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The Forrester Wave™: CRM Suites, Q4 2018

The 11 Providers That Matter Most And How They Stack Up


Forrester defines CRM as:
The business processes and supporting technologies that support the key activities of targeting, acquiring, retaining, understanding, and collaborating with customers.

Improvements to operational efficiencies have been the key benefit of CRM and are easy to quantify. This has led AD&D pros to widely deploy CRM in organizations of all sizes — large and small. However, gains in operational efficiencies have become table stakes. The value of CRM has shifted toward helping organizations better support customers in their end-to-end engagement journeys to garner their satisfaction and long-term loyalty — an outside-in perspective.

Modern CRM strategies enable differentiated customer experiences. They support customer interactions over a range of channels and touchpoints. How? By leveraging vast amounts of interaction, behavioral, and transaction data to enable contextual experiences that deliver value to the customer and preserve the value of the company brand. Modern CRM has evolved along the following dimensions to deliver differentiated experiences, and companies should look for providers that:

  • Support select business models and organizational sizes. The CRM needs of a B2B company are different than those of a B2C company — and of a midsize company compared with an enterprise. For example, B2B companies with complex, long-running sales and service cycles require more complex process management for quote-to-order and renewals than B2C companies where eCommerce may be the primary sales channel. CRM vendors are now much better at accommodating the right size and complexity of organization based on the inherent strengths of their feature sets.

  • Operationalize intelligence to impact outcomes. Enterprises that manage huge volumes of data struggle to pinpoint optimal offers, discount levels, product bundles, or the right content or knowledge for an interaction. They have difficulty focusing customer-facing employees on the tasks that matter most to the business. CRM vendors now offer comprehensive intelligence strategies to uncover insight and prescribe the right action for the business user to take in customer-facing interactions.

  • Offer vertical editions. Horizontal CRM can only take you so far, as different industries have different requirements and lexicons for engaging with customers. CRM vendors increasingly offer editions — templates, common process flows, data model extensions, and UI labels — pertinent to specific industries as well as personnel with deep domain expertise.

  • Expose platform services. Silos of data and processes within enterprises emerge as enterprises purchase CRM not as a unified suite but as discrete sales, marketing, customer service, and eCommerce applications. As a result, platforms that unify data, processes, and security within various enterprise CRM deployments are rising in importance. Platforms also allow developers or business analysts using low-code tooling to create applications that extend capabilities within packaged CRM.

  • Invest in ecosystems of value. CRM users on the frontlines can't serve modern customers using only core CRM. They struggle with duplicate work or manual call wrap-up procedures, which decrease their productivity and limit their effectiveness. Today, CRM vendors have invested in application exchanges. These application exchanges contain an ecosystem of point solutions such as eSignature capture, automated data capture, dialers, and schedulers — to name a few — that extend and enhance the power of core CRM. CRM vendors invest in and curate these application exchanges to varying degrees.

  • Enhance client relationships through partners and customer success programs. In a mature market, you have to dig deep to find real differences between vendor offerings. CRM success depends on the right choice of consulting partners to implement and integrate your solution. Look for CRM vendors that have mature consulting services, regional and global strategic services partners, and investments in customer success to properly onboard customers and actively manage customer relationships.


Our Forrester Wave™ evaluation highlights the fact that even though core CRM capabilities are mature, CRM vendor suites are still evolving. Technologies such as AI are introducing new efficiencies into CRM processes, and acquisitions such as configure-price-quote (CPQ) and eCommerce are expanding the footprint of CRM.

This evaluation found that vendors fall into two distinct categories: Vendors such as Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP have best-of-breed, discrete applications suitable for enterprise deployments; have composed their CRM suites via acquisition; and are now dedicated to unifying these acquisitions. Vendors such as bpm'online, Microsoft, NetSuite, and SugarCRM have streamlined capabilities more suitable for midsize organizations and offer CRM capabilities on a unified platform. However, in all cases, the focus on supporting end-to-end business transformation — that crosses the front, mid, and back office — becomes top of mind for all vendors. Some offer full front- and back-office business suites, which include CRM; others offer industry editions; and yet others offer packaged adapters and integration frameworks to back-office applications.

We intend this evaluation of the CRM suites market to be a starting point only and encourage clients to view detailed product evaluations and adapt criteria weightings to fit their individual needs through the Excel-based vendor comparison tool ( SEE_FIGURE 1 and SEE_FIGURE 2 ). Click the link at the beginning of this report on to download the tool.

Figure 1: Forrester Wave™: CRM Suites, Q4 2018

 Figure 2: Forrester Wave™: CRM Suites Scorecard, Q4 2018



Forrester included 11 vendors in this assessment: Aptean, bpm'online, CRMNEXT, Infor, Microsoft, NetSuite, Oracle, Pegasystems, Salesforce, SAP, and SugarCRM ( SEE_FIGURE 3 ).

Figure 3: Evaluated Vendors And Product Information



Our analysis uncovered the following strengths and weaknesses of individual vendors.


  • Oracle delivers business transformation beyond the front office. Oracle's far-reaching vision is to enable the connected digital enterprise by integrating data, intelligence, and experiences across B2B and B2C customer journeys that span the front and back office. Oracle CX Cloud is part of Oracle's larger software-as-a-service business suite that includes enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management, and HR solutions. In addition, Oracle positions individual solutions within CX Cloud for B2B and B2C scenarios. Its road map introduces new clouds (for example, a subscription management cloud), deepening capabilities within those new clouds, and intelligence infused across the CX suite. Although each product has thousands of customers, just over 600 of those customers own three or more products that are integrated together.

  • Oracle delivers leading sales, marketing, customer service, and field service capabilities; however, its B2B and B2C Commerce Cloud lags behind. Customer references indicated that there is too much complexity in CX Cloud products, making them hard to learn. Oracle is dedicated to making its suite more than the sum of its parts, many of which it acquired. For example, the new Engagement Cloud offers sales and service capabilities on a single platform. Oracle has six packaged industry solutions that span front- and back-office functionality — and 12 lighter-weight ones. It has mature consulting services aimed at modernizing implementations, including quick-start packages.

  • Oracle CX Cloud is a good fit for B2B and B2C enterprises that are undergoing a business transformation and require the advanced capabilities of individual clouds.

  • Salesforce lays a foundation for smarter engagement on a broader scale. In keeping with Forrester's age-of-the-customer theme, Salesforce puts the customer at the center of its vision, where its products connect customers and companies to enable success. It urges companies to think about the "art of the possible." This, in combination with its vast application ecosystem (AppExchange), its low-code platform, and its approach to interactive learning (Trailhead), has allowed it to penetrate an installed base of more than 150,000 customers both large and small. Customers like Salesforce. A third of its customer base use more than one CRM product. Its road map is deeply focused on increasing user productivity, making AI consumable within its products, and broadening its portfolio. It recently acquired a B2B commerce solution (CloudCraze) and an integration framework (MuleSoft), which has special appeal to the enterprise.

  • Salesforce's strength is in its broad end-to-end portfolio that caters to both B2C and B2B organizations. However, it especially excels in B2C marketing and commerce compared with its B2B product counterparts. Salesforce has done well at operationalizing intelligence scenarios across the suite so that users can quantify results. The vendor offers six industry-specific solutions (financial services, healthcare, government, education, nonprofit, and philanthropy). Weaknesses include Salesforce's current product integrations and tooling consistency, which are fragmented as a result of its myriad acquisitions. Customers also find Salesforce expensive and cite account management struggles, which Salesforce is addressing by revamping its customer success processes.

  • Salesforce best suits enterprises looking for a vendor to help actualize a front-office business transformation.

Strong Performers

  • SAP takes a renewed interest in CRM and uses acquisitions to fill portfolio gaps. Recently, SAP rebranded its cloud CRM suite to C/4HANA, which consists of the SAP Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud (which includes products from the Coresystems acquisition), Customer Data Cloud (which includes products from the Gigya acquisition), and Sales Cloud (which includes products from the CallidusCloud acquisition). SAP's vision for its CRM suite is to have a single data model, to adopt the SAP Fiori user experience across all products, and to use SAP Leonardo for AI-driven scenarios. SAP's suite has a sound vision, but its CRM suite is a work in progress with a two-plus-year horizon for actualization. Its road map is focused on executing this vision and rationalizing recent acquisitions.

  • The natively developed sales and service clouds offer core capabilities, while the best-in-class commerce, CPQ, and field service products that it acquired shine. SAP has a nascent application marketplace and a smaller, but growing, developer ecosystem compared with others we evaluated in this Forrester Wave. In addition, customers found issues with the variability of account management, implementation, and finding trained resources on the suite. SAP has invested heavily in building out vertical functionality and making product acquisitions that appeal to retail, financial services, telecommunications, and utilities customers.

  • SAP C/4HANA is best suited for companies that are committed to SAP in the back office and are looking for a front-office CRM solution to provide differentiated end-to-end engagement.

  • Microsoft democratizes CRM for employees but lacks commerce capabilities. At the core of Microsoft's Dynamics 365 are a common data model and platform for office productivity applications; front-office CRM applications, which include project management and talent management; and back-office applications (finance, operations, and asset management). Microsoft's "digital feedback loop" vision is to bridge the gap between historically separate front and back offices as well as people, partners, and customers. Its road map is grounded in three themes: investing in core capabilities, integrating with other Microsoft applications such as LinkedIn and Bing, and infusing intelligence in all products. This is a compelling vision and, coupled with the attractive price point, contributes to its growing market presence.

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides strong across-the-board sales, customer service, and field service with embedded intelligence that customers rated highly. This drives prescriptive advice scenarios to help optimize sales outcomes, monitor customer health, make contextual recommendations, and provide predictive service. Its nascent B2B marketing capabilities, where it relies on its Adobe partnership for more advanced scenarios, are a weakness. It also lacks a native CPQ engine and only has eCommerce capabilities for retail. Microsoft offers more than 30 lighter-weight industry templates that complement those available from its broad partner network. Customers were positive on Microsoft's onboarding and customer success programs as well as its tooling geared toward streamlining implementation.

  • Microsoft is best suited for B2B companies that are committed to the Microsoft technology stack and leverage other Microsoft solutions.

  • Pegasystems couples decisioning with engagement but needs to grow its ecosystem. Pegasystems envisions the convergence of customer engagement and digital process automation, which gives it a unique story in the CRM marketplace. (see endnote 1) It leverages its deep roots in business process and case management to design, orchestrate, and automate real-time customer journeys across channels. Its CRM is architected on a unified platform, underpinned by a decision hub that consumes journey and interaction data. Sophisticated next best actions optimize customer engagement. Pegasystems' CRM road map is focused on increasing the breadth of intelligence scenarios, which improve when and how CRM users interact with their customers. It is also focused on increasing its breadth of process automation. Pegasystems has an installed base of around 500 customers, of which few use the entire CRM suite.

  • Pegasystems' B2C marketing and customer service solutions are excellent, but they are heavyweight. The company also offers process-centric sales and field service capabilities but lacks eCommerce. Pegasystems extends its suite with robotic process automation and desktop analytics, both of which help automate operational processes that underpin customer journeys. Pegasystems has robust industry solutions in financial services, telco, insurance, healthcare, and utilities. Customer references were delighted with its decisioning prowess but were hampered by the lack of training resources and the developer ecosystem available to maintain the solution.

  • Pega best suits large enterprise buyers in regulated industries with complex needs or industries looking for process automation of journeys that cross the front and back offices.

  • bpm'online brings a personal touch for CRM success, but it's for midsize companies. bpm'online offers sales, marketing, and customer service applications that aim to be easy to implement, use, and change via configuration or customization — embodying its vision of enabling business agility. This is especially appealing to the midmarket customers it targets, although it is setting its sights on enterprise customers. Its road map centers on easing customizations and increasing the number of packaged connectors, its depth of administrator tooling, and its breadth of prescriptive actions. A third of bpm'online's 7,000 customers, located primarily in Europe, use the vendor's full suite.

  • The core of bpm'online's CRM platform is a business process management engine that enables customers to model, deploy, and optimize customer experiences across the journey. Process management standardizes user actions, and intelligence optimizes product offers, bundles, next best steps for marketing campaigns, sales activities, and customer service processes. Strengths include its strong support for role-based sales processes, omnichannel customer service, and solid B2B marketing capabilities. It goes to market primarily via a partner network, yet the company retains a highly personal touch with excellent account management practices, as noted by customer references. Weaknesses include its lack of an eCommerce solution, the small number of prebuilt integrations, and depth in reporting. The vendor offers 24 lighter-weight industry templates for vertical solutions — a lot in comparison with other vendors.

  • bpm'online is especially suited to midsize B2B companies that rely on a process-centric CRM solution heavily infused with decisioning to streamline customer engagement.


  • SugarCRM powers long-running customer relationships but lacks feature depth. SugarCRM's vision is to empower CRM users to better engage their midsize customers in industries characterized by long-term and complex customer relationships — a vision that it has recently honed. It actualizes this vision by surfacing journey and relationship data and account health to every CRM user. Its road map centers around boosting user adoption, automating business processes, and maximizing employee productivity so that the CRM user can focus on nurturing customer relationships instead of data entry. SugarCRM has an installed base of more than 6,000 customers, most of which use the full suite.

  • SugarCRM builds its unified suite of products almost exclusively with open source components. This allows customers to easily extend it via configuration, customization of core code, or add-on modules available through its large partner and developer communities. Product highlights include embedded market intelligence, sales productivity functions, and customer journey visualizations that surface key customer milestones. SugarCRM performs well in supporting complex workflows, conversations, and handoffs between teams of buyers and sellers. However, the suite has nascent field service capabilities and lacks a commerce solution. SugarCRM has heavily invested in reporting but lacks deep analytics capabilities. In addition, it has no canned vertical solutions; instead, it relies on its domain expertise and partners to target high-skill professional services, manufacturing, and financial services markets.

  • SugarCRM best suits larger midsize organizations with unique business processes that are looking for customization flexibility at an affordable price.

  • NetSuite delivers a 360-degree customer view, but back office is its real sweet spot. NetSuite CRM is part of a suite that also includes ERP, accounting, professional services automation, and human capital management. NetSuite's core vision is to deliver a 360-degree customer view via a unified front- and back-office solution across point-of-sale, in-store, mobile, contact center, web, and sales-rep touchpoints. To date, NetSuite has executed on this vision, but innovation is much more heavily weighted toward the back office than toward its CRM. Its CRM road map includes boosting user productivity, enhanced reporting and analytics, better global customer and process support, and tighter integration with Oracle products. Oracle acquired NetSuite in 2016, and its sales and services infrastructure has fueled its growth to more than 40,000 customers for the full suite, although not all of them use NetSuite's CRM.

  • NetSuite CRM's strength is the breadth of omnichannel capabilities that it delivers on a single, extensible platform with a unified data model and tooling. The product has solid eCommerce and sales — and basic marketing — functionality. Although NetSuite offers connectors to Act-On, Adobe, and Eloqua, customer references do not find these integrations seamless. Oracle solutions also extend its limited customer and field service capabilities. NetSuite targets midsize organizations and divisions of enterprise organizations primarily in manufacturing, wholesale and distribution, software, services, advertising, media, publishing, nonprofit, and retail industries. It has a mature services organization that offers packages to help customers realize quick time-to-value as they grow their implementations.

  • NetSuite CRM best suits organizations that need a unified solution for front- and back-office functions of CRM, ERP, eCommerce, and financials.

  • CRMNEXT delivers intelligence but leans heavily toward financial services. CRMNEXT offers a process-centric CRM solution to support customer journeys from digital onboarding through all aspects of assisted service. It boasts very-large-scale implementations of well over 70,000 users in complex B2C environments.

  • CRMNEXT offers a unified marketing, sales, and service suite on a single platform that is scalable and has feature robustness and process centricity. Its sales solution includes quoting, seller coaching, guided selling, market intelligence, and sales performance management capabilities, while using predictive analytics for lead and opportunity scoring and forecasting. It ties marketing capabilities into sales activities well, so organizations can align marketing objectives to sales goals and track outcomes. The product includes core customer service features, including customer feedback management, that lack the depth of other vendors in this evaluation. It has no eCommerce functions. It supports low-code tooling for business analysts to create complex workflows and an integration engine for connection to back-office systems. CRMNEXT offers tailored solutions for retail and corporate banking securities, insurance, pharma, and media. It has little presence beyond Asia Pacific, and most deployments are primarily in India. It has a small partner and ISV network.

  • CRMNEXT best fits the CRM needs of large financial services firms looking to support complex processes.

  • CRMNEXT declined to participate in our research. Scores are based on Forrester estimates.


  • Infor's CRM is the foundation of its CX suite, which still needs time to mature. Infor's undifferentiated front-office vision is to accelerate customer engagement, drive profitability, and deliver enriched customer experiences. However, the vision comes to life when coupled with Infor's back-office products. Infor extends its core CRM solution with products for marketing resource management, campaign management, sales intelligence, CPQ, contract lifecycle management, commerce, and analytics for offer and campaign optimization. The road map promises improvements to user experiences, analytics, and its cloud offering. Infor CRM has a large installed base of more than 5,000 primarily midmarket customers. The company has plans to take its customer experience (CX) suite upmarket, which explains its acquisition of Birst to enhance business intelligence capabilities and its plans to launch an application marketplace for third-party solutions.

  • Infor CRM's strength is in its lead-to-cash support, which includes core sales capabilities, sales insights, sales performance management, and quoting. Its field service capabilities effectively handle reactive service, preventative maintenance, rework, and warranty management. It has broad support for omnichannel B2C marketing but relies on a partnership with Marketo for B2B marketing. Infor CRM offers industry editions for manufacturing, distribution, retail, hospitality, pharma, and healthcare. Customers are satisfied with account management practices but less enthusiastic about the depth of its user community and availability of trained partner resources.

  • Infor CRM is best suited for organizations in Infor's key verticals that focus on sales force automation and want packaged integration with other Infor products.

  • Aptean supports unique business practices with a back-office slant. Aptean offers a range of ERP, supply chain, manufacturing execution, asset management, and CRM solutions, with Pivotal CRM being its core CRM product. Its road map centers around enhancing user experiences across all devices, including mobile; supporting on-premises, hybrid, or cloud deployment; API access; and enabling human-machine interactions (e.g., chatbots) to make CRM users more productive. Aptean has an installed base of more than 400 very satisfied customers.

  • Pivotal CRM offers foundational sales force automation, lead management, campaign management, marketing spend, and case management capabilities, blending the various functions together in a cohesive user experience to give the CRM user a quick understanding of the customer. It has a granular security model and offers solid reporting. The vendor delivers all capabilities on a unified platform, which has gone through a delightful UI refresh. The vendor lacks newer AI capabilities and feature sophistication like that found in other CRM suites, and support for eCommerce is available only via partner solutions. Pivotal CRM offers four industry solutions for financial services, discrete manufacturing, process manufacturing, and homebuilders that span the front and back offices.

  • Pivotal CRM is best suited for organizations that need deep industry support, integrations with other Aptean solutions, or to easily and cost-effectively connect to third-party solutions, including legacy solutions.

  • Aptean declined to participate in our research. Scores are based on Forrester estimates.


The Forrester Wave follows a publicly available methodology that involves screening vendors, detailed questionnaires, and customer reference checks. Find more information about the methodology in the Supplemental Material section of this report.

We evaluated vendors against 33 criteria, which we grouped into three high-level buckets:

  • Current offering. Each vendor's position on the vertical axis of the Forrester Wave graphic indicates the strength of its current offering. Key criteria for these solutions include sales force automation, CPQ, marketing automation, customer service, field service, business intelligence, and portfolio cohesion and consistency.

  • Strategy. Placement on the horizontal axis indicates the strength of the vendors' strategies. We evaluated product strategy, go-to-market approach, supporting services, ecosystem, and pricing.

  • Market presence. Represented by the size of the markers on the graphic, our market presence scores reflect each vendor's installed base and active users.

Vendor Inclusion Criteria

Forrester included 11 vendors in the assessment: Aptean, bpm'online, CRMNEXT, Infor, Microsoft, NetSuite, Oracle, Pegasystems, Salesforce, SAP, and SugarCRM. Each of these vendors:

  • Offers a portfolio of strong products comprising a CRM suite. Each CRM suite of applications that we included in this Forrester Wave has functionality in a minimum of three of the following CRM subdisciplines: marketing, sales force automation, customer service, field service, eCommerce, and customer analytics. We didn't include products promoted primarily as best-of-breed solutions for a single functional area.

  • Offers prebuilt integration between products it owns. Owned products must communicate. Each CRM suite of solutions has a minimum level of open standards support to enable integration with other applications.

  • Offers a solution suitable for enterprise organizations with complex requirements. The vendors that we included focus on and have references from large organizations with complex requirements. These requirements include the ability to scale on a global basis, manage end-to-end business processes, integrate into complex legacy environments, and manage large volumes of customer-related data.

  • Provides a solution targeted to multiple industries. The vendors that we evaluated target buyers across a diverse range of industries and business models, including B2B, B2C, and B2B2C.

  • Has customer references with at least $250 million in revenue. Each vendor must be able to provide customer references to attest to the platform's capabilities and viability.

  • Has a product now in general release and in use by customers. The solutions that we included have a specific release that is generally available at the time of data collection for this evaluation with references available for contact.


Online Resource

We publish all of our scores and weightings in an Excel file that provides detailed product evaluations and customizable rankings; access this tool by clicking the link at the beginning of this report on We intend these scores and default weightings to serve only as a starting point, and we encourage readers to adapt the weightings to fit their individual needs.

The Forrester Wave Methodology

A Forrester Wave is a guide for buyers considering their purchasing options in a technology marketplace. To offer an equitable process for all participants, Forrester follows to evaluate participating vendors.

In our review, we conduct primary research to develop a list of vendors to consider for the evaluation. From that initial pool of vendors, we narrow our final list based on a small number of inclusion criteria. We then gather details of product and strategy through a detailed questionnaire, demos/briefings, and customer reference surveys/interviews. We use those inputs, along with the analyst's experience and expertise in the marketplace, to score vendors. In accordance with the , Forrester asks vendors to review our findings prior to publishing to check for accuracy.

We include the Forrester Wave publishing date (quarter and year) clearly in the title of each Forrester Wave document. We evaluated the vendors participating in this Forrester Wave using materials that they provided to us by August 24, 2018, and did not allow additional information after that point. We encourage readers to consider how the market and vendor offerings change over time.

Vendors marked as nonparticipating vendors in the Forrester Wave graphic met our defined inclusion criteria but declined to participate in or contributed only partially to the evaluation. We score these vendors to the best of our ability according to our and publish their positioning along with participating vendors.

Integrity Policy

We conduct all our research, including Forrester Wave evaluations, in accordance with the posted on our website.


  1. " Refocus Process Automation To Rescue Your Digital Transformation. Enterprises struggle to transform to digital business because they don't automate the operational processes that underpin customer journeys. For more information, see the Forrester report "

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