Salesforce vs Oracle: the battle of cloud CRM systems

Salesforce vs Oracle: the battle of cloud CRM systems

January 17, 2020

Roman Erohin

Salesforce Expert

The CRM software market looks predictable year in, year out. Salesforce keeps running the show, being closely followed by such behemoths as SAP, Oracle, Adobe, and Microsoft:

CRM software spending per vendor

In this article, we will examine Oracle vs Salesforce as closely competing CRM providers, whose rivalry however has a plot twist. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, worked for Oracle for 13 years. When he started Salesforce as a side project in 1999, Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, supported Benioff and even became the first shareholder of Salesforce as well as the member of the board of directors. However, once Benioff learned that Oracle was developing their own competing CRM, Ellison had to step down from the Salesforce leadership board in 2000.

After years of a public verbal feud between Benioff and Ellison, Salesforce and Oracle finally partnered again in 2013. Salesforce started to use the Oracle products, including databases and the Java platform. Ellison and Benioff waited out a bit and continued their love-hate relationship, but many believe these two billionaires have lots of respect for each other.

Before we get down to analyzing Oracle CRM vs Salesforce and their competing grounds, let’s look at each company’s history in order to understand the context of their success.

Salesforce’s journey

Similar to many big stories, Salesforce’s started in a small rented apartment, after the general product concept popped up in Marc Benioff’s head while he was swimming with dolphins in Hawaii. He realized he wanted to make buying software as easy as buying products on Amazon. As a result, Benioff and his developer team disrupted the notion of CRM with their software-as-a-service model where the solution was provided by subscription over the internet as a hosted CRM.

In the course of a decade, Salesforce expanded its CRM to Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud, as well as launched App Cloud, a platform-as-a-service for developing apps for the Salesforce ecosystem.

After that, further Salesforce innovations were spurred by big acquisitions. For example, the company bought Heroku to add more app development capabilities; the acquisition of MuleSoft boosted the integration potential; and Demandware became the basis for Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

Currently, Salesforce’s crown jewel is Einstein AI. The AI is embedded in the Salesforce products and makes the platform one of the smartest CRMs in the world.

Salesforce also runs an annual technology event called Dreamforce. It now brings together more than 171,000 IT professionals, innovators, and business leaders—comparing to just 1,000 attendees at the first Dreamforce conference in 2003.

Following his love for Hawaii and inspiration he draws from the islands, Benioff created a global Salesforce community dubbed Ohana (the Hawaiian word for family) that bounds together Salesforce employees, stakeholders, partners, and users.

What is Salesforce?

Oracle’s journey

Oracle’s story goes way back to 1977 when the company was founded by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner, Ed Oates, and Bruce Scott under the name of Software Development Laboratories. Ellison remained the CEO for a few decades until he stepped down from this role and became the executive chairman and CTO in 2014.

The company’s name was changed to Oracle in 1982 after its leading product the Oracle Database. One of the main reasons for its success in the following years was the use of the C programming language in their products, which made those compatible with most operating systems and platforms.

Another reason for the company’s rapid scaling is numerous acquisitions throughout its history. As a result, Oracle has grown to 137,000 employees, 430,000 customers, and offices in 175 countries.

Oracle’s product portfolio is quite extensive, but we’ve agreed to take a closer look at the Oracle CRM only. The on-premises system was launched in 1998 and expanded through a number of acquisitions, which added more products available on-premises (Siebel) and in the cloud (Oracle CX) to the CRM portfolio.

Oracle CX is biting at Salesforce’s market share with the identical cloud suite comprising Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and Commerce Cloud.

A bigger picture

Before we dive into the features that make ‘Salesforce CRM vs Oracle CRM’ a thing, let’s look at the two clouds side by side to get a bigger picture.

Salesforce CRM vs Oracle CRM

Salesforce vs Oracle CRM: a closer look

Now that we established the essential facts about both platforms, let’s inspect the seven areas where one or the other has an advantage.

#1. Implementation

Both platforms entail a steep learning curve. Our Salesforce consultants confirm that the more features and customizations are needed, the more implementation challenges it poses. However, to start using Salesforce, you just need to sign up. With Oracle, you need to first get in touch with their sales representative.

At the same time, Oracle products share a common codebase, allowing code reuse for various customizations and in-house integrations. In case of Salesforce, it tries to compensate for data sourcing from third-party integrations by providing extensive possibilities for low-code application development. The platform provides tools for building apps without requiring an intense participation of developers.

The bottom line

Thanks to its low-code requirements, Salesforce deployment and configuration is relatively simple. At the same time, to start with Oracle, you will require less integrations, which is obviously a winning point.

#2. Pricing

Both platforms bill for each product individually. Oracle doesn’t share pricing for its Clouds and prefers quoting on request. While surfing the web, you are likely to find quotes for the editions of Oracle Sales Cloud—they used to be public. Let’s compare Oracle Sales Cloud vs Salesforce Sales Cloud:

Oracle Sales Cloud vs Salesforce Sales Cloud

Though Salesforce is friendlier to start up with as well as to scale, you’ll need to pay for each add-on. All the prices, for Clouds and add-ons, are available on the website, except Marketing Cloud that is quotable on request.

At the same time, as Oracle doesn’t share costs publicly, the company may be more inclined to negotiating the overall pricing.

Both platforms offer free trials, so it’s possible to test-drive each to get an idea of their potential.

The bottom line

Salesforce’s pricing seems both more transparent and friendlier at a glance. Its editions are rigid, while Oracle provides some room for cost negotiation.

#3. Data integration

Both customer-experience suites are ideal for breaking down corporate silos, as they let data flow from different clouds to single dashboards. Marketing-to-sales, service-to-sales—easy!

Oracle CX can be integrated with Salesforce, SAP, and Oracle’s own cloud applications, such as E-Business Suite, JD Edwards Enterprise One, ERP, and more. It’s also possible to integrate the CX CRM with the on-premise Oracle Siebel CRM using pre-built connectors. Any other third-party systems can be integrated with the help of adapters (REST, SOAP, LDAP, FTP, and more).

Salesforce is justly criticized for relying too much on third-party data sources. To make up for this disadvantage, the company makes it extremely easy to integrate their platform with virtually any source you can think of, including legacy systems. First of all, Salesforce has its own marketplace, AppExchange, that has thousands of prebuilt integrations. Secondly, Salesforce’s integration platform MuleSoft Anypoint provides API-driven possibilities (SOAP, REST) for building low-code custom app integrations and carrying out Salesforce customization according to specific requirements.

The bottom line

Both CRMs are quite apt for being integrated with almost any system, internal or coming from a third party. While Oracle databases provide integration possibilities on their own, Salesforce is extremely flexible when it comes to connecting any data source, both cloud-based and on-premises.

#4. Artificial intelligence

Salesforce doesn’t have a standalone AI tool. Instead, the company embedded AI into all its products and add-ons and called it Salesforce Einstein. As a result, users can use AI in CRM by default just by doing their routine tasks, no data science degree needed. Einstein was launched in 2016, and Salesforce continues putting a lot of effort into enhancing and extending its functions.

Salesforce Einstein

As for Oracle, though it has been leveraging data mining and machine learning in its database technologies for almost two decades, it hasn’t been associated with AI in the CRM industry. Trying to get into the AI competition, two years ago the company announced a suite of AI-driven tools. However, Oracle still doesn’t have AI embedded in all of its CX solutions.

Hardly a coincidence, both platforms recently announced AI-powered voice assistants.

In September 2019, Oracle announced that its ERP, CRM, and HRM enterprise systems will soon support voice commands processed by AI. Their digital assistant will also be able to understand industry-specific vocabulary used in these systems and interact with Siri and Alexa.

In its turn, Salesforce announced Einstein Voice at their Dreamforce event in 2018. Now, by talking to your Salesforce system, you can retrieve briefings, make notes, and review dashboards hands-free. This year, again at Dreamforce, the company shared the update for Einstein Voice. For example, now it’s possible to build Einstein apps that will interact with Alexa and Siri. What’s more, Service Cloud got exclusive voice capabilities. Einstein can transcribe calls in real time, process them, and provide recommendations on the spot, allowing service reps to resolve issues faster.

The bottom line

Salesforce launched its AI platform earlier than Oracle, but the latter follows Salesforce closely and keeps the rival on the alert. Currently, Oracle has AI embedded only in two of its clouds—Marketing Cloud and Sales Cloud. Salesforce, however, extended AI to all of its clouds.

#5. Learning resources

Both companies offer extensive learning resources. Oracle has the entire University, where anyone can get access to paid training categorized by products and software/hardware technologies (cloud infrastructure, PaaS, SaaS, database, Java, applications, and more). It’s also possible to get certified in different technologies and Oracle products, for which the company provides preparatory courses. Additionally, Oracle has a separate portal for developers with a variety of resources, such as demos, videos, research papers, books, and downloads.

As for free resources, Oracle has a few, both for training and certification purposes. The Oracle Learning vlog on YouTube is also free. It features loads of videos for foundation-level, advanced and expert training.

Oracle University Portal

Salesforce’s training center is called Trailhead. It offers free gamified courses, mostly for beginners. Trailhead Academy provides paid in-person and virtual learning with Salesforce experts. There are courses for specific roles (admin, developer, user), proficiency levels, and Salesforce products. You will need to register in order to track results and get achievement badges. Like Oracle, Salesforce too has a separate resource portal for developers and admins.

The company also provides certification tailored to Salesforce roles, such as admins, CPQ specialists, or Marketing Cloud admins. Salesforce has a few YouTube vlogs for different roles, as well as podcasts, live and on-demand videos.

The company is well-known for its exhaustive industry-specific reports, such as State of Marketing, State of Service, and many more. These reports are full of valuable insights, which typically get picked up pretty quickly all over the web.

Salesforce Trailhead learning center
The bottom line

Salesforce and Oracle shine when it comes to learning and certification. However, Salesforce provides more free resources for beginners to facilitate the early stages of the platform adoption.

#6. Mobile strategy

Salesforce and Oracle prioritize their mobile strategies, trying to serve their users with the best mobile experiences possible. For example, both platforms’ voice assistants allow field workers to open dashboards, make updates, or look up things as they need to do it on the go, hands-free.

Oracle preaches the ability to shift smoothly between desktop and mobile devices. It provides a consistent UX across different devices, including for its CX Mobile app, as well as a simple design that lets users move quickly from intent to action. Oracle’s CX Mobile app includes the Sales Cloud Mobile, Call Report, and Deal Management apps, and supports offline view and edits, app customization, and voice-based navigation. The company also has the Mobile Platform, which makes it possible to build and deploy low-code apps for iOS, Android, and popular messengers across platforms. To accelerate custom mobile app development for its products, Oracle has partnered with the Accenture Foundation Platform.

Salesforce has various low-code tools for building mobile apps. Recently, it launched the Publisher that facilitates posting apps to the App Store and Google Play.

At the Dreamforce’19, Salesforce announced its partnership with Apple. It means that the Salesforce mobile app will get some key iOS features, like Siri Shortcuts and integration with Apple’s Business Chat. The partners also promise the possibility to build industry-specific iOS apps right within the Salesforce platform as well as Swift-based apps for iOS that can be natively deployed on the Lightning platform. To prove the partnership is going to work, Salesforce has redesigned its Salesforce Mobile App (now powered by AI) and the learning app Trailhead GO with iOS-exclusive features.

The bottom line

Oracle and Salesforce provide rich mobile app development capabilities. Their mobile apps ensure seamless experience across different devices and help their users solve tasks on the go. However, Salesforce’s partnership with Apple brings new exciting mobile opportunities to the platform that Oracle might not have.

#7. Innovation

Salesforce is a disruptor in its own right. It pioneered the idea of CRM in the cloud, then embedded AI in its products, and with Salesforce IoT made omnichannel customer experience possible by unifying data from different sources within one platform. Since its launch in 1999, the company filed 1,000+ technology patents. It’s not surprising then that Salesforce has been on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for eight years running, topping the list multiple times (previously in 2017).

What’s more, many of Salesforce’s innovations come from collaborations and acquisitions. For example, this year Salesforce added the analytical platform Tableau to its stack to re-imagine its approach to business intelligence, analytics, and data visualization.

Salesforce has a tool for crowdsourcing of ideas. Any user can share their ideas for Salesforce improvement, small and big, via the IdeaExchange portal and prioritize others’ ideas by voting.

IdeaExchange portal

Oracle is also no stranger to innovative technologies, putting to work artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain, machine learning, and chatbots in its Cloud Platform.

Over the last several years, Oracle has opened innovation hubs in the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, South Africa, Portugal, and India. These innovation hubs are to drive the implementation of the latest technologies through experiments and recruitment of progressive-thinking professionals.

Among the few projects realized in these hubs was the partnership with Waypoint Robotics that allowed robots to work as quality-control agents and communicate with human workers in case of defects. In another innovative project, Oracle Analytics Cloud helped farmers to control avocado harvest by making predictions on the basis of weather, historical sales, and sensor data.

Oracle also holds the Oracle Innovation Challenge where the winning customer gets benefits from Oracle, such as a free migration to the Oracle Cloud, technological and marketing support.

The bottom line

Salesforce and Oracle have realized that innovations are driven by people, so both companies are building infrastructures for harvesting ideas and bringing them to life. Salesforce seems to outrun Oracle in this field, though, judging by the number of patents and independent ratings.

Which cloud-based CRM will you go for?

It’s going to be a difficult choice. Salesforce is still renowned for ‘all things CRM’, but this position can also be claimed by other formidable CRM players and Salesforce alternatives, Oracle included.

Today Salesforce vs Oracle CRM is a race where rivals constantly snap at each other’s heels trying to deliver ever better experience, be it in data integration, mobile UX, or AI. We have tried to show this competition from different angles by comparing these two platforms according to a few important criteria. You can see that even if one platform is doing better in a particular field for now, it doesn’t mean it is not likely to change soon.

Overall, Salesforce is easier to start with. The subscription plans are transparent, you need to just sign in, and start experimenting. What’s more, there are lots of free learning resources for beginners. At the same time, Oracle requires that you communicate with a sales rep to start using the platform, albeit the pricing is negotiable. Plus, Oracle is a more all-in-one solution, as it has a common codebase and powerful database technologies, therefore requiring fewer third-party integrations.