I’ve been pretty deep in Salesforce.com (SFDC) the last few weeks. There are a lot of articles out there that compare the two solutions at a CIO level, so I thought I’d take a moment to outline some of the more nitty-gritty pros and cons.
Where Salesforce Wins
- VisualForce makes for a much more customizable interface. You’re not limited to dropping fields on a form – you can make a custom webpage part of your process. Custom buttons too. So what you see on the screen is not limited to drag and drop fields.
- Salesforce’s implementation of Apex unit testing is outstanding. You can create test classes and you must run them before you can promote code into an instance. It’s brilliant and makes you a lot more confident deploying code.
- Salesforce has a lot of native functionality that Microsoft still hasn’t gotten to. Lead assignment rules, approval processes, autonumbering, rich text text areas, dependent picklists, and multiselect picklists come to mind. Formula fields in SFDC make life a lot easier too.
- Login as. OMG, login as. Microsoft, if you can hear me, you must allow admins to login as other users and see what they’re seeing.
- Salesforce’s autosharing rules by role are very helpful. It is very hard and time-consuming to share across the organizational hierarchy in Dynamics. If you have crossfunctional roles like strategic account managers, this is huge. See my follow-up post that addresses this in detail.
Where Microsoft Wins
- Salesforce has no equivalent to Advanced Find and how I miss it so.
- Dynamics’ workflow concept is much more robust, and the equivalent things in Salesforce are kind of scattershot. SFDC’s workflow rules only do a small set of things. For example, if you want to copy a Lookup value from a parent record onto a child record it’s a 60 second workflow in Dynamics. In Salesforce, it’s code. A lot of code. (And I needed to copy the value because Salesforce email templates don’t let you access related records as recipients.)
- Edit: Salesforce has a tool called Process Builder, which is a visual workflow tool that on the surface is like Microsoft’s. However, it’s been out for a while now and has very low adoption. As I understand it, this is due to weak “bulkification” – the need in Salesforce to do everything in a batch process (i.e., update 100 records with one statement rather than execute 100 statements). Bulkification is a persistent concern with everything in Salesforce. So the processes tend to fail when performing high volume processing such as imports.
- I miss Microsoft’s idiot-proof data import function.
- It feels like everything in Salesforce is an exception. Want to require a field at the database level? No problem.. unless it’s a picklist. Want to map a field to a child record? No problem.. unless it’s a Lookup. Role hierarchy can be disabled but only for custom objects/entities. Dynamics is much more of a UI on top of a relational database, which means it’s a lot less restrictive.
- Microsoft has a more complete vision for first-in, first-out queues. There is an intersection entity that enables users to view and claim work. Salesforce’s Queue is essentially a Dynamics Team – basically the record is owned by more than one person.
- Settings/Config search in Salesforce is great but it’s hard to switch between two things, like the config page for an object (entity) and a child object (entity). Microsoft’s tree structure is harder to find things, easier to toggle.
- Microsoft’s picklist implementation is far superior, using a database value and a text label that’s swapped out at runtime. Salesforce picklist values are stored as text, and the only way to refer to picklist values in code is by their labels, so you basically can’t change picklist values once they’re set (although there is a global replace function for picklist values, but that won’t help your code.)
- Salesforce’s config screens are maddening sometimes, how lists are not sortable or searchable.
- Microsoft’s browser compatibility is not great. I’ve tried it on Windows with Chrome, IE, Edge, and Firefox and the one that works best is… Firefox? And on Mac only Safari is supported.. poorly.
- Microsoft’s cascading rules are more flexible than Salesforce’s Parent-Child and Lookup relationships. Salesforce doesn’t natively support N:N either.
- Salesforce has a lot of development tools, and so far I’ve tried Sublime/MavensMate, Cloud9, and the native Developer Console. None of them are simultaneously reliable and a good development experience. Visual Studio isn’t great either, and it’s heavy and expensive, but it’s reliable, and you can actually set breakpoints and look into objects at runtime. And you don’t get [expletive]blocked by multitenant hiccups like “Admin Operation Already in Progress.”
- Salesforce’s Custom Settings make it much easier to manage things like the email address your custom code sends to. In Microsoft you can do it with a custom entity, but why should you have to?
- I’ll say this again: how Microsoft doesn’t have multi-select and dependent picklists by now is beyond me.
- Support for client side scripting on Salesforce screens (layouts) is poor.
I’ll post again when I have more to ramble about. Feel free to leave a comment to clarify or correct me.