You need a CRM vision to gather momentum around such a large – and potentially strategic initiative. The first CRM vendor that gave us the tools to do so was Oracle with their CX vision.  Oracle’s point of view was that CRM enabled companies to support their customers in their end to end journey – nurturing relationships, and effectively driving revenue. This message had legs and sustained their CRM efforts for over a decade.

Today, two distinct, and compelling visions for CRM dominate. They come from Salesforce and Microsoft. Salesforce communicates a “customer company” vision, where effectively engaging with customers delivers success. It urges companies to think about “art of the possible” and when coupled with strong customer-centric execution, it allows companies to transform their businesses. They do so, by going “all-in” with Salesforce – they use  Salesforce’s front-office applications, AppExchcange partner solutions and their platform for custom development. Yet, this transformation does not come cheap.

Microsoft is a different story. Microsoft’s vision is to democratize CRM – to make CRM data and actions ubiquitous within, for example office productivity applications like Calendar and Outlook. This empowers employees with with a  view of their customers, their interactions and operations. It allows every front-office worker to “get closer to their customer.”

At the core of their offering – and perhaps their biggest strategic differentiator – is a common data model for office productivity applications, front-office applications (sales, service, field service, project management), employee apps (talent management), and back office applications (finance, operations, asset management and IoT).

These applications are all built on a common platform, and Microsoft offers tools to build custom applications. They also have a nascent application exchange, and rely on partners for extensions to their core offering.

This common data model bridges the gap between historically separate front and back office data repositories. It allows companies quickly create reports that synthesize data from different parts of their business  – for example to combine customer and operational data in order to derive better insights. It allows businesses to ask harder questions, to focus on operational outcomes that help them transform and differentiate.