Forrester Wave CRM Suites for Mid-Sized Businesses – What it Means

Forrester Wave CRM Suites for Mid-Sized Businesses – What it Means

Finally, the much-anticipated Forrester Wave on CRM Suites for Mid-Sized Businesses Q4/2016 has been published by Kate Leggett and her team at Forrester Research.

Besides the usual suspects Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce, and SAP it covers 7 more vendors that fulfil Forrester’s definition of a CRM suite for mid-sized businesses.

This definition roughly is

  • To be considered a suite the software covers at least three of the CRM disciplines
    • Marketing
    • Sales Force Automation
    • Customer Service
    • Field Service
    • E-Commerce
    • Customer Analytics
  • There needs to be prebuilt integration between the products, if they are not within the same system; integration shall be via open standards to allow for integrating other applications.
  • The software needs to be targeted at organizations between 250 and 999 employees.
  • Multiple industries need to be targeted.

Of course, the solutions need to be in active use and there need to be customer references.

The Forrester Wave has some interesting results, some confirming what other people see, too, others somewhat surprising.



Let me start with the confirmations, continue with bits that surprised me, and close with an SAP specific view.

The Confirmations

Of course, we are talking cloud – cloud and nothing else.

As can be expected all vendors strive to deliver a toolset that helps their customers to deliver consistent customer experiences. Now I, and others, would argue that the experience is largely in the realm of the end customer and the users and that there is nothing like a ‘system of experience’. Delivering consistent experiences encompasses far more than a CRM suite. But then it is far easier (and sexier) to talk about delivering experiences than about systems of record and engagement that help in giving customers a great experience.

The CRM landscape has just exploded, yet is quite mature – which sounds like a contradiction in itself, but just shows the power of the cloud and modern architectures – in particular micro services – to drive innovation. Despite lots of consolidation going on in parallel, too, there are suites targeting different sizes of organizations, different industries. All of them deliver different breadth and width of functionality. Then there are plenty of best-of-breed vendors that may or may not commit to one of the major platforms; some of them may or may not be viable, or might just get acquired. In essence, smaller vendors try to eat the bigger vendors’ lunches and to push the contenders upmarket by providing good point solutions with great user interfaces. The contenders are responding by increased modularization, with acquiring functionalities they need to close their functional gaps, and with an ecosystem/platform play.

The ‘Triple I’ of Integration, Industry, Intelligence finally becomes key. To me it has been obvious for more than a decade but the concept now gets real traction. Integration and intelligence because of advances in technology, industry due to a realization that no one can be everything for everyone; this only bloats the systems and ultimately makes them clunky, expensive, and unmaintainable.

Finally, it is no surprise that the big 4 show up as leaders. Oracle, Microsoft and Salesforce are currently a given, and SAP worked hard on their strategy, messaging and delivery. Since 2016 they in my opinion have a very competitive solution set with their Hybris branded products. Salesforce still leads the pack but will feel some real challenge by Microsoft if they get their marketing functionality sorted and finally offered an integrated e-commerce solution. The latter could be a real push. Ah, yes, an improved pricing engine couldn’t harm, either – but that holds true for Salesforce, too.

The Surprises

Yes, there are a few. Starting with bpm’online. I wouldn’t have expected to see them as a leader, but apparently, they have significant strength in SFA and their platform, combined with transparent pricing and very happy customers. Congratulations. Build on these strengths, work on some of the perceived ‘weaknesses’ – I’d recommend e-commerce, marketing, and customer service to start with.

Pegasystems is not in. OK, looks like their client base is a bit too far on the Enterprise side.

SAP has a low score in e-commerce. What? Given Hybris being one of the strongest e-commerce solutions around, this is a bit of a surprise. Let me resolve this conundrum in the SAP section.

What this means for SAP

Welcome back amongst the leaders! This is long overdue, but SAP’s absence as a leader was largely self-inflicted. Poor strategy, poor messaging, poor products. Finally, this changed.

But why the low marks in the e-commerce section? The devil is in the detail. Forrester sees only a loose coupling of e-commerce to the rest of the suite. Hybris Commerce essentially is still seen as a standalone product that can be plugged into the CRM landscape. This, besides being a challenge for in-depth integration also leads to user experience challenges and a few product inconsistencies like having customer service functionality in Hybris Commerce as well as in Hybris Cloud for Service. But again, Hybris Commerce is one of the strongest e-commerce solutions around.

Then there are some smaller tidbits, which are mainly around Field Service, platform, and pricing – with the latter being a recurring, eternal topic. Increased pricing transparency would be a real boon. Regarding field service and platform SAP seems to be on a good way with the release of SAP HANA 2 and ongoing work in what SAP calls the high touch service area.

In closing, for SAP this Forrester Wave marks both, a success, and a little setback. The success lies in them having managed to make it back into the leaderboard, albeit barely, due to them now having resolved above three issues.

The setback lies in the fact that they haven’t been able to fully sell the integration story between e-commerce and the rest of the Hybris branded products. While the cloud for customer and marketing products are built on SAP HANA, Hybris Commerce is not. This is clearly a platform gap. Furthermore, the integration between Hybris Commerce and the other products still is limited. On the other hand Hybris Commerce not being built on SAP HANA can help SAP to sell into non SAP customer bases. So, I personally would not see it as much of a problem as Forrester does. Still, some more work is clearly necessary on both ends, technically as well as from a messaging point of view.

For more coverage on SAP, refer to below articles.