Gartner Trajectories For Sales Force Automation 2015-2017


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


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.


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.


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