Sunday, January 30, 2011

The ‘Fun’ Salesforce Becomes the FUD Salesforce


I am a little disappointed in Salesforce and lost a bit of respect for them today. This is the latest volley from Salesforce:

A return to old-school, lazy-thinking FUD. Now Microsoft have done their fair share of FUD in the past but I have not seen direct, unsubstantiated rubbishing of the competition like this for years. Microsoft, when they do talk about the opposition back up claims with references. Salesforce fail to back up their claims against Dynamics CRM. Where are the forum links of Dynamics CRM users echoing their statements? Where are the Gartner and Forrester reports highlighting the shortfalls in Dynamics CRM? If what is being said is true, they should not be hard to find. The simple fact is, again, Salesforce are all talk but no trousers.

The only ‘evidence’ they provide are the shadowy ‘Microsoft partners’ in the video. The video on the site is possibly the funniest thing I have seen in ages. Who are these people being protected from? The secret Microsoft ninjas that ‘remove’ those Microsoft partners which defect? Again, Salesforce fails to find anyone but actors to support their case. To save themselves a ‘Bernard’ moment they hide the actors’ faces.

Ninja Bill says “Gold partners can check out any time they like but they can never leave”

What is FUD?

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) is a marketing tactic where you put doubt on your competitors offerings so they come flocking to you instead. It was very common in the 90s but is less prominent these days. The reason being it is poor marketing in that it is tactical, not strategic. In the short term you might be able to make a dent on your competitors’ sales but in the long term it says a lot more about you than the opposition. Short term market advantage at the cost of long term brand/reputation damage simply is not worth it.

Now it could be argued Microsoft’s ‘Don’t get forced. Get what fit’ ( is FUD but I disagree. Other than the cheeky pun, the campaign is all about what Microsoft offers. The only claim made on the page against Salesforce is in the customer testimonials which claim Salesforce’s integration to Outlook is inferior to Dynamics CRM’s. I actually agree with this based on the videos of the two.

In contrast, Salesforce make direct statements about the alleged lack of functionality in Dynamics CRM. However to be true FUD, the claims need to be false so let us examine the claims.

Real-time feeds

Salesforce says: With Salesforce, real-time feeds alert you of any data changes. Know instantly when a deal progresses, a case escalates, or an email is sent to a customer.

That is awesome. Nothing to back up their ‘big red cross’ but good to know. In Dynamics CRM we have workflows. These work like Outlook rules. Basically you tell CRM ‘when this happens do this other stuff’ and it happens. For example, you tell CRM “when a sales opportunity is opened, send an email to Bob” and this now happens automatically. Setting them up, like Outlook rules, is done through an easy to use wizard and the possibilities are endless. We also have dialogs which do similar things while guiding the user through a dialog. I recently wrote a blog on how dialogs can be configured, without code, to capture timesheets (

Here is an example of creating a simple workflow, based on a new lead being created.

Group Collaboration

Salesforce says: Get organized, share information, and work productively with your teammates using private group collaboration. Give every Salesforce record—from accounts, to opportunities, and cases—its own Chatter feed where your group can collaborate and see all interactions.

Again, nothing to back up the ‘big red cross’. As discussed in my last blog (, collaboration in Dynamics CRM is handled through SharePoint, which is now integrated with the product. Basically you say which records need a document store and every time a record is created, a document store in SharePoint is automatically provisioned and is accessible, from the record within Dynamics CRM. This works for any record type in CRM, not just accounts, opportunities and cases. Moreover, non-CRM users within your organisation, who have access to SharePoint, can access and collaborate on the same documents. Also, you can grant access to people outside of the organisation to work on the documents. As documents change, alerts can be set up to inform all interested parties.

Now, this is not as sexy as Chatter, no doubt, but to suggest there is no group collaboration is simply false. There is also Microsoft SharePoint Workspace ( and the skunkworks OfficeTalk project (

STOP PRESS: A fellow MVP has alerted me to an excellent ‘Chatter equivalent’ for Dynamics CRM called Vibe from Sonoma Partners. The community version is free. Check out the video here:

Any Mobile Device

Salesforce says: Follow your customers on your favorite mobile device. Salesforce runs native apps on the most popular mobile platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iPad, and iPhone.

The ‘big red cross’ is getting quite lonely with no statements to back it up. Dynamics CRM comes with Mobile Express out of the box. This is a mobile client which works with any web-enabled device. Configuring which record types and fields are exposed to the mobile client are configured through a friendly web interface. Here is a link with screenshots.

Any e-mail App

Salesforce says: Salesforce syncs with your favorite email apps, like Gmail, Lotus Notes, and Outlook 2010/2007. Capture all your customer interactions with no duplicated effort.

The ‘big red cross’ is crying because it is being shown no love. Now it is true that the Outlook client offers some great functionality with its tight integration to Dynamics CRM but you are not forced to use Outlook and Exchange. In fact you can integrate any SMTP/POP server with Dynamics CRM including those mentioned as well as linux sendmail servers or any other email server that can be set up as a SMTP/POP server.

For the technical amongst you, here are the details.

Please note, as it is not clear in the article, you do NOT need the Outlook client. The e-mail router handles the integration of Dynamics CRM and the mail server, without any pre-requisite for Outlook.

Collaborative Analytics

Salesforce says: Salesforce brings analytics to every user with easy drag-and-drop report building and dashboard creation. Track the metrics that matter to you and share your insights through real-time feeds.

The ‘big red cross’ has informed me it is getting counselling because it feels ‘used and dirty’. This is the dead giveaway that Salesforce have plucked their statements out of the air and not actually looked at CRM 2011. The videos can do the work for me.

One thing to note is that the charts are user-configurable through the client. No coding required and any chart created can be used in a dashboard (or added directly to a form).

Up-to-Date Contacts

Salesforce says: Out-of-date contact info slows down deals. Jigsaw for Salesforce automatically cleans your data, so you always have the latest phone number, email, even title, to help you connect to the right person the first time.

First of all let us tackle the '’big green tick’. I dispute Jigsaw has up-to-date data. I typed in the company I work for and six contacts came up (out of, say, 300 employees) and the company address was wrong. None of the six employees currently work at my company. All of them have moved on. In some cases up to two years ago. I did a ‘vanity search’ and I did not come up. I then typed in the details of a good friend and it told me he worked at a company he was at about five years ago. Even then it gave an address in the USA for him (he has only worked in Australia for the decade or so that I have known him). Hardly a scientific test though so go to and try it for yourself.

If you think out-of-date information slows down leads, try relying on a software that you think is giving you the latest information but is, in fact, polluting the good work of your marketing and sales team with rubbish.

Now for the lonely, forlorn "’big red cross’. Let me introduce Hoovers and its integration with Dynamics CRM.

This is a third party product so it does cost additional money but, again, the ‘big red cross’ has been subject to mutiny at the hands of good ship Salesforce.

So let us conduct my not-so-scientific test on Hoovers (go to to try it out yourself). I typed in my company and it got the address right. Hoovers did not give a list of general employees as part of the free search but it did show the directors. I am not intimate with who the directors are but of the three listed I know two of them are correct. The search on my name and my friend’s returned nothing. So while the information was incomplete, of the information listed there was no obvious bad information.

Incidentally, Hoovers integrates to both Dynamics CRM and Salesforce so if you are reading this and are frustrated with Jigsaw, try Hoovers instead. Also, this leads to the question if Salesforce are so ‘open’ where is the API for Jigsaw?

Customize With Clicks

Salesforce says: Do you call your customers “clients” or “accounts”? Name them however you like with Salesforce’s easy customization. Rename tabs, add fields, automate processes—it only takes a few clicks, no coding required.

The ‘big red cross’ comes in for another slapping at the hands of Salesforce marketers. I actually watched the video on this one as I had never seen the extent to which you can change Salesforce. There is no smoking gun here. In Dynamics CRM you can rename ‘entities’, as we call them, users can change languages on the fly and new entities can be added and linked to existing entities without using a single line of code. In Dynamics CRM we call it ability to do codeless changes the ‘Declarative Programming Model’ but it amounts to exactly the same thing as what you can do in Salesforce. Everything in the Salesforce video (and much more) can be done in Dynamics CRM without a line of code. For example, you can add iframes (web page viewers), grids of data and charts to forms in dynamics CRM all without code. Here is a video for adding a new field, a grid of related records and a chart. No curly braces were abused in the making of these configuration changes.


Why is Salesforce So Desperate?

FUD was employed quite liberally in the 90s and, arguably, quite effectively. The problem is with the internet levelling the information playing field, as can be seen in the videos above, it is not hard to undermine it with a few mouse clicks.

There is nothing I would like more than to know what advantage Salesforce has over Dynamics CRM. The web address of the Salesforce site suggests it is going to tell me. Instead it tells me misinformation and lies. What is Salesforce playing at? I can only conclude that Salesforce is drawing a blank on why people should pay more for their product and therefore is resorting to this kind of ill-conceived silliness. Salesforce simply is not more social, mobile or real-time than Dynamics CRM. As I blogged previously, to all appearances, they seem to be equivalent in these regards.

Other than the obvious deployment model difference i.e. Dynamics CRM can be implemented on-premise as well as on the cloud, the main difference I am seeing between the two products is how they are being sold to the public. Salesforce is playing the FUD and ‘evil empire vs maverick’ cards. Microsoft is focussing more on their own game, highlighting product features and case studies.

As a customer, the question to be asked is do you want your supplier to be constantly telling you how rubbish the competition is or do you want them to give you the facts on their product and what it can provide your business? Personally I would prefer my supplier to treat me as an adult, not a child.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is This Chatter About a Social Salesforce?

Microsoft have finally launched their international online CRM offering. Here is the Australian press release with information on the international roll-out:

Interestingly, a LinkedIn survey has just been completed that suggests the CRM market is a duopoly:{"section":"results","poll_id":112755}&trk=twitter-polls-vote

Basically, three quarters of the market is already dominated by Dynamics CRM and Salesforce and that is before the international cloud release of Dynamics CRM has had time to get started. This suggestion of a two-horse race is reflected in my own experience where I most often come up against Salesforce when trying to win business. Other CRMs do raise their head but more often than not Salesforce is vying for the business.

So what is Salesforce’s response to Microsoft offering an equivalent cloud product?

"Microsoft still bases its CRM on desktops, proprietary systems and Outlook. That's a snapshot of history — not a social app for today's mobile, open world,"

This is mentioned by CRN (,microsoft-partners-confident-about-salesforce-customer-switch.aspx), ZDNet (, and ITWire (

iTWire suggests it was a spokesperson from the Australian office of Salesforce but how representative this statement was of the company’s thoughts is unclear.

In my opinion the substance of the quote is rubbish. I would be shocked if the majority of Salesforce customers do not use a desktop machine of some kind to access Salesforce’s proprietary software. I would even venture to suggest some are paying for and using Salesforce’s Outlook connector. Similarly Dynamics CRM comes with a basic mobile version built in and there are plenty of third-party mobile clients if the free one falls short.

Interestingly, in a recent presales meeting, where the client had previously met with Salesforce, they talked about how Salesforce appeared to allow a conversation with a customer and referenced Salesforce’s Chatter. Salesforce’s sales team are known for putting on a slick show in presales meetings so I thought I would dig deeper to see if there was any meat in the Salesforce social sandwich.

So What Does it Mean to Be Social Anyway?

My thoughts on this matter have been strongly influenced by the Cluetrain Manifesto. Here is a blog I wrote almost a year ago about what it says about authentic conversations, the not-so-new business of being social and how CRM systems can step up.

Outlook 2010 is certainly socially aware allowing a user to enter their LinkedIn and Facebook information and see similar details about the people they send and receive emails from. Similarly, Live Messenger 2011 now links through to the same and automatically updates statuses across the social platforms as you tweet. They are aware of social applications but I am not sure this is generating authentic conversations with customers. So what about Dynamics CRM?

The above blog article links to the CRM Social accelerator:

and a great five minute overview of how the accelerator lets CRM users ‘tap the conversation’

The bad news is the update by twitter of their authentication method last year broke the accelerator. My understanding is an updated version will be coming out soon for the latest version of Dynamics CRM, which is good to hear. For those that cannot wait the accelerator is free and open source so feel free to hack, as required.

At this level Salesforce offers a similar ability.

Whether it has to do with Salesforce being cloud-native or the fact that Twitter and Facebook have great APIs for developers to hook into really does not matter. The fact is, just like the CRM Social accelerator, you can build similar functionality for Salesforce. Here is Salesforce’s version of the CRM Social accelerator:

It was not clear whether Salesforce charge for their twitter integration but, in terms of functionality, the two offerings appear to me to be  pretty similar.

So What About Chatter?

So if Dynamics CRM and Salesforce have similar capabilities for hooking into social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter, what else does Salesforce bring to the table? Is it this Chatter my prospect mentioned?

Here are the introductory videos for Chatter:

This looks like a great tool. It is an internal collaboration tool with the look and feel of Facebook. The closest Microsoft gets to this either SharePoint ( where you can create project sites, collaborate on documents, set up alerts etc. or Groove (now called Microsoft SharePoint Workspace

The best way to describe Groove is a cross between IM and SharePoint; you set up projects, you can chat online about them, you can take documents offline and work on them and you can edit documents real time (none of that checking-in/checking-out business). There are also other, third-party, collaboration sites such as BaseCamp ( which do similar things.

STOP PRESS: Aki Antman has pointed me in the direction of OfficeTalk ( This appears to be an Office skunkworks version of Chatter.

So how much does Chatter cost? Initially Salesforce wanted to charge $50 per user per month ( Either because Salesforce are just really nice guys or because they did not get sufficient take-up of the product, a year later this has now come down to $0 per user per month for Salesforce users and $15 per user per month for non-Salesforce users within an organisation using Salesforce (

If Salesforce are authentic to their ‘open’ standpoint they will provide the ability to hook any CRM into Chatter. I can definitely see the potential of using Dynamics CRM and linking this through to Chatter where organisations do not want to use SharePoint either on-premise or as part of the Office 365 offering .

So Is Salesforce a ‘Social App’?

I started out wondering what makes Salesforce a ‘social app’ and Dynamics CRM a ‘snapshot of history’ and I am still drawing a blank. Chatter is an internal collaboration tool; it does not capture conversations with customers. Perhaps my definition is too narrow but, to me, a social application, and specifically social CRM, is about tapping into the conversations customers and potential customers are having and engaging with those people in a relevant conversation. In this regard we have the Dynamics CRM Social accelerator and the Salesforce Service Cloud twitter integration. No differentiation there.

If we expand the definition of ‘social’ to include internal collaboration, there is no doubt Chatter is a great-looking application but, in terms of functionality, it still does not bring much more to the table, compared to SharePoint and the SharePoint Workspace. In fact, with the cloud version of SharePoint, you can even collaborate with customers, who log on securely with their Live ID. From what I can tell Chatter can only be shared internally. Certainly there is not enough between the products to write one off to the annals of history.

Unfortunately it seems the whole “Salesforce is the future, Microsoft is the past” patter is more sizzle than steak. Both offer cloud CRM solutions, both allow the ability to hook into third party applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, and both have integrated collaboration tools (Chatter for Salesforce and SharePoint for Dynamics CRM).

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Queensland Floods, Disaster Recovery and the Cloud

For those of you outside of Australia, there has been something of a major disaster over here (if you are reading this and are a small or medium-sized business in Brisbane, go to the end for a free backup offer from Microsoft). A flood that has covered an entire state. For countries such as the USA or the UK, this is obviously not good but does not sound like the end of the world. After all, states are only small things relative to a country aren’t they? To give it context, Australia’s mainland is about the size of the USA and is divided into six major state/territories. Queensland, where the flooding is, is the second largest.


Here is another image showing how the size of Australia compares to the USA and the area of flooding (outlined in blue):


In words, imagine an area stretching from the North/South Carolina border to the east, going west into Arkansas and getting close to Oklahoma, north as far as Illinois and south as far as Alabama. Australia is a relatively flat country so when it floods, it really floods.

The area on the map is, in my opinion, an underestimation. The numbers regarding the flood are here:

We have an estimated damage bill of $20b (Australia’s dollar is about 1:1 to the US$ at the moment) and an estimated loss of GDP of $13b. Those are ‘b’s not ‘m’s and I have not missed the decimal point. (Queensland’s economy is strongly driven by mining, agriculture and tourism, all of which are being significantly impacted To give this some perspective, Amazon’s revenue last year was $24b ( Amazon would need to hand over the revenue (not profit) from every sale for 18 months to cover the estimated costs.

Three quarters of the the state of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. That is an area of 1.3 square kilometres (500,000 square miles). That is not far off the total land area of Alaska and is much larger than Texas and California combined. As a percentage of the USA landmass (50 states + DC), it is around 14% or one seventh.

What is more, the flood has also gone through Australia’s third most populous city, Brisbane. Brisbane has a population about the same size as Houston, Texas.

For the purposes of safety, electricity has been cut off to major areas of Brisbane. Literally over 100,000 homes and businesses were without power( Electricity will not be reconnected until the houses and buildings have been declared safe by a certified electrician. Given the volume of properties affected it could be weeks before some offices and homes restore power.

Sorry to Hear About the Floods But What Does This Have to do With Technology?

More and more our personal and professional lives depend on technology. As I write this, my internet connection is down. This is frustrating me in finding good links and pictures for the article but also for my co-workers who are struggling to do their job. Some have gone for a coffee until it comes back up. Imagine if you are in Brisbane, Australia. Servers could be being water-cooled in a bad way, you are possibly without electricity and possibly not be getting the power on for weeks. Moreover, the coffee shops are either flooded or closed because there is no electricity.

Let us say that I had the presence of mind to put in place a disaster recovery plan. I have my backups in a location away from the office, I have a stand-by office waiting for my staff and servers at the ready. All I need to do now is get the backups, restore to the servers and get my staff working out of the temporary office for the next few weeks. Unfortunately many of the roads are cut off in Brisbane and public transport has stopped. Even if the disaster recovery office has power, I cannot get to my backups and it is likely I cannot get my staff to the disaster recovery offices.

So What is the Alternative?

Let us assume there are some areas of Brisbane on higher ground where the substations have not been turned off. These areas will have electricity and possibly a functioning internet. Similarly, my staff may have power and the internet at home but no way to get to the CBD. If only there was some way to access their applications and data via the internet.

This is, of course, the promise of the cloud. In the case of Microsoft there is Office 365 (, all the key Microsoft-shop components are on the cloud and out of the office. All people need is a laptop, a connection to the internet and electricity and they’re away. The cloud server is unlikely to fail from flood because it will be backed up to another server in a different country.

Microsoft Helping Out Small and Medium Businesses

For those in the Brisbane area reading this, while it is for data only and not applications, Microsoft are offering free backup to their Azure cloud for small to medium businesses in Brisbane for the next 30 days. Details are here:

The upshot is if you email and ask for the details they will send you instructions on getting your data from your servers to Azure and the login and password details for the Azure account. I have seen the instructions and they are aimed at Windows 7. If you are running something earlier than this, Catherine Eibner, the author of the above article suggests the Azure Storage Explorer in CodePlex ( This appears to allow any arbitrary files to get uploaded. You will still need to email BNEFlood to access a login and password for Azure.

STOP PRESS: MVPs Helping Out Small and Medium Business

Obviously there are many small to medium businesses in Queensland who are not on the cloud and will have lost their vital IT infrastructure. Some fellow Microsoft MVPs have come up with the Queensland IT Flood Relief Program ( Donate your old and unused IT equipment and they will refurbish it and get it up to Queensland to help those that need it most.


One of the key advantages of cloud applications is they are ‘hot swappable’. This gives advantage not only in disasters like floods but also for something as regular as an office move or for remote workers. An entire office can be moved and the technology can be up and running in the same day. Often it is the setup of the internet connection that is the bottleneck, not the reconfiguring of servers, as is often the case with on-premise servers.

Consider what would happen if your servers died tomorrow and also consider the advantages of moving key applications to the cloud.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Linking to Activities in Dynamics CRM 4

A common request is the ability to link to an activity for reporting purposes and transparency. It might be that we create a follow-up activity if we’re using version 4 (the form assistant and therefore the follow-up function are no longer available in CRM 2011) and we want to know what activity generated the action or we might want to link an opportunity to the appointment that generated it.

The Good News: Dynamics CRM 2011

The good news this is simple in CRM 2011. The activities work a lot like every other entity so you can add relationships and therefore link to activities via a lookup. Below I’ve added a new link to a ‘Source Appointment’ for my Opportunity.


Please note you can only link to a specific type of activity e.g. appointment, task etc., not to the activity entity itself.

So Is This Yet Another Blog Telling Me How Much Better My Life Would Be If I Upgraded?

Well yes and no. Things are a lot easier in CRM 2011 but you can work around them in version 4. The biggest problem is that you cannot add relationships to the Activity entities. It lists existing relationships but there is no facility to create new ones.


So while we can set a one-to-many from Appointment to Opportunity in CRM 2011, this is not an option in CRM 4.

The Trick Is To Use Web Links

Basically, every record in CRM has a web address associated to it. You can see this in the web client in the address bar at the top. If the address bar is not visible, simply click on Ctrl-F11 and it will appear.


Therefore if we can add this URL to the Activity form, we can link back to another Activity.

This is where the other trick comes in. It is really easy to add a text attribute to a CRM form. What is not commonly known is you can force this text field to accept only web addresses. When you create the text attribute, you can specify the format as ‘URL’. Please note, increase the maximum length of this attribute to at least 200 as it is really easy for the URL to exceed 100 characters.


Getting The URL

The easiest way to get the URL is to turn on the address bar with Ctrl-F11 and copy and paste to the appropriate record. You can have CRM automatically display the web address by turning off ‘application mode’ in the back end of CRM but, in my opinion, occasionally pressing Ctrl-F11 is not a big deal and keeps the illusion you are using an application and not a web client.


There is the option of using the Copy Shortcut function under the Actions menu but this is a less elegant solution as it not only copies the URL but also a bit of text at the front with the title. The format looks like this:


When you then paste this into the field, it keeps the title but drops the actual URL. To make it work you have to do something like select the Send Shortcut option and from the resultant email record copy and paste the web address bit. This seems like a lot more work than our good friend Ctrl-F11.

So there you have it, you now have the ability to link any record to any other record (including restricted records such as activities) as long as you’re happy to click through a link.