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