The best CRM suite is...

The best CRM suite is...

Summary: What's the best customer relationship management suite? We put six of the top vendors to the test to find out in our no holds barred face-off.


Microsoft Dynamics

Leveraging off Windows Server, SQL Server, IIS and Active Directory, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is designed to fit seamlessly into a Windows environment. The system is accessible to users via a web browser or the CRM client, which integrates with Outlook, presenting users with a familiar UI to get them up and running quickly, and also has an optional SQL Server Express component for mobile users to house offline data. The system can route email from an Exchange server or with non-Microsoft systems via POP/SMTP. Dynamics CRM can also integrate with other Microsoft products like SharePoint.

Importing contacts and customer account data into Dynamics is a little different than with other CRM packages. You still export the data as a CSV, but the upload is done using the Dynamics CRM Migration Manager, which is a stand-alone tool you need to download and install and which talks to the Dynamics system via SQL. If you're using Dynamics CRM Online, there is a different Migration Manager package available.

Because of its tight integration with Outlook, Dynamics displays the online CRM data within the shared Outlook views — Calendar, Contacts, Tasks etc — or you can view them separately in dedicated views. This offers users instant familiarity with the UI as it slots into a pre-existing business tool — a distinct advantage when implementing a new system. We particularly liked the "Track in CRM" function which ties together data across all aspects of the system, and when used in conjunction with the "Advanced Find" feature it gives users a complete 360-degree overview of account communications, meetings and relationships with other contacts.

For highly mobile users, Microsoft has its free Mobile Express product for Windows Mobile devices — this uses HTML browsing for online access to the Dynamics system and doesn't offer any offline functionality. There are plenty of ISVs who have written products for Windows Mobile platforms as well as the BlackBerry, Nokia and iPhone, which offer a richer user experience and offline data. There is also a wide network of Microsoft partners who develop custom solutions in Dynamics leveraging off external resources like Silverlight and Virtual Earth, so external support is readily available.

Given the product dependencies, an on-premise solution is best suited to enterprises with a well-established Microsoft infrastructure. Hosted solutions are also available from many Dynamics CRM providers, and these tend to be much cheaper and easier to establish, scalable and suitable for businesses with a highly mobile workforce. The licensing is based on a per-user subscription model so there are significant cost savings to be made, and the offsite system can still be integrated with on-premise Exchange systems. Hosted data can later be migrated onto an in-house system.

Overall: 3.5/5
Product: Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Price: Variable
Vendor: Microsoft
Phone: 13 20 58
Interoperability: 3/5 — only works on-premise in a Microsoft environment
Future-proofing: 4/5 — this is a growing market segment for Microsoft
ROI: 3/5 — better with existing infrastructure or hosting
Service: 4/5 — wide array of Microsoft partners, ISVs and hosting companies

(Credit: James Bannan/

(Credit: James Bannan/

(Credit: James Bannan/

Topics: SAP, Enterprise Software, Oracle, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • let me summarise this article

    7 pages of ad impressions for a conclusion of "well, it depends..."
  • your summary

    To be fair it is a decent summary of the products, but gutlessly fails to answer the main headline.
    I am sure Salesforce are happy that they paid for the feature to be written (at least they weren't given 5/5!)
  • Salesforce

    Well Salesforce didn't know whether they were going to be in the feature or not, and neither the writer or editor (me) knew who was advertising on it ;-)

    But will take the "gutless" comment on board for next time!


    Renai LeMay
    News Editor
  • Why no Australian products?

    As a precursor - I have a vested interest in this market. However, why do articles on CRM systems automatically all line up the same foreign based options? There must be hundreds already out there comparing, Oracle, etc. How about stacking up some Australian systems to see how they go? And systems that are really for SME's!
  • and you're surprised??

    What were you expecting. See every review on zdnet
  • Australian products

    hey Darren,

    we were targeting the biggest players for this roundup, with one open source alternative. However we are indeed keen to review Aussie stuff :) Which vendors are you suggesting?


    Renai LeMay
    News Editor
  • Salesforce

    Why not display the listing of CRM vendors in Alphabetical order? This would remove any question that the fact advertising has influenced the article. Aside from this, the article was a decent high-level view of the main players in this space.
  • interesting

    Overall I found the article interesting as I am currently looking at developing a CRM utilising PHP/MySQL as the platform (obviously it will be web based). Like others have said, it's an interesting look at the big players - I especially liked the information on the Infor system and Siebel, a platform I am familiar with - However, I think Darren Jones is on to something when he talks about an aussie roundup, both closed and open source. I'm sure there are many Australian companies who deserve and would appreciate the exposer.

    Interesting article overall.
  • ugh

    Obviously I meant exposure, not exposer. That'll teach me ;-)
  • Hopeless review

    This is review is useless. What a joke. You have compared the non-commercial SugarCRM Community version against the Commercial vendors. Why not try out the full Commercial SugarCRM. You will find that many of the "features" are not missing.
  • I'd like you to look at our Aussie CRM

    Hi Renai,

    We launched our CRM at CEBIT 2009. Would you like to take a look at it? How should I contact you (or can you get access to my email address?)
  • Email

    hi Mike,

    just drop me a line at

    Kind regards,

  • See How Good ACT! CRM is....

    Hey, sorry i forgot to add the link from my below post.

    Enjoy! and Good luck...
  • Intelestream CRM Solution

    Good article. Finding the right CRM is tough and depends on your business and use case. We published a white paper that compares the online version of SugarCRM with Salesforce.
    You can read it by visiting the Intelestream University at
  • I agree that some Australian CRM's should be included for evaluation. I would like to throw my hat in the ring and recommend the CRM from LeadMaster. We have found a lot of clients switching over from Sugar and SalesForce to The LeadMaster CRM ( If you got the chance to evaluate this product I believe you would agree it offers fantastic value, service and quality to SMB's in the Asia Pacific Region.
  • Hi,

    Well, since this is ZDNet Australia, it's worthwhile mentioning that one of the people who run Apollo is Australian, living in Perth (myself).

    Apollo is not quite a CRM. It does project and contact management though and can be a good solution in some cases. It supports cases&deals. Its contact section is more comparable to 37signals' Highrise than a full-blown CRM.

    It's also a fully online solution that looks incredibly native.

    Maybe give it a go!