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Why do we need the CRM platform wars in the enterprise?

The platform wars between Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, etc., feed innovation in the marketplace, but they can also be detrimental to the cause.

With the presence of Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce, etc., in today's market, it is smart to consider the question...

of what the CRM platform wars mean for the everyday users. There are benefits to the platform wars, as well as a downsides.

The good. The platform wars are good in that there is functional consolidation from the enterprise point of view, which is a very wise.

Looking back at SAP, for instance, 20 years ago, their ERP platform was really the only name in town. Everyone wanted to do an ERP implementation because it included basically 90% of the necessary business functionality in a single platform, which was very desirable. What we learned then, and what we've all been convinced of since, is that kind of monolithic deployment will basically eat you alive. And I think the platform wars that we're seeing now are a 21st century answer to that 20th century problem.

I think having these cloud technologies out there that are well-integrated and that solve a host of enterprise challenges and problems all in one pass is a great thing. I think the fact that they are competing nose to nose and beating the daylights out of each other, in terms of feature wars and trying to get to the market first with the best new product, is very healthy. It spurs innovation between competitors.

The bad. I think where the platform wars become unhealthy is when the giants enterprises are so powerful that, say, Microsoft can gobble up LinkedIn for pocket change.

The more of this gobbling up that happens, the more we will see the whole tech universe funneling in directions that are not as diverse and as rich as what we've had for the past decade. We've had a mixture of young upstarts who had the power and the innovation to challenge the giants.

The fact that Microsoft, Salesforce and IBM are giants in the industry, readily able to scoop up other smaller companies in the Fortune 500, is going to stunt innovation and growth. Even though it's a shortcut that is understandable, as these giants want to shell out a few billion dollars and get a whole lot of functionality in one pass, it can be detrimental as a whole.

Buying up functionality does save time, but it also cuts down on the one asset that we need: competitive innovation. We need it in the marketplace, and we need it to continue at the pace that we've been seeing the past few years. 

Next Steps

Microsoft strengthens partnerships

IBM makes strides with analytics

SAP uses cloud for integration

This was last published in April 2017

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What do you think the CRM platform wars contribute to the enterprise?
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'Choice' is always a net positive for the consumer, as well as the other 'c' word: Competition. Without competition, the big software won't innovate to the extent that the customer truly expects.

I, too, dislike monolithic players in the industry, but having them around gives the little guys a chance to shine in stark contrast. CRM platforms need to evolve and the smaller guys are often the most innovative and dynamic in their approach. Even when a Microsoft can buy up a LinkedIn, it can't move as fast to innovate as a smaller organization that starts with a whole new perspective.

I, for one, welcome the competition with open arms.

Brad Hodson
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