Gartner Trajectories for Sales force Automation 2016


Every now and again, I plot the trajectories of the major CRM players, over three years, in the Forrester and Gartner quadrants. Gartner recently released their latest ‘Magic Quadrant’ for Sales Force Automation so it was time to update my chart from 2015.


My graphic editing skills have slowly improved over the years making this a little more readable than previous versions. The underlined entries are where the products are in the 2016 Gartner report, with the black line linking to 2015, then 2014.

I have only included the top-right quadrant because no-one entered or exited the top right quadrant in the three years. It really is a two-horse race these days (or three if, like Gartner, you distinguish the online and on-premise versions of Dynamics CRM).

The Leaders

While present in the 2013 report, SAP and Oracle are now left behind. SAP resides in the top left quadrant in the latest report (high ability to execute, limited vision), while Oracle is in the bottom right (limited ability to execute, broad vision).

The leaders are now:

  • Salesforce
  • Dynamics CRM Online
  • Dynamics CRM (On-Premise)

Gartner continues to differentiate Dynamics CRM based on deployment mode. This is partly an artefact of when the report is released (August 2016 in this case). During the first half of the year, the two versions are mostly equivalent but, in the second half, Dynamics CRM Online gets an update which usually enhances functionality and connectivity to other products in the Dynamics suite e.g. Social Engagement.

In theory, if this was the only reason, the on-premise version should land on the online version’s previous score. Reading the Gartner report (available here), another reason it scores differently is the annual release cycle of the on-premise version which Gartner feels is too slow for customers today.


Salesforce continues to move towards the top right. Gartner highlights the following as contributing to this success:

  • Mobility improvements: Still an area of relative weakness for Dynamics CRM
  • Their application marketplace: Also an area requiring improvement for Dynamics CRM
  • The platform. I am not technical enough to know how it compares. I do know it was the most dreaded in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey last year but whether this was participant bias or something fundamentally broken with the platform I do not know.

Cited weaknesses in the product include:

  • Value for money: Salesforce scored the lowest in value for money and it is certainly an expensive product, relative to Dynamics CRM Online and other online offerings.
  • Limited functionality in the areas of Outlook integration, analytics and offline access.

Dynamics CRM Online

Dynamics CRM Online has improved dramatically in the last three years. 2013-2014 is was about the ability to execute and 2014-2015 it was about the completeness of their vision. Based on the trajectories, Gartner sees Dynamics CRM Online being where Salesforce was about two years ago. However, with this aggressive improvement (and note the LinkedIn acquisition is not included in this analysis) it is fair to say they are challenging the incumbent, just as Salesforce did to Siebel all those years ago.

Strengths cited include:

  • The tight integration with Power BI and Azure predictive analytics which, in the future, will close the loop on the sales process leading to continuous improvement in sales and a reduction in the length of the sales cycle.
  • Like Salesforce, Gartner regards the Dynamics CRM Online platform as one of its strengths. It is highly configurable and writing code on top of a client solution is, in my experience, becoming less frequent with codeless configuration often doing the job. As an example, in eight weeks, we have built and deployed a solution for a client which does case management for 70,000 customers (replacing their Oracle solution) and digital marketing (via ClickDimensions) and we did not write a single line of code.
  • Post-sales customer support and customer success processes. It is one thing to get a solution in and get paid, and another to continue to drive customer success. Gartner cites Microsoft as scoring highly in this regard.

Weaknesses include:

  • Separation from implementation. Gartner cites Microsoft’s partner model as a weakness with customers expecting more input from the vendor on implementation and best practice. This is arguably a weakness for both Microsoft and Salesforce as both rely on a partner model for execution and speaks volumes that it is key, for any CRM implementation, to work with an experienced partner. I am obviously biased but the first piece of advice any MVP will give you when implementing CRM is getting good counsel from an experienced partner.
  • A limited application marketplace. It is true and I cannot defend it. The Dynamics CRM application marketplace is very limited. There are plenty of great add-ons out there (like ClickDimensions) but they can be hard to find for a customer with limited knowledge of the Dynamics CRM ecosystem. Again, this reinforces the need for a good partner to work with during the implementation.

Dynamics CRM (On-Premise)

Gartner considers Dynamics CRM (On-Premise) to have gone backwards over the last couple of years especially in the ability to execute. Given the success of its online cousin, this surprises me.

Strengths cited include:

  • A strong partner network for customer to work with.
  • Tight integration to other Microsoft products such as Skype and Outlook.
  • Strong configurability which I have talked about above.

Weaknesses cited are:

  • Annual release cycle: Gartner considers this too slow for today’s customers
  • Mobility: In terms of its functionality and ability to be customised the current Dynamics CRM mobile client is limited. This is something I know Microsoft are aware of and seeking to address.
  • Outlook integration: The Outlook client does have its glitches and, while it has improved significantly over the years, this was still worthy of note to those customers surveyed by Gartner.

The Challengers and Visionaries

Given no other products made it into the top right quadrant, the two major players are, arguably, unchallenged. One I will call out which, I admit, I have never heard of before is Bullhorn. In the last two reports, it has made significant gains and, if it continues in the way it has gone to date, it will be in the top right in the next year or two.


There is no doubt that, for sales force automation, it is now a race between two vendors: Salesforce and Microsoft. Both have strengths and weaknesses and, as a customer, it is more of a case of working out which of those strengths and weaknesses align to your business than working out which is the ‘best’ product. Salesforce certainly is still rated higher but Dynamics CRM Online is right behind it.

Another thing to consider, if you are looking at a potential CRM solution, is most business need more than sales force automation. While CRM was born in sales force automation, it has expended to include marketing, service, project management, field service and a raft of other capabilities. When considering a solution, the wider context needs to be included.

Overall I think the Gartner report is fair and the trajectories reflect the progress of the solutions. The only aspect which I feel is a little harsh is the backward movement of Dynamics CRM (On-Premise). Gartner seems to have punished the product for its annual cycle a little harshly, in my opinion. It is clear though that online is the future focus for Microsoft.

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