Forrester Trajectories For Sales Force Automation 2015-2017


Occasionally, Forrester and Gartner release reports on CRM. Forrester just put out their 2017 report on Sales Force Automation which includes the usual CRM suspects.

Rather than pick apart the report inisolation, I like looking at the ‘trajectories’ of the products over successive reports to see which are moving ahead and which are trailing the pack.

In this case, as far as I can tell, this is the first report under the heading of “sales force automation”. Previously, Forrester did reports for “CRM Suites” and split the reports between enterprise organizations and midsize ones. For the purposes of the trajectories, I have used the midsize reports. This was a reasonably arbitrary decision based on what was readily available through Google’s image search.

The Trajectories for 2017

Forrester 2015-2017

My Photoshop/GIMP skills continue to improve but the image still needs a bit of explaining. If we remove the rainbow trails, we have the 2017 Forrester report with the products which did not feature in the previous two reports removed (CRMNEXT and Pegasystems). Strictly speaking, Oracle was not in the 2015 Forrester report but as a ‘Leader’ it would be remiss of me to leave it out.

The rainbow trails end at 2017 and start at 2015. So, for example, NetSuite starts in the Strong Performers group, heads upwards in 2016 but then severely drops, falling into the Contenders in 2017.

Let us start with the weakest and work up.

The Contenders: Infor (Red) and Netsuite (Orange)

Both products have fallen from grace in the last two years. Both started from a similar spot in the Strong Performers and both are now in the Challengers with Forrester suggesting Infor has the weaker strategy.

Reading the report, Forrester sees NetSuite as a broad play, covering ERP and CRM well but not having a deep spike in sales force automation. For Infor, Forrester sees them as having strong vertical focii but not a deep sales force automation spike.

The Strong Performers: bpm’online (Green), SAP (Blue), and SugarCRM (Yellow)

All three stayed in their segment over the three years. The only movement of note was bpm’online who has slightly improved their offering and spent 2016 in the Leaders circle.

bpm’online is hailed as easy to use and administer without deep technical knowledge but Forrester suggests this comes at the price of compromising more complex functionality such as quota management.

For SAP, Forrester is a little vague on why the product has slipped out of the Leaders ring where it was a few years ago. They talk about a lack of innovation and AI capability but hail it as the solution to pick if a company is already an ‘SAP shop’ for other areas of their business.

For SugarCRM, Forrester highlights their lack of depth but celebrates their ecosystem and point-solution marketplace which, I guess, is what put them above the Contenders.

The Leaders: Oracle (White), Microsoft (Black), and Salesforce (Purple)

The three thoroughbreds in the race remain at the head of the pack. As mentioned earlier, Oracle was not in the 2015 report for midsized enterprises so we only have two years of data. In that time Oracle’s offering has weakened relative to the others but their strategy has strengthened a little. In terms of Forrester’s commentary, it is all glowing.

The real battle in my very biased opinion is between Microsoft and Salesforce. In this battle, Microsoft has the upper hand. Forrester consider Microsoft to have an offering comparable in strength to Oracle, with Salesforce trailing both of them in terms of proximity to the top-right corner but is slightly ahead in terms of strategy.

Forrester highlights Microsoft’s innovation and maturity in AI but calls out their limited ecosystem and point-solution ISVs. For Salesforce, the report is mostly glowing. Looking at the scorecard, the biggest deltas between the two are in Product Catalogs and Price Lists, and Business Intelligence (where Microsoft is seen as stronger) and in Extensibility (where Salesforce is seen as stronger).

Industry Consolidation

Back in the 2008-2015 Forrester review, there were nine CRM vendor offerings and six offerings in the Leaders circle. Today there are ten CRM vendors with three in the Leaders circle (SAP and Pegasystems falling away). So while consolidation has slowed down, there is a group clearly leading the others.


Over the last three years, a couple of the Strong Performers have fallen back into the Contenders ring with the rest remaining where they are. The Leaders have danced around each other with Microsoft gaining an upper hand for now.

If we think of this as a horse race, there are three horses at the front vying for the lead (previously there were two other horses in this pack but they have fallen away). Behind them the rest of the pack follow with a couple running out of steam and dropping off.

My prediction is Oracle will be the next to drop off leaving Microsoft and Salesforce to battle it out.


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