The best CRM software for enterprises and start-ups

How to find the best CRM software provider for an organisation like yours

The market for CRM software, like other areas of enterprise IT, is dominated by a few very large vendors. Unusually, AWS and Google are nowhere to be seen; instead, the most popular CRM tools come from Microsoft (Microsoft Dynamics) and Salesforce (Salesforce CRM). As well as enjoying high awareness due to the size of their parent companies, a survey of UK IT leaders conducted by Delta highlighted a number of strengths for these products. Use the graph below to compare Microsoft and Salesforce against other significant CRM vendors, including Oracle, SAP, Hubspot, Zoho, Zendesk, SugarCRM and ServiceNow, in the areas that CIOs and other IT professionals told us were the most important for them when choosing new CRM software.

Hover over vendor names to highlight them, or click them to add/remove them from the chart.

In our survey, half of participants shared the opinion that Microsoft and Salesforce produce the best CRM software, and a third had taken them into production. The scope of these products is a major strength, as they cover nearly every aspect of CRM and use partners to fill the gaps that they do not address directly. Other vendors, like SAP and Oracle, offer similar solutions, and the choice of tool often comes down to which will be a better fit for the business: Microsoft Dynamics for one that relies heavily on Microsoft tools, Oracle PeopleSoft/CRM On Demand/NetSuite for those with Oracle databases, and so on.

Smaller vendors like Zoho, Zendesk, Hubspot and SugarCRM often show advantages over their larger competitors in cost and agility, and are thought to be among the best CRM systems for small businesses. The outlier here is ServiceNow, which does not consider itself a CRM vendor: its product, Customer Service Management, focuses on customer service and support functions like helpdesk, but because of the focus on customer communication many respondents treat it as a limited CRM service.

For several years, the functions of CRM tools have overlapped with those of enterprise resource planning (ERP) services, and we expect the merger to continue. Modern CRM software now encompasses much of the functionality traditionally found in ERP, and vendors like SAP are moving to consolidate both into a single product. However, this can make finding a solution to meet a specific need difficult, and although it is easier to switch CRM providers than it is in other technology areas like cloud or HR, some amount of vendor lock-in still exists in the market.

As we can see, choosing the right CRM tool is a huge undertaking and one that has serious implications for your business in terms of time, money and security if you get it wrong. Delta’s research into the CRM space provides an up-to-date snapshot of the shifting market, to help you to make the right decisions. By talking to hundreds of end users about their likes and dislikes concerning the major providers and their services, and the reasons for their opinions, we have built a comprehensive view of the UK market for CRM.

The CRM software marketplace

CRM continues to grow, and is evolving to cover new areas like ERP. This should be no surprise in such a critical function, which touches nearly every part of an organisation. Customer relationship management is core to business activities, and CRM tools hold any and all information that deals with the customer, while ERP does the same for the product. It makes sense for the two to grow closer, and few IT leaders – a single-digit percentage – expect them to remain distinct solutions for much longer.

While the convergence of CRM software and ERP software is important, there are other factors to be aware of in the market, such as the ongoing transition to SaaS. Nearly four-fifths of IT leaders now prefer a full- or hybrid cloud deployment for CRM.

Historically, a large proportion of companies began with CRM as an on-premise tool, shifting to the cloud as they dropped other legacy systems and realised the need for more customisation. Due to this, many modern CRM systems offer an upgrade path for cloud migration at a later date, to future-proof on-prem installations. All of the major CRM vendors offer cloud solutions, either hybrid – like Microsoft – or wholly – like Salesforce. Others, like SAP, offer both but have plans to migrate to full SaaS in the near future.

Non-technical departments, often marketing or sales teams, frequently drive the process of procuring and specifying a CRM software system, and IT teams are finding that less involvement is needed as SaaS solutions grow in popularity. A head of IT in the health sector said, “IT gets involved whenever there is any element of hosting or support, which is less and less now because companies…don’t really want to have a core specialisation or core competency in IT… If they go for a host’s solution then the involvement of IT is very little.”

CRM users consider the customer data these systems manage to be the ‘Crown Jewels’ of the organisation. Protecting against intrusion is not only crucial in the age of the GDPR, but to avoid competitors obtaining lists of customer names, contact details and pricing. Security, reliability and regulatory compliance are amongst the most important factors influencing the choice of a CRM solution.

What are the most important features when choosing CRM software?

While the CRM market contains many low-cost tools, these can lack features like enterprise-grade security and robust uptime guarantees in the SLA, both of which IT leaders value highly. The best CRM software includes these features by default.

Factors in choosing a CRM solution. Source: Computing Delta

Usability factors also rank highly, with CIOs assigning a high importance to ease of use, integration, deployment, data portability and extensibility. Many of these, as well the desire for a simple visual interface, are likely due to the non-technical nature of many users of CRM. Bespoke feature choice, however, ranks far below any other element; this ties in to CRM customers’ desire to use a single solution for their needs, in which case the product must be a fully fledged offering.

Currently there is little demand for automation in CRM, at least to the point where it would influence a purchasing decision. As with many other technological solutions use of these technologies is growing, and many of the solutions we examined already included some form of AI/ML for faster data analysis.

Delta provides an interactive means to compare CRM vendors across pricing, UK/EU focus and many other factors to help you make the right decisions based on your own needs and priorities. Click here to see a video of Delta in action.

Methodology

We undertake our research into the CRM software market in three stages. First, we perform an online survey amongst more than 300 end-users, mostly in the UK, responsible for CRM in a managerial, decision-making or advisory capacity. We canvass opinions on CRM offerings from Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, ServiceNow, ZenDesk, SugarCRM, Zoho, Oracle and Hubspot, as well as smaller vendors. We repeat this survey at regular intervals to track shifts in opinion.

Other vendors we cover include Freshworks, Pegasystems and Bpm’online, although these brands have few UK customers and so are not included in the full analysis.

A focus group, formed of IT leaders from a mix of company sizes and sectors, then discusses the results. This exercise is followed by a series of in-depth interviews (IDIs) with senior professionals focused on particular issues uncovered in the previous stages.

Finally, we undertake a programme of desk-based research to ensure we are up to date with market trends, mergers and acquisitions, and new and potentially disruptive technologies coming down the line.

Additionally, as important news arises, we make sure we keep the report updated.

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