The Top 4 Life Sciences CRM Systems
- Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft Dynamics are the Life Sciences CRM market share leaders in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device manufacturing industries, or collectively, the life sciences industry.
- These four systems go beyond generic processes to deliver industry specific capabilities such as mobility, sales order processing with CPQ and real-time inventory visibility, KOL and influencer engagement, KAM and related account management, samples management with encrypted signature capture, integration with a strategic sale methodology, regulated content management, and regulatory compliance reporting to name a few.
- Each of the top Life Sciences CRM systems has different strengths, weaknesses and value propositions, discussed below.
The best Customer Relationship Management software for life sciences aids industry imperatives such as higher sales conversions, increased customer share, improved client retention and lower costs to serve.
In the prior post I shared the top industry specific capabilities found in the best CRM for life sciences solutions. This post will deliver comparison information among the top four systems for pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device manufacturers.
The Best Life Sciences CRM Solutions
Cross-industry Customer Relationship Management systems focus on generic processes such as simple account and opportunity management. That's woefully incomplete for an industry selling regulated products through direct and indirect channels to time starved customers based in large part on customer relationships. It also incurs challenges when working with CROs, CMOs and other partners.
I've been comparing and implementing CRM for pharma, biotech and medical device companies for over two decades and the number one question I get is, "What is the best life sciences CRM software for my company?"
The easy answer is to say, well, that depends. So, I'm not going to say the easy answer. I will instead suggest you can answer the question by considering market share, market growth and the industry specific requirements that make life sciences CRM software different than the more generic applications.
Life Sciences CRM Market Share Positioning
I'll start with market share. The Big 4 Customer Relationship Management software solutions across all industries are Salesforce, SAP, Oracle CX and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
The Big 4 are also the leaders in this industry. Not because pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies have the same requirements; they don't. But because these vendors deliver industry specific capabilities needed by these types of companies.
That includes things like selling through indirect channels, KOL engagement, KAM and HCP complex customer relationship management, mobility for field staff, samples management with electronic signature capture, efficient inventory fulfillment through CMOs and regulatory reporting unlike any other industry.
Selecting the best life sciences CRM software is a long-term decision that should be based on the many criteria that support your staff, customers and company priorities. Consider the following comparison points only as a starting point.
Salesforce Health Cloud
Salesforce is the market share leader – overall and in the life sciences industries. The company pioneered cloud delivery, social capabilities, platform extensibility and is a top innovator.
That innovation has delivered advanced capabilities, digital commerce, artificial intelligence, a broad platform, a deep AppExchange ecosystem and an industry specific Salesforce Health Cloud.
Salesforce strengths include the following:
- Salesforce is an innovator and disrupter. Companies that seek to innovate and disrupt their markets can learn from Salesforce and benefit from its applications.
- The user interface was one of the first to be built on consumer technologies and deliver a simple and rewarding user experience. That's especially helpful to field sales staff and has achieved a profound effect in user adoption.
- The combination of its Lightning platform, Apex development, other Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools and AppExchange ecosystem provide significant application extensibility. This helps future proof your technology investment.
Beyond the Salesforce Health Cloud there is another related market leading solution.
Founded in 2007, Veeva is an application built on the Salesforce platform specifically for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The company's aim is to deliver an industry specific solution for product development, compliance, and commercialization of new drugs.
In addition to sales force automation, Veeva CRM manages R&D functions (drug development) and aids areas such as medical, clinical, regulatory, quality, and safety tasks. It also delivers rich HCP and HCO data, including things like clinical trials and physician prescription history.
You might think that the Salesforce Health Cloud and Veeva are competitors but that's not really the case. There is some competition, but Veeva has an agreement with Salesforce whereby it pays a royalty fee and essentially gets a free lane. That agreement runs to 2025.
I've implemented Salesforce for several pharma, biotech and medical device companies. And to be fair, Salesforce does not accommodate some of the industry operational or regulatory requirements as standard capabilities, or what we use to call out of the box before the cloud. However, it does offer a broad platform, flexible tools, packaged integration with ERP systems, and a deep AppExchange ecosystem that brings together the components needed to satisfy pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industry requirements.
Consider Salesforce if you intend to transform your company. That may include shifting your value proposition with new value-added products or services, expanding channels or market boundaries, or elevating the customer experience.
However, acquiring the market share leader may come with a price premium. Veeva comes with an even bigger price tag. If you leverage either of these applications for digital or business transformation your investment will pay dividends. But if your goals are less ambitious, your growth path is more incremental or you do not leverage Salesforce or Veeva's advanced capabilities, you may increase investment and total cost of ownership without much payback.
Oracle and Oracle NetSuite
Oracle offers an enterprise system designed for large, complex and global deployments. It's an impressive cloud application that has risen from the acquisitions of Siebel Systems and PeopleSoft and continued organic growth. However, where we see the biggest growth in the pharma, biotech and medical device industries is from Oracle NetSuite.
NetSuite is the younger brother acquired by Oracle in 2016. Strengths for this application include the following:
- Unique functionality around scheduling and sales call management. Sales reps can plan their HCP calls or visits through a menu option called Mass Planned Calls which streamlines activities based on user defined criteria and integrates to the calendar. Sales visits also accommodate samples distribution and tracking.
- Sales order processing is uniquely strong and can be easily performed on a mobile device in the field. It has inventory integration for real-time product visibility and can automatically push sale orders through to the back-office system. That streamlines the quoting, order and fulfillment processes.
- This application is part of an enterprise-wide business software suite. That enables cross functional process execution with a single vendor, fully integrated business application. The suite includes Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Human Capital Management (HCM) and business intelligence (BI). A vendor-managed integration that automates enterprise-wide transaction processes is a big deal to many companies who want to avoid complex and costly system integration.
One caution though, the NetSuite CRM software does not carry the same credibility or strength as the company's ERP and SCM software.
Oracle NetSuite is well suited for midmarket companies or decentralized operations that roll up to an Oracle ERP application. Consider NetSuite if you are looking for an enterprise-wide business application suite to automate cross functional processes, and the CRM application is a relatively small component in your decision-making process.
SAP is the ERP software market share leader for the enterprise market. However, like Oracle NetSuite, SAP CRM does not possess the same strength and credibility as the company's flagship S/4 HANA ERP application. Nonetheless, it does contribute to the biggest SAP strength, which is a single, integrated, enterprise-wide solution that includes ERP, SCM and HCM to support cross-functional business processes.
Because of the company's strength in back-office apps, and integration with the front-office app, companies can acquire an end to end solution that responds to some big challenges, such as close coordination with CMOs, forecast and demand planning and timely inventory fulfillment.
At a more tactical level, SAP strengths include the following:
- Sales order processing, with easy quoting, shipping integration, EDI and complete order to cash visibility. Sales reps can monitor sale order fulfillment and be alerted to deviations such as predicted late deliveries.
- Real-time visibility of inbound and outbound shipments, inventory quantities and item location (down to the bin). This visibility can be enhanced with additional technologies such as Internet mapping, GPS and IoT.
- The SAP Commerce Cloud brings impressive digital selling and omni-channel capabilities for B2C, B2B and mixed environments. This is important as customers want to complete more purchases online; a trend that will continue to rise.
- A global solution with decentralized company instances, multi-currency management, 28 languages and 44 country specific localizations.
- The business intelligence with SAP Crystal Reports and analytics powered by SAP HANA are flexible and include many key performance indicators for pharma, biotech and medical device companies.
SAP is best suited for large, global companies with complex selling and sophisticated distribution requirements. Consider SAP if you are evaluating the company's ERP software, you are an existing SAP customer, or you want an enterprise-wide fully integrated business software suite.
Microsoft Dynamics 365
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CE) is a long name for a CRM app.
This application's value proposition is similar to SAP, in that the app is part of a holistic, enterprise-wide solution. The Microsoft Dynamics stack includes CRM, ERP, SCM, HCM, eCommerce and analytics.
However, there are two significant differences when compared to SAP. First, where SAP is pervasive among the largest companies, Microsoft is the ERP market share leader among midsize companies. And second, Microsoft's CE app is a very strong application even without the rest of the application suite. Microsoft CE is sold far more often as a standalone solution and without the company's ERP software.
Focusing on just the CE software, benefits of this application include the following:
- Seamless integration with Outlook. And this integration is more than just contacts and email. Microsoft replicates the CE system within Outlook so that sellers and other customer facing staff can perform their activities without leaving Outlook. I've implemented Dynamics CE for a long time, and this is often the most cited benefit by staff.
- The Microsoft Customer Engagement software is a cloud native, browser-based application that allows very flexible configuration. Other competing systems also permit configurations. However, once made you are unlikely or unable to change without significant conversion or rework. Microsoft Dynamics tools tend to be more flexible and show that achieving standardization does not mean becoming inflexible.
- Dynamics has a intuitive guided selling tool to facilitate multistep sales and customer service processes. It's a visual process guide that suggests repeatable processes and best practices at each stage or step in a process. It's particularly effective at simplifying, streamlining and automating business processes. I routinely use this tool at clients to automate the sales cycle and increase sales win rates.
- Dynamics is ahead of most competitors in business process automation capabilities. The application offers multiple types of workflow tools and capabilities, such as synchronous or asynchronous workflows, Actions, Dialogues, and Business Process Flows. The Power Platform, and its Power Automate app, can be used by citizen developers to make workflow automation even more extensible.
- Microsoft's Power Platform tools are low code/no code visual tools that permit application customization by non-programmers. They also help prevent over-customizing the system. That can result in a higher fit application with less maintenance and much easier upgrades. The Power Platform also includes Power BI, which has become a top user generated, agile data analytics tool.
- Dynamics Customer Engagement is a global application that delivers localized functionality in about 40 regions with 42 languages.
- Microsoft CE software is the least expensive business application among the Big 4.
- Customer Relationship Management market share growth shows Microsoft gunning for the number 2 position. Although Salesforce continues to extend its lead, Microsoft has challenged Oracle and SAP for the runner up spot. Salesforce is the market share leader, and Microsoft is the top challenger.
Microsoft Dynamics CE software is well suited for both small and large companies or divisions within large companies. Consider Dynamics CE if you are a Microsoft technology shop, a small or midsize company looking for the least cost application or seeking a cross-functional and enterprise-wide information system.