protection

Benioff has been petitioned from within by hundreds of Salesforce employees to cancel contracts with US Customs and Border Protection over its separation of children from their parents at US borders. This will be a true test of whether the organisation puts cultural values ahead of profit.

How MuleSoft will change the way Salesforce connects its clouds

I must admit I was confused by Salesforce’s acquisition of MuleSoft. Reading this article makes me think this is Salesforce trying to create their own version of Microsoft Flow. Time will tell.

Why Microsoft was so determined to beat Salesforce in the battle to acquire LinkedIn

An interesting take on how LinkedIn fills a gap in the Microsoft sales ecosystem. There are a lot of great technologies out there. The winner will be the one who can bring them together in a way which is intuitive for users.

Numbers of Note

No More Transactions or Staff Numbers

In the last Salesforce review I called out their transactions were shrinking.

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I wanted to update this graph but the information is conspicuously absent from the Salesforce Trust site. My guess is the line continues to move down. Show the good news, hide the bad.

Similarly, the financial report no longer reports staff numbers. In that case there was nothing really untoward. Staff growth was around 4% per quarter, which was less than revenue growth but that was about it. Perhaps they do not want to admit they are working their staff harder?

Costs Have Jumped

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Cost growth has rocketed from 2% to 8% per quarter, rushing past the 6% revenue growth. As we have discussed before, if costs are growing faster than revenues, profitability will decrease.

GAAP vs Non-GAAP

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Salesforce continues to embrace Non-GAAP reporting to the tune of ten mentions of Non-GAAP to three mentions of GAAP for a difference of seven. So many walnut shells, so few peas.

Buzzword Bingo

The same words again were the only ones mentioned more than ten times:

  • Customers/customer
  • Revenue
  • Cloud
  • Growth
  • Operating
  • Salesforce

Every quarter, for the last four quarters this has been the case. The speech focus never alters and, arguably, the same could be said for the content. I started Buzzword Bingo to get an idea of the focus Salesforce was putting in the quarter; where their strategy lay. The truth is Marc never alters his patter. Every quarter is great and there are no problems or, at least, none he wants to mention.

Predicting the Future

As I am only going to do this review annually, it seems fitting to try and predict the revenue and profit 12 months out. This is much harder but here we go. For the next Q4 report, I predict a revenue of around $3.8b with a 2.5% margin giving a profit of $95m.

Conclusions

In terms of the measures, not a lot changes from quarter to quarter at Salesforce these days so, in terms of interest factor, moving to annual reviews is probably a good thing. It will be interesting to see in a year’s time what data is included and omitted and this, I think, will be where the gems will be.

For this quarter, while there is something suspicious happening with transaction growth, the company appears to be genuinely profitable from a GAAP perspective although costs are accelerating. I will enjoy doing the cash analysis to get a bit more insight into this new, profitable world to see exactly where the money is coming in from: genuine sales or something else.

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Triggering Flows With A Dynamics Field Change (And Calling A Flow From A Workflow)

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There were many excellent sessions at Dynamics UG EMEA (CRMUG EMEA) in Dublin and, as I recently mentioned in my Tip of the Day, if there is a Dynamics Saturday or Dynamics UG event near you, they are an excellent investment of your time (and not necessarily a large investment in cash).

One question that came up during one of the sessions was how to trigger a Flow on the change of a field. One suggestion was ‘WebHooks’. Talking to the developers in my team they agreed this could work but it struck them as a fair amount of effort for just triggering a Flow. So I wondered if we could put something together with configuration.

Here is the idea I came up with.

What Can We Do Without Thinking Too Hard?

For those that have not tinkered too much with Flows, the Dynamics triggers available are all at the record level. We have:

  • OnCreate (when a record of a specific entity is created)
  • OnDelete (when a record of a specific entity is deleted)
  • OnUpdate (when a record of a specific entity is updated)

Clearly, if I am waiting for a field to change, I have the OnUpdate but this triggers on ANY field change which is inelegant but also potentially expensive when we pay for Flow by the triggering.

My Solution

Back in my Workflow Scheduler blog article, The Flow created a record in Dynamics which triggered the Workflow. This time, we are reversing that. The order of events is:

  1. A field is changed on a record (say the Est. Close Date of an Opportunity)
  2. A workflow is triggered to create a custom entity child record
  3. Flow monitors for the OnCreate of such records and then fires.

There it is. That simple. So what does it look like?

The Custom Entity

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The custom entity has a name (which we could use as a variable for triggering different Flows) and a link back to the original record where the field change happened.

The Workflow

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In this case, the Workflow triggers off of the change of the Est. Close Date. and creates a Flow Field Trigger record.

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We could also use the Workflow to pass values from the Opportunity down to the Flow Field Trigger for posterity but for the purposes of the blog I will keep things simple.

The Flow

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I have only created the trigger here as the steps could be anything you like. With the lookup to the originating Opportunity, we have access to all information as if we triggered the Flow directly. As mentioned, we can also bring values from the Opportunity down to the Flow Field Trigger record, with our Workflow, to simplify things.

Bonus Result: How To Trigger A Flow From A Workflow

The more astute of you (and those that read the title) will realise we also now have a method for triggering a Flow from a Workflow (no, v9 does not have a Workflow Step for this). Just as we triggered a scheduled Workflow by creating a record via Flow previously, here we are triggering a Flow by creating a record via a Workflow.

Conclusions

For entities where record creation or update rates are high, triggering a Flow off of the record creation/update may be problematic. While this option requires a little configuration, it gets around this problem and, as with the scheduled Workflow solution, also provides a record to track related Flow actions within Dynamics (with the option of storing the values at execution as well).

Building My Own App Without Code: Part One–The Setup

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This week I went to Dublin, Ireland for the D365UG Summit EMEA. This is a conference held by D365UG aimed at users and partners working with the Dynamics products. As well as many passionate experts speaking all things Dynamics, there was a large group of users coming to learn what they can to maximise the use of their products. Usually Dynamics conferences are all about partners and Microsoft so this one is quite different.

Talks varied in their technical content from someone analysing Earth tremors through PowerBI, through to advanced development techniques. As well as presenting, I had time to sit in on some of these other sessions and came to realise that an old dream of mine could become a reality.

For a number of years I have wanted to build a cocktail management system in Dynamics. While the design is relatively straightforward, the problems were more logistical. For example, how do I afford the Dynamics instance it runs on? If I want to share my creation with the world, how do I do it?

Thanks to the presentations at Summit EMEA, I now think it may well be possible to create your own model-driven app in Dynamics and publish it with little to no code.

The App Itself

The app is pretty straightforward

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Building this structure in Dynamics should be straightforward and then it will be a case of using the tools of Dynamics to allow for things like working out which cocktails can be made with ingredients on hand etc.

The Process

The process will go something like this:

  • Provision a CDS 2.0 environment to build the app in
  • Build the app in Dynamics/CDS 2.0
  • Package the app for submission to AppSource
  • Get approved
  • Drink Cocktails

I believe I now have the tools to do this at minimal cost and with minimal development skills. In the next part I will provision my environment.

Scheduling Workflows With Microsoft Flow

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I recently attended the MVP Summit in Redmond and one of the highlights was a ‘Developers vs Value-Adders’ cage match. Essentially, a business problem was presented and the two sides gave a solution using code and configuration respectively. The referee (me) judged the best response for each problem.

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One problem that came up, courtesy of Jonas ‘The Friendly Developer’ Rapp was a classic bugbear in Dynamics 365: the issue of scheduling workflows.

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If you are unfamiliar with the bulk delete job engine trick aka the ‘Wittemann Manoeuvre’, this was a workaround pioneered by MVP veteran Matt ‘Freakin’ Wittemann so many years ago. In short, you used the Bulk Delete scheduler to run a workflow.

So, given Matt came up with this trick about five years ago, is there another codeless way to achieve the same end with the new tools available to us? The answer is Flow.

Scheduling Workflows with Flow: Simple Workflows

When we had the cage match, the specific example raised by Steve ‘Not the Bear from Brave’ Mordue was that of a sales team who needed the notes on a record cleared each week after the sales meeting. Flow lends itself nicely to this because we know we can update records in Dynamics through a Flow Action. So how would this look in Flow?

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Here it is. First we start with a recurrence Trigger in Flow. This fires however frequently we like and retrieves a list of records using the Dynamics List Records Action. We then loop through the records and update each one with the Update a Record Action. Simple stuff. For the curious, here are the details. The recurrence step looks like this:

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Here I just have it triggering every hour. It stats when the Flow is first activated. As you can see, you can set the start time to be whatever you like though. Next we have the List Records Action:

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Here I am simply returning all the Contacts in the system. Finally we go through them and update:

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So I am updating each Contact record and inserting the UTC date and time into the Description field.

Sure enough, the Flow runs every hour.

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and the Contact records get updated.

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Mission accomplished. So what if we want to do something more complex than simple record manipulation which is, essentially, all we can do with the Flow Dynamics Actions?

Scheduling Workflows with Flow: Complex Workflows

Flow does not have the richness of Dynamics functionality available to us via workflows so how about instead of trying to replicate the workflow, we simply use the scheduling engine of Flow but call the workflow to do the heavy lifting? The big problem here is there is no Action in Flow to call a workflow but that is ok, we can work around the problem.

The trick is to create a record using Flow and have a workflow trigger off of the creation of the record.

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The only difference between this Flow and the previous one is that instead of updating the record, we create a new one. Here I have created a Task but this could be any record which is a child to a Contact. The nice thing about Tasks is they are child records to lots of things and it means we automatically have a record in the Activities of the Contact that a Flow has run against our record.

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The Flow has now finished its part in the process and hands over control to the workflow.

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The workflow waits for the creation of a Task. If the Task is calling the workflow then it fires and goes through its steps. In this case I update the regarding Contact’s Description field with another piece of text.

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I also mark the Task as complete in my workflow but you could also flag it for deletion via the Bulk Deletion tool.

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What would be great is if we could call a Flow directly from the workflow which then deletes the Task for us but this is not possible, yet. We could set a flag on the Task and use Flow’s ‘When a Record is Updated’ Trigger, but I digress.

Conclusions

If you are a developer or ‘value-adder’ and you are resisting jumping on board with Flow, you are missing out. While we could schedule workflows in the past through creative solutions like the Wittemann Manoeuvre or throwing code at the problem, Flow provides a straightforward, robust and manageable solution to the problem. To put it simply, Flow is an integral part of the future of the Dynamics platform and to resist it is to be left behind.

How the Internet of Things Made a Pancreas

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Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), traditionally known as Juvenile Diabetes, is hard work. Often (although not always) it is young toddlers and children who get it. The cause is unknown. The consequence of getting it is your pancreas no longer manages your blood sugar levels properly and the pancreas’ job needs to be managed manually through diet, exercise and medications such as insulin.

For a parent of a child with T1D, this is a full time job. In the morning and at night, there are injections. Before every meal there are injections. There is constant monitoring of the child’s blood sugar levels with finger pricking, including every few hours during the night. If the child’s blood sugar goes too low they could slip into a coma and die.

Technology does help, albeit at a price. For the blood monitoring, there are Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs). These put a little needle under the skin and monitor blood sugar levels without the need for finger pricks. For insulin delivery, there are pumps which are attached and worn 24 hours a day delivering insulin.

Even with these tools the settings and monitoring are still manual. At meal times, the amount of insulin needed is estimated and the pump is manually adjusted. The parents still need to get up in the night and check the blood sugar levels.

Often the CGMs have an alarm if blood sugars are too low but they can be quiet, as Dana Lewis discovered. In Dana’s case she was the T1D and the alarm was supposed to wake her up if her blood sugar went too low in the night. It did not always succeed.

The Internet of Things Makes a Better CGM

Through Twitter, Dana discovered someone on the other side of the country (John Costik) had managed to get the data out of their child’s CGM and into an online spreadsheet so he could monitor his son’s blood sugar levels while at day care. Dana reached out to John and he gave her the code. She began building a better CGM. The plan was simple: pull the data out of the CGM, send it up to the cloud, send it back to her phone and, if her blood sugar went low, the much louder phone alarm would wake her. It worked.

Dana did not stop there. Dana lived alone and there was still the risk that, like many of us, she would sleep through the phone alarm. She reworked the system to send her data to her boyfriend and her mother. If she fell low and slept through the alarm, they too would be informed. It worked.

Collaborating with her boyfriend (Scott Leibrand), she made the alarms predictive. Rather than simply warn when she had gone too low, the alarm now warned her BEFORE she went too low so she could actively prevent it.

The Internet of Things Makes a Pancreas

Dana was still part of the system. The alarm from the CGM woke her up and she made adjustments to the pump to bring her sugar levels back in line. What if the adjustments could be made automatically? Again, someone else on the internet (Ben West) had figured out how to send commands to his pump using a radio transmitter and gave her the code. He too was a T1D looking to automate his pump. With Ben’s code, Dana removed herself from the system and it worked.

By the end of 2014, the system was fully working and it was clear this had the potential to improve the lives of many diabetics and their families. The sale of medical devices are, quite rightly, strictly controlled. Dana and Scott could not make and sell clones of their setup so they did the next best thing: they released the blueprints for free so others could build it for themselves and the OpenAPS (Open Artificial Pancreas System) was born.

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Looping Today

The linking of a CGM and pump to automate insulin delivery is called ‘looping’ and there are three main projects on the internet for doing it:

  • Loop (A loop based on Apple technologies)
  • OpenAPS (Dana’s original project)
  • AndroidAPS (A fork of OpenAPS which uses Android technologies)

Looping has been around for 3-4 years and there are hundreds of diabetics using the system to manage their disease. Only now are the first commercial equivalents coming to market with the most basic of functionality. The expanse of time between when the technology arose to address the problem and when it was commercially released is the reason the movement to make an artificial pancreas has adopted the hashtag #WeAreNotWaiting.

When you know, every night, you or a loved one might not wake up and the technology is available to prevent that from happening, wouldn’t you do the same?

For me, the story of OpenAPS shows the best of what the Internet of Things has to offer. Sure, the CGM and the pump use the internet to talk, with no human intervention; a traditional Internet of Things but, to begin with the ‘things’ were ideas and incremental advances. When these came together and interacted via the internet something was achieved which could not have been created in isolation. Something that has the potential to improve the lives and prevent the deaths of thousands of people around the world.

Salesforce: Is The Bear Going Into Hibernation?

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It has been a long break but it is back to the blogs and to start off the new year, it is the Salesforce quarterly review. Salesforce hit their third quarter just before the break and here is the breakdown.

Salesforce on the Grapevine (Salesforce News)

Salesforce and Google: The New Celebrity Romance

A while ago, Salesforce and Microsoft were going steady but things went bad. Salesforce now has a new love in their life in the form of Google and their ‘strategic partnership’ together. When it was Microsoft, a ‘strategic partnership’ meant ‘grooming for acquisition’. Interesting times if this is Google’s intention. The news for now is Google is building integrations to Salesforce; the first of which is allowing Salesforce sales data to be analyzed with Google Analytics. This fills a nice BI gap for Salesforce. A romance to watch.

Benioff Compares Facebook to Tobacco

Marc Benioff, suggesting “technology has addictive qualities”, believes it should be legislated like cigarettes. For Australia that would mean a warning splash page showing the detrimental effects of Facebook arguments and unproven health remedies and a ban on using social media within pubs and restaurants. He might be onto something.

Salesforce to Buy Twitter?

As well as the rumor of Google buying Salesforce, there is also the rumor of Salesforce buying Twitter, although the evidence is thin at this stage. This could be Benioff biting his thumb at Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn or it could be a stronger play into the social media market to enhance their CRM suite.

The Undulating Hills of the Stock Price

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Again a favorable quarter for the share price, probably due to the improved profitability with revenue growth uncompromised.

Landmarks (Numbers) of Note

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While it is hard to divine a pattern in the margin graph, it is true that in the last year, the curve has mostly improved and Salesforce is making a few percent in profit.

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While the cost growth has waivered around, for two years the revenue growth has sat steady at around 25% year on year. As mentioned before, the game here is to keep the red line above the green one to improve profitability. As we can see, red is flat and green is heading downwards. This bodes well for Salesforce’s continued profitability. In fact, at the biggest gap between the lines in two years (5%), this is probably the best news in the financials.

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Here is the interesting one and the reason for the title. While revenues are growing, transactions shrank, again. This time down from 5.7b transactions to 5.4b. If more customers are embracing Salesforce, as suggested by the revenue growth, why are transactions falling?

As I see it, there can be only two explanations: either the customer base is not increasing and revenue is being driven by price increases or people are getting the same services with less transactions somehow being committed on the servers.

False Trails in the Woods (GAAP vs Non-GAAP)

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Just like last month, GAAP was mentioned twice and Non-GAAP six times so we drink four mason jars of moonshine this quarter. I maintain my prediction the gap will reduce as Salesforce becomes profitable.

Noises in the Dark (Buzzword Bingo)

First of all we have the unusual occurrence of a phrase getting more than ten mentions. In this case Marc and the gang said the phrase “our customers” exactly ten times. It is an admirable focus. How about the single words?

2017 Q3

2017 Q4

2018 Q1

2018 Q2

2018 Q3

Number of Words

2505

3317

3278

3000

3018

Customers/Customer

20

26

28

25

21

Revenue

18

31

28

21

19

Cloud

12

14

22

16

13

Growth

10

15

16

19

13

Operating

3

18

11

7

8

Salesforce/Salesforces

20

18

40

26

30

CRM

15

7

5

No changes in the key words thrown out in the quarterly transcript proving that nothing new is really said each quarter; just a recrafting of the same messages. The only discernible pattern is all words have gone down in total mentions since 2018 Q1.

Getting the Lay of the Land (Predicting the Future)

Last quarter I predicted a profit of $30-40m (they made a little over $50m so well done Salesforce for exceeding my expectations). For revenue I predicted $2.7b which hit the mark.

For next quarter, I predict revenues just shy of $2.9b and for profitability, I am going to go out on a limb and predict Salesforce to break through the $100m mark.

Conclusions

In terms of acquisitions, it is obviously interesting times. Google and Salesforce together would be a formidable competitor to Microsoft. This being said, while I consider Salesforce and Dynamics 365 as on par with each other, I am still a fan of Microsoft Office over the Google office apps. Then there is the question of Salesforce’s lack of an ERP offering to counter Dynamics 365.

Financially, things are not too bad at all. Salesforce has a profit and growth remains steady. The fly in the ointment is the diminishing transactions which appears to be a trend and not an aberration. It is like a company which sells cars getting more profitable but having no cars on the lot; there is something strange afoot.

Gartner Trajectories For Sales Force Automation 2015-2017

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A few months ago I showed the Forrester Trajectories for Sales Force Automation. What really stood out in Forrester’s latest report was it put Microsoft ahead of Salesforce and suggested, based on the trajectories, that Microsoft was improving while Salesforce was declining.

Gartner released their equivalent report about a month after my analysis and were not as generous, maintaining Salesforce at the top of the heap. Nonetheless I thought it would be interesting to see if the predicted trajectories of the two analysis houses comply or are also differing.

The Trajectories for 2017

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Obviously the original reports had a few more contenders than those shown. My rule for selection is simple: if the product has appeared in all three reports, it is included in my analysis. Also, the lines move from the green dot to the red one. So, for example, we see Oracle has jumped in the latest report from being in the Visionaries quadrant to be in the Leaders quadrant.

As for the years used, we are using the Gartner reports of 2015, 2016, and 2017.

In comparison to the Forrester report, we have all of Forrester’s, except bpm’online which did not make the cut.

Niche Players (NetSuite, Infor, Zoho, Aptean)

In the bottom right we have the Niche Players. Generally these products do not have the full offering of the larger players or are relatively new entrants.

Netsuite, as was the case in the Forrester report, has fallen back, going from a Challenger down to a Niche player. The report says the customers were a big part of the drop in standing, suggesting the product lacks in forecasting, content management and lead management. Also, the customers complained of the product interface looking dated and features they requested were not added to the product. There is probably a cautionary tale here for Microsoft. While Microsoft has a place for people to raise requests for features in their products, I have not historically seen this heavily influence the direction of innovation with Dynamics 365.

Infor and Zoho are in a similar boat to each other in this report, staying within the Niche Player quadrant for the last three years. Infor has steadily improved its position within the quadrant over the period though and the report talks of a recent US$2b investment to accelerate its development plans. Therefore, it may be one to watch in the future. Interestingly, this strongly differs to the Forrester analysis which had Infor dropping in standing.

Zoho has done very little in the time period, circling around the same position. Arguably, Zoho has found its place in the market as a small B2B CRM offering and, assuming it has no ambition to be different to this, I imagine it will continue in this position. The Gartner report did warn of Zoho’s lack of customer service so while the product is good value for the price, the opportunity cost may be significant if users need a lot of support from the supplier.

Aptean’s main product is Pivotal. I have seen Pivotal in my career, and was encouraged to jump on board with it many years ago when I worked for a company called Praxa, owned by CDC Software. It is not a bad product but lacked the push behind it of the major players. The development environment was, arguably, much more flexible than Dynamics 365’s. They way it was often characterised to me was Pivotal was built, from the ground up, in .Net and many of the inherent features of the development platform were built into the product. So, for example, while managing configuration and customisation for Dynamics 365 cannot be readily done in Visual Studio/TFS, this is not, from memory, the case for Pivotal. 

Over the three years, Aptean has improved its position in the Magic Quadrant and is close to moving to the Challenger quadrant. Another one I would keep an eye one.

Challengers (SAP CRM)

SAP is the only vendor in the Challenger quadrant but it is not faring well and ended up just north of the niche player border. Reading between the lines of the Gartner report, SAP CRM is not a focus for SAP (arguably as Dynamics 365 on-premise is not a strong focus for Microsoft) and customers should be looking to the Hybris Sales Cloud offering instead. While Forrester did not cover the Hybris product, it also characterises SAP CRM and in decline although, arguably, not as strongly as Gartner does.

Visionaries (Base, CRMNEXT, SugarCRM, SAP (Hybris Sales Cloud))

Base and CRMNEXT have both migrated from the Niche Players quadrant to the Visionaries with CRMNEXT making huge progress over the three years. In the case of Base, a big part of their success appears to be due to a strong focus on onboarding new customers and their use of big data and predictive analytics to drive future sales.

For CRMNEXT, it has focussed on the finance industry and been very successful at addressing the needs of this vertical in Asia and the Middle East with many very large implementations. It has yet to crack the USA but, if it starts making headway there, it could become a powerhouse. Another one to watch.

SugarCRM and Hybris have bounced around the Visionaries quadrant over the three years and have been placed close to each over over that period. For SugarCRM, this is in alignment with Forrester’s perception. The report is mixed on SugarCRM, praising its innovation but also criticizing the gaps in the offering. The company behind SugarCRM has, in the last few years, moved away from the open source community, no longer releasing an open source community edition. I imagine a lot of the innovation for the product came from this online community so distancing themselves from them will not do them any favours in terms of innovation and development. I do not see SugarCRM making it into the Leaders quadrant any time soon.

Hybris Sales Cloud, SAP’s SaaS CRM play, is interesting. Arguably not yet as successful as Oracle in making the transition to online, they are maintaining their ground. The report suggests that functionality and integration to other products is improving but support and implementation issues are holding them back. If SAP can fix these issues, they will regain their former glory in the top quadrant but for now, I cannot see them getting out of the Visionaries quadrant.

Leaders (Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce)

Finally, the products we really care about; the leaders of the pack. Historically I have characterised CRM as a two-horse race between Microsoft and Salesforce but Oracle is on its way back, having transitioned to the cloud.

For Oracle, the report praises their depth of offering, suggesting it is better than both Microsoft and Salesforce. In terms of what is holding Oracle back, the report suggests Oracle focusses more on the sale than the customer, sacrificing the customer onboarding experience and customer support. If they can get these two right, Oracle will again be at the top of their game. However, entrenched as their sales culture is, this is a big ask.

While Forrester characterised Microsoft as being on the way up and Salesforce declining slightly, this is not the case with Gartner where the two products maintain their positions relative to each other with Microsoft making slight gains in their completeness of vision.

In terms of what Gartner sees as significant in the product, Microsoft’s customization capabilities are called out. I am very happy about this. I often hear that, when competing against Microsoft, Salesforce sales teams will claim Dynamics is inflexible in its configuration and customisation, which is simply untrue. It is good Gartner calls out Dynamic’s configuration/customization as the strength it is.

In terms of where Gartner suggests Microsoft could improve, reporting was an area highlighted for focus. In short, Microsoft has great reporting technologies but they are not readily accessible by a Power User and still require a developer to access their full potential. In my opinion, a revamping of the outdated Report Wizard would go a long way in addressing Gartner’s concerns.

System performance was also called out as an issue by Gartner. Microsoft has, for a number of years, been plagued by slow form load times. Again, Salesforce used this against Microsoft when vying for work, spinning up a trial and showing the page loads side by side. I know Microsoft is addressing this in their transition to the Unified Interface and this focus should yield dividends in the near future with the current version (v9). I remain optimistic.

For Salesforce, Gartner praises the new Einstein offering for predictive analytics and the overall sales management system. Like Oracle, where the Salesforce was born from, Gartner criticizes Salesforce’s aggressive sales practices and heavy-handed contract negotiation. The biggest criticism though came from customers complaining they struggle to derive value from the product. Gartner literally says “Salesforce clients regularly identify issues with deriving value from their Salesforce implementations”. This is great news for those of us competing against Salesforce because a big part of the Salesforce counterplay to the fact that Dynamics is so much cheaper than Salesforce is the “value” argument. Gartner confirms this argument does not hold up in the real world. If you are involved in competing with Salesforce for sales and take nothing else from this blog post, take that quote from Gartner and have it as a full page in your presentation. I guarantee you that Salesforce will hate you for it.

Conclusions

In the end a much longer post than my Forrester one but, for me, at least equally interesting. In terms of the products to watch, my money is on Infor, Aptean’s Pivotal (not the first time I have called them out) and CRMNEXT. I predict Oracle will continue to improve their position in the Leaders quadrant but I am not so sure SAP will follow suit. In terms of the eternal struggle between Microsoft and Salesforce, it looks like not a lot will change in the near future. Whether Gartner or Forrester are correct in terms of the fates of the various products, this is yet to be seen.