When you think of CRM platforms, what’s the first name that comes to mind? For many business leaders, the answer is Salesforce – and with good reason. Salesforce owns a large percentage of the CRM market, accounting for nearly 25% of active CRM instances. As one of the industry leaders in CRM, Salesforce offers many of the most critical features and benefits most businesses look for when selecting a new solution for managing customer data and relationships.
Despite the platform’s popularity, it isn’t the right choice for everyone. In fact, some industries and business types, including AEC firms, are likely to obtain more benefits and ROI from an investment into another CRM platform, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 and aec360.
Why are Dynamics 365 and aec360 becoming an increasingly popular choice for AEC firms over Salesforce? Here are the factors that likely contribute to the decision.
Optimized for AEC firms
While most CRM systems were built to help organizations sell “widgets”, AEC firms have a unique use case for CRM software. The ability to leverage relationships and highlight unique intellectual capital, experience, and qualifications should be the centerpiece of an AEC firm’s CRM strategy.
Many CRM systems are designed to track contacts with current and prospective customers. However, the modern CRM goes well beyond simply maintaining contact information to support marketing engagement and sales outreach.
Dynamics 365 and aec360 make it possible to gain a 360-degree view of client relationships, both for employees of the firm and for relationships that exist within their professional networks. In tandem with aec360 from HSO Proserv, Dynamics 365 provides unique relationship intelligence capabilities that automate the capture of relationship and activity data through an integration with Outlook/Exchange. The system then connects those relationships across the firm, providing deep insights into all aspects of the relationship, from who knows whom, to who’s communicating with whom, and who’s worked with whom in the past. This valuable information can be used to make introductions, facilitate cross-practice selling initiatives, and put the best possible pursuit teams together.
The ability to track and articulate the firm’s experience is another invaluable benefit of this solution. Dynamics 365 offers an embedded experience management module for tracking detailed information about a firm’s projects and engagements, including what they did, who they did it for, and which team members were involved. Further, employee experience and qualifications can also be tracked and mined to highlight the unique capabilities of your potential project team. This data is critical to conveying expertise and experience and can be used to win similar projects.
While Salesforce can be customized to incorporate these features, the process would require a third-party vendor and significant investment. Dynamics 365 gets the edge due to its configurability and native integrations with popular enterprise applications involved in the capture of data such as Outlook/Exchange and Microsoft Teams.
User experience and adoption
Many AEC firms employ a seller/doer model, with key employees sharing responsibility for developing new business. Ensuring a seamless user experience is key to gaining user adoption and making the most out of your CRM investment.
While the user interfaces offered by Dynamics 365 and Salesforce are similar at a high level, Dynamics 365 gets the edge for user experience due to its process-driven-interface. Anyone who has used a Microsoft product will likely have little difficulty learning the nuances of Dynamics 365.
Salesforce, on the other hand, is its own animal. The system may require additional training for the average user to grasp.
Of course, each system can be customized to individual users. However, Dynamics 365 offers the more extensive customization options. Dynamics 365 also offers mobile access options for iOS and Android users.
Analytics and reporting
CRM data is only valuable if it is easy to access, analyze and share across the organization.
Salesforce offers limited reporting functionality without additional investment. While you can export static reports to Excel, Salesforce requires an Analytics Cloud subscription – at an additional expense – to enable advanced functionality.
Dynamics 365 offers many analytics and reporting features without additional investment. The platform enables immersive Excel experiences embedded in list views and interactive report exports, and the option to export to Excel from CRM for tablets and phones. Power BI users will benefit from pre-built and shareable reports templates to make it even easier to share mission-critical data.
Achieving high levels of productivity is important for AEC firms, where every hour of billable revenue counts. Using a CRM platform can be a time-consuming task – entering information, updating contacts or building reports takes time and effort. Any boost in productivity is worth its weight in gold, especially when that boost is seamless and effortless for users.
Dynamics 365 benefits from its integration with the entire Microsoft ecosystem. Power Automate and PowerApps help automate routine time-consuming processes. Microsoft’s Common Data Service (Dataverse) provides seamless integration with other applications used daily by many professional services firms, including Outlook, Office 365, Power BI and more. This integration ensures the efficient and accurate capture of data into Dynamics 365, and truly extends the system’s functionality beyond a simple CRM platform.
Salesforce lacks this extensive ecosystem and requires costly add-on connecters to support integrations and extended features.
Flexibility and customization
Few attributes of a software platform are as important as its flexibility. The ability to do many different things and be customized to a user’s exact needs is a major draw for many companies when comparing CRM platforms.
While Salesforce is certainly capable of executing many different functions, the system’s ability to adapt to an organization’s unique needs is limited. In many cases, businesses find themselves attempting to adapt to their Salesforce instance, rather than adapting the instance to their business.
Dynamics 365 benefits from nearly endless customization opportunities, which are further extended by the integration of Microsoft Power Automate and Microsoft PowerApps – not to mention the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem like Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. These tools and integrations make is easy to customize Dynamics 365 to fit the exact needs of a business, even the unique requirements of an AEC firm.
AEC firms must continually adapt to meet the changing needs of their clients. As the firm evolves, its CRM system must be capable of evolving at the same pace. No one wants to invest in a software solution, only to have it be obsolete or unwieldly in a few years or have to dump another capital investment into updating the system to meet the firm’s changing needs.
When it comes to future proofing, Dynamics 365 has the edge over Salesforce. Dynamics 365 is extendable and responsive, which makes it ideally suited for the growth and evolution of an AEC firm.
Pricing and licensing
Getting the most value for your investment is another important factor when considering a new CRM solution. Finding a vendor that offers the right product, at the right price, with the right terms is critical to your budget and ROI.
There are many things to consider when determining the true cost of a CRM solution, including the licensing fees, implementation expenses, support costs and the price of any required add-ons or customizations. You should also consider the number of licenses you need, as well as the different types of users throughout your organization.
Overall, Dynamics 365 offers a lower cost per user and includes many of the features and functionality AEC firms require without additional investment or subscriptions. Dynamics 365 also offers a lower total cost of ownership for storage, support, and sandbox, and the unified service dashboard and admin come with Office 365. Finally, Dynamics 365 offers more flexible licensing options than Salesforce to accommodate different user types and budgets.
Any issue that delays service delivery to its clients can significantly impact an AEC firm’s reputation and bottom line. This includes technical issues with enterprise software platforms.
When a technical issue arises with any software platform, including CRM solutions, it is crucial to resolve the problem as quickly as possible, or better yet, to avoid the issue altogether through proactive management of the software solution.
Dynamics 365 users are often treated to superior support than that offered to Salesforce users. Dynamics 365 has 99.9%-backed SLAs, while Salesforce does not. Which says it all where the quality of support is concerned.
Is Dynamics 365 the right fit for your firm?
Choosing the right CRM platform for your AEC firm can be difficult. Hopefully, the factors we’ve outlined will help. Contact us to speak to an aec360 expert and evaluate Dynamics 365 for your firm.