Light Weights
Entellium vs. SugarCRM
Middle Weights
Salesforce.com vs. Aplicor

Heavy Weights
Oracle OnDemand vs. SAP

Salesforce.com versus Aplicor

The No Holds Barred CRM Software Evaluation
Middle Weight Bout

Weighing in with more than 25,000 customers, billions in cash and the most vocal CEO in the CRM software as a service (SaaS) industry is the undisputed defending champion Salesforce.com.
The Challenger, a clear underdog looking for a Cinderella story line, comes with more 1,000+ user enterprise customers than any other SaaS contender – except Salesforce.com - accounts which include the US Department of Commerce, Prentice Hall, The World Bank, Cargill, NASA and France Telecom, is Aplicor.
Make no mistake about this rumble.This is no clash of the titans; it’s either a beating waiting to happen or a David and Goliath story.

DING

Round 1 – Vendor Strength

Salesforce.com comes out swinging with the largest on-demand user base in the SAAS industry. Salesforce.com delivers follow-on blows to the more nimble but hardly sizeable Aplicor with public company status, reservoirs of cash, a media machine that never stops and (paid) analyst quotes goosing out of its under-sized silk shorts.

Aplicor manages to get out of the ropes and deliver five years of solid company growth, continuously increasing profits, the highest number of CRM industry awards, the lowest customer churn, global delivery and ISO, NIST and CMMi certified quality practices.

Aplicor’s best of class certifications are no match for Salesforce.com’s marketing machine and logo-built empire. Round one decision goes to Salesforce.com.

Round 2 – Implementation

Hoping to make this a short fight, Salesforce.com smells blood and goes in for the kill. Salesforce.com shows that with a user interface design that rivals Amazon.com, implementation efforts and user training are often overstated, reduced in scope and completed in a fraction of the time of Aplicor. For more enterprise accounts, Salesforce.com leverages large system integrator relationships with Accenture, IBM and BearingPoint.

Aplicor bounces back and shows no signs of an early knock-out. The contender hits back with a proven enterprise implementation methodology, strong supporting implementation tools, its own global business partnerships and a professional services consulting team made up of former Accenture, IBM and BearingPoint partners and senior consultants.

While a respectable response, Aplicor fails to destabilize the heavyweight champion and offers too little comeback to change this fight’s momentum. Round 2 goes to Salesforce.com.

Round 3 – Integration

Salesforce.com enters the round with the Apex API (application program interface), which it says accounts for more than half of its own daily transactions, and the Apex Connect family of five alternative integration methods. While a deep and flexible solution, the complexity holds back this fighter from doing serious damage to the challenger.

Aplicor refuses to back down and offers its AXIOM (Aplicor XML Integration Object Model) Web services gateway to expose the CRM architecture and enable a straight-forward system integration leveraging SOA (service oriented architecture) and XML-based standards specifications which expose all Aplicor Data Services (XML schema, Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) document, and complete data dictionary) and permit system administrators to create their own Web services integration in a graphical environment.

The crowd is silenced; however, the judges who also moonlight as system administrators show their bias toward the Aplicor integration simplicity. Round three decision goes to Aplicor.

Round 4 – Customization

Salesforce.com gets a second wind with its Apex programming language. Salesforce.com uses this semi-Java like development language to beat not just Aplicor, but to crush an entire industry of development tools such as Microsoft .NET and Java which Salesforce.com says are inferior in meeting the development needs in a SaaS world.

Aplicor counters Salesforce.com’s custom Apex development language with its .NET-based graphical Visual Designer toolkit. Aplicor expands this assault with drag-and-drop customization, creation of custom pages and elimination of clumsy syntax or line scripting.

At the bell, Aplicor screams to the judges that Apex is proprietary (invented and used by nobody but Salesforce.com), requires clients to acquire yet more in-house technical skills and comes with a set of hand-cuffs to accompany Salesforce.com’s technology lock-in.

The referee confers with the judges. Unfortunately for Salesforce.com, the referee’s taken a few too many blows to the head himself and is no longer willing or capable of learning another scripting language in order to perform software customization. Aplicor’s graphical drag-and-drop customization capabilities make this the most decisive round so far. Round four decision goes to Aplicor.

Round 5 – User Adoption

Noticeably upset from the prior round, Salesforce.com begins to show more aggression and illustrates strong ease of use by delivering a CRM solution that leverages the design and intuitiveness of eBay, Yahoo or Amazon. Salesforce.com users yell from the crowd that the user interface requires little training and user adoption far exceeds the prior era of client/server CRM software solutions.

Aplicor counters the ease of use claim with several industry awards citing its solution with the greatest ease of use. Aplicor then cites a lower client churn as proof of higher user adoption. To dominate this round, Aplicor then hits Salesforce.com with its one-click-to-anywhere navigation.

The judges appear confused, or at best uncertain. As both fighters struck serious blows to their opponent, the judges hesitate to declare a victor for this round. Both vendors are well ahead of all other SaaS fighters in this regard, however, neither fighter shows a material advantage over the other. However, an airplane banner flies overhead declaring an AlohaForce retreat to Hawaii for the judges after the smackdown. The silence and stalemate are broken. Round five goes to Salesforce.com.

Round 6 – User Productivity

Salesforce.com follows up a round dominated by ease of use with its newest productivity tool – Content Exchange – the tool to make unstructured content available and usable to knowledge workers. To remove any indecisiveness, Salesforce.com finishes the user productivity round with a hard hit for desktop integration to Outlook, Lotus Notes, Palm and Blackberry.

Aplicor makes its way out of the ropes and hits back with its own Content Management System (CMS) for unstructured data and similar groupware synchronization tools for Outlook, Exchange, Lotus Notes, Palm and Blackberry. Then in an attempt to gain the upper hand, Aplicor hits again with its Workflow Designer business process automation tool – claiming that it alone can automate customer-facing processes (in a best practices fashion) in order to remove manual labor and make users more productive.

The judges recognize that business process automation can deliver major labor savings and increased user adoption. Further investigation reveals that Salesforce.com's workflow creation is limited to field configuration and a challenging user interface while Aplicor's Workflow Designer is a graphical tool with more empowerment. Round six goes to Aplicor.

Round 7 – Software Breath

Aplicor comes out swinging with an enterprise-wide, integrated front-to-back business systems suite which includes CRM, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CMS (Content Management System) and Business Intelligence (BI). The impact of one integrated system delivered from a single vendor, with one contract, one invoice, one SLA (service level agreement) and one support source is clearly a body blow to Salesforce.com.

Not ready to hit the canvas anytime soon, Salesforce.com comes back hard with AppExchange – the self proclaimed eBay of third party software programs that elevates Salesforce.com from a CRM one trick pony to a platform software company with its sights on Microsoft.

In a clash at the bell, Aplicor throws two decades of failed multiple vendor business software solutions in the face of Salesforce.com. The coach’s spring to the ring to separate the fighters and Salesforce.com yells from its corner “not this time, not with SaaS, not with AppExchange, this time multiple vendor solutions will work as promised!”

The judges confer while the fighters return to their corners and the coaching teams exit the ring. The referee acknowledges prior era failures when trying to link multiple vendor solutions together, however, the sheer volume of AppExchange shows the momentum for SaaS to do better than prior eras and gives this round to Salesforce.com.

Round 8 – Software Depth

Salesforce.com shows hesitation entering this round. The fighter changes tactics and pounds Aplicor again with Apex and AppExchange in order to deliver a seemingly endless availability of software depth and feature sets.

Aplicor smells weakness and counters with seemingly more user-defined configuration options, selling automation, key performance indicators and granular security. Within seconds of the bell, Aplicor hits Salesforce.com with performance metrics displaying results and trends for selling, marketing and support transactions and processes.

After the bell, the judges engage in vigorous debate. While software feature sets, functionality and depth are critical to accommodate an organization’s business processes and system requirements, required functionality is unique to any organization. Nonetheless, more flexible configuration and performance metrics clearly make sense for most enterprise CRM organizations. This round goes to Aplicor.

Round 9 – Hosted Delivery

This is a round of great anticipation. The crowd knows that Salesforce.com lost a prior fight when its CRM service incurred repeated downtime and that Salesforce.com retreated to an undisclosed training camp working out 12 hours per day while listening to eye of the tiger. The round starts with Salesforce.com showing its muscle with Mirrorforce – the introduction of three North American data centers providing redundancy from San Jose, San Francisco and Northern Virginia. Salesforce.com follows with trust.salesforce.com – a web site which shows daily uptime or downtime. Salesforce.com then tries to end the round with a one-two punch of Offline Edition (a portable briefcase of customer information and sale opportunities) and AppExchange Mobile for wireless access.

Aplicor counters Salesforce.com’s three regional data centers with three global data centers in the US, UK and Asia Pac for greater preparedness and superior international customer service delivery. In a toe to toe rabbit punch exchange, Aplicor shows four years of uptime visibility and key hosting delivery benchmarks at www.aplicor.com/sla.htm, and then shows its own Offline Edition and Aplicor Wireless solutions – however, scores more points as these solutions incur no extra cost. To dominate this round and leave its opponent reeling, Aplicor hits Salesforce.com with more than four years of 100% uptime history and a service level agreement (SLA) for all customers.

Salesforce.com claims a low blow by introducing the SLA. Aplicor insists that Salesforce.com customers miss SLAs more than Evander Holyfield misses his ear. The judges agree, send Salesforce.com a warning to backup its uptime claims with an SLA and awards the round to Aplicor.

Round 10 – Customer Satisfaction

Surprised by the judges prior round decisions and needing to clearly prevail over the pint sized competitor, Salesforce.com reverts back to its tremendous success with over a half million users (and growing), semi-annual release of new software versions and cult-like user groups. Salesforce.com shakes up Aplicor with a changed focus from CRM to the delivery of a ‘business operating system’ platform – capable of limitless endeavors with or without CRM and promoting the evolution to CRM 2.0 and beyond.

Aplicor responds by claiming to trump marketing spin and futuristic rhetoric with a CRM focused solution for today’s CRM requirements and objectives. To counter Salesforce.com’s skyrocketing growth, Aplicor responds with much less growth, but much higher (98.4%) customer retention and more independently documented customer case studies.

At the close of this round, the judges seem to show indecisiveness. The judges note Aplicor’s customer retention as a core CRM tenant, however, cannot deny Salesforce.com of the extraordinary customer acquisition accomplishment. This round goes to Salesforce.com.

Decision – A tie results for the first time in CRM-Smackdown fight history. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff yells from his front row ringside seat that with the Dali Lama as a customer he has God on his side and is unstoppable (click here for the Benioff mistake of religious proportion) and then retreats to his private jet with personal masseuse, nutritionist, photographer and entourage in tow.

Scoreboard Summary

Round
Fight Tactic
Decision
1
Vendor Strength
Salesforce.com
2
Implementation
Salesforce.com
3
Integration
Aplicor
4
Customization
Aplicor
5
User Adoption
Salesforce.com
6
Productivity
Aplicor
7
Software Breadth
Salesforce.com
8
Software Depth
Aplicor
9
Hosted Delivery
Aplicor
10
Customer Satisfaction
Salesforce.com

The Rematch

The fighters hadn't even left the ring before there were calls for a rematch. This was unquestionably one of the most spirited web-based CRM software evaluations we've performed and we would like to schedule a rematch with a new set of judges and possibly new evaluation criteria. If you are extremely knowledgeable with either Salesforce.com or Aplicor and are willing to perform an online CRM review, please send your contact information to webmaster@crm-smackdown.com. Please be advised that this exercise generally requires approximately 60 to 80 hours of effort and is guaranteed to get you flamed.

Aplicor Software Evaluation | Salesforce.com Software Review | Web Site Terms and Conditions