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  • Enterprise IT, News - Written by on Thursday, May 17, 2012 15:20 - 7 Comments

    Microsoft beats Salesforce to utility CRM deal

    news Energy retailer Australian Power & Gas has picked Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM system over rivals Salesforce.com and Right CRM as the base platform for a customer relationship management overhaul to tackle incoming email complaints.

    In a statement released today by Microsoft, Redmond said the utility had recently had “a surge in its customer base” to close to 350,000 customers, which created the need for a platform to maintain and track customer records.

    “Australian Power & Gas received over 10,000 customer emails over the last 12 months – relating to topics including enquiries, complaints and the retention of customers,” the statement said. “With no process in place, Australian Power & Gas was manually passing these enquires to the relevant people within the business, leading to administrative problems. As a result, the business worked with Microsoft partner, CSG, to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM to handle all of its electronic correspondence, improve its processes and ensure better customer service.”

    Australian Power & Gas also evaluated competing CRM vendors Salesforce.com and Right CRM, but ended up going with the Microsoft package due to the “return on investment and ease of use”, according to Microsoft. Australian Power & Gas, CIO, Joseph Gullotta, said: “The Microsoft Dynamics CRM system is a platform that is very stable, customisable, and empowering, allowing us to take all the complexity out of what can be a very complex environment.”

    “Profiling and understanding our customers is important to Australian Power & Gas which is why the CRM component has been so useful. Microsoft Dynamics offered us the versatility needed to program and change the environment to handle emails as a workflow activity. Allowing us to track, escalate and respond to each individual enquiry in a timely manner has given Australian Power & Gas an edge over our competitors,” said Mr. Gullotta.

    “Moving forward, Australian Power & Gas’s data warehouse built on Microsoft SQL Server R2 is a key focus, particularly the data the business is incorporating into the warehouse,” Microsoft’s statement said. “The business is now starting to reap the rewards of the warehouse which is why it’s looking at expanding this area in support of its business intelligence, reporting and analytical capability.” Added CIO Gullotta: “We’re putting more work into our data warehouse so the ability to gather and use more information has been great.”

    The news comes as it remains unclear how strong Salesforce.com’s current levels of success are in the Australian market. Several of its major rivals, including Oracle and Microsoft, have recently announced major Australian customer wins for their CRM platforms, but Salesforce.com has not.

    Oracle announced in January that various top Australian public and private sector entities had implemented its CRM On Demand software as a service suite to upgrade customer service, gain access to real-time analytics, and enable speeding up of adaptive business planning. According to a statement issued yesterday by Oracle, local customers who have been provisioned in its local datacentre on the Oracle CRM On Demand platform include the Victorian Department of Human Services, NSW government agency NSW Businesslink, NBN Co, AJ Lucas and Suncorp. In September 2011, Oracle had announced a rollout of the CRM On Demand platform for Telstra Wholesale.

    Some of Microsoft’s recent Australian customer wins for its Dynamics CRM platform include Curtin University Coffs Harbour City Council, Tim Davies Landscaping, Capital Transport and Relationships Australia.

    Even smaller Australian competitor Technology One has been signing up major new customers for its CRM package. Among the customers signing up for the latest release of the TechnologyOne software are Mission Australia; the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment; TePou, through Wise Management Services; Tasrail; the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services; and other Australian government organisations.

    However, Salesforce.com has not recently disclosed any significant Australian wins for its various platforms, including its CRM option. In mid-June, the company is expected to discuss its local fortunes and disclose new customers as part of its annual Cloudforce conference, which will be held in Sydney on 14 June.

    The most interesting thing about Australia’s enterprise CRM market at the moment is how the traditional vendors – Oracle, Microsoft and others – appear to be making hay while Salesforce.com’s sun appears to be dimming.

    If I was an IT manager in a commercial enterprise, I would be loathe to put a new Microsoft or Oracle CRM platform in at the moment. While both are good options technically, Salesforce.com has historically been the leader technologically in the software as a service cloud deployment model, and there aren’t a huge number of reasons not to deploy CRM platforms into the cloud at the moment, in my opinion.

    But we’re just not hearing much from Salesforce.com in the Australian market at the moment. The company has been quiet for about 12 months now, at a time, when its rivals – even including the smaller Netsuite – have been very active in the market. I would have expected to have heard about some huge Salesforce.com deployments locally by now, as well as some innovative uses of its smaller software chunks – Chatter, Radian6, Force.com and Heroku. But the buzz around the company has died down to almost nil recently.

    Is Salesforce.com actually doing really well in Australia, but just not talking about it, while the other vendors are? Perhaps, but not likely. The company has historically been quite open and transparent.

    My gut tells me that Salesforce.com is struggling to convince Australian enterprises of the value of its solutions, in the face of offerings from the likes of Microsoft and Oracle, which not only have on-shore deployment models as well as off-shore SaaS platforms, but also have wider ecosystems. As Australian Power & Gas’s CIO said bluntly in this interview this week with iTNews, the company tries to go Microsoft whenever possible. And for customers who already had Oracle ERP, financials, HR, databases and so on, the same would often be true for the company’s CRM platform.

    Of course, much of this is speculation. We’ll likely find out more about how Salesforce.com is doing in Australia over the next month as it Cloudforces it up in Sydney. Personally I hope the vendor is just playing its cards close to its chest and has some mega deployments it’s planning to spill shortly. But only time will tell.

    Image credit: Microsoft

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    1. Drew Guttadore
      Posted 18/05/2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink | Reply

      One of the more compelling reasons for using Oracle is the ability to migrate to company hosted CRM systems within the Oracle suite of software. That sort of product capability is very important

      • Posted 18/05/2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Interesting point, Drew — that’s something that we don’t hear a lot about, people starting off with SaaS-delivered enterprise IT software and then migrating it in-house or to a more traditional managed service at need. You’re right, and I think this is definitely an advantage of the Microsoft and Oracle suites in this regard — the sheer flexibility compared to a more set idealistic SaaS solution.

    2. Sathias
      Posted 18/05/2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I appreciate the CRM articles Renai, I have been working with Microsoft CRM for many years so have a large interest in the product.

      With CRM 2011 the SaaS product offering is very good, almost all customisations can now be done in the hosted model just as the on-premise model. In fact I wrote some SDK code for one of my clients on our on-premise development server, changed one connection string, and it worked seamlessly with CRM Online.

      • Posted 18/05/2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

        No worries Sathias! I think it’s an area a lot of organisations are interested in at the moment. After email, it seems like a logical area which could be migrated into a SaaS-style deployment. I’ve written a few times that I would find it hard to go with an on-premises CRM deployment as a brand new deployment in 2012.

        I think that ability to shift different aspects between on-premises and SaaS is a key strength Microsoft has. You see this also in the Exchange/Outlook space, where some email accounts (such as the CEO, CFO etc) can be kept on-premise but other, less critical ones shifted off into a cloud scenario, even overseas etc. And I know Microsoft is trying to position Azure the same way in the infrastructure area — taking workloads off local servers where appropriate etc. I think this area is fascinating and I think we’ll see more of it in future as things get more standard and stable.

        • Sathias
          Posted 21/05/2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I would agree with that for the most part but with two notable exceptions.

          One, if the CRM is going to be highly integrated with other local systems a SaaS model may not be appropriate. For instance, one of our clients is looking to integrate their sales process from end to end from their online ordering system, through to CRM as a reporting and marketing platform, and then ordering/invoice data going to and back from their ERP system.

          Secondly, if a client is looking to provide multiple tenancies within CRM, the on-premise licenses cover as many separate tenancies as you like, where SaaS licenses tenancy by tenancy. In the long run the on-premise licenses may end up being cheaper.

    3. Tim
      Posted 23/05/2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink | Reply

      Very biased article. The read like a wall to wall MS shop to me. CRM Dynamics would have basically been given to them from MS. Not a resounding story to jump on the MS bad wagon. Oracle also has not won too many deals they would sing about recently, W.A Govt is a resounding loss, IBM to Sugar and HP to Salesforce.com all significant loses. This is also not what I would call a big win in the market place, it must be a slow day in the MS CRM world or the IT software media space.

    4. Posted 16/06/2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

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