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Looking at the marketing material for Salesforce, especially the edition comparisons, the differences between the Salesforce versions are very high level. However there are a few key things missing in Group Edition that make it very limited compared to Professional edition, and unless you are selling Widgets, there is not much in Professional edition that makes it worthwhile. The only edition that is really worthwhile is Enterprise, but the price is usually too high for small business.

I moved the rest of my question into an answer to make it a community Wiki Post

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My sincere advice to companies who say they can't afford enterprise addition is: if you can't afford or justify the price of EE, don't use Salesforce.

GE is pretty close to useless, especially for the price; PE starts getting more useful but is still very crippled compared to EE.

IMHO every client I've seen whose budget and feature needs are below that of EE should be using something else - usually some combination of contact management, reporting, service management, collaboration and task automation. Salesforce has some offerings in that realm, like Desk.com & Go.com, but there are many others out there.

I really wish Salesforce changed its outdated and confusing pricing model - I've met way too many clients who refuse to ever use Salesforce again because they used to be at a company that cheaped out on Group Edition and were disappointed.

  • Agree, wholeheartedly. My client was recently sold PE and there is nothing in PE that they are actually going to use as they don't sell widgets. But they really need the features of EE, like workflow, but are baulking at the price difference. Being a SAAS app, surely they could do mix and match pricing - like get rid of the useless things like Assets (how stupid is that), and add in Record Types and create a custom version just for you. – JodieM Aug 4 '12 at 6:29
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    Yeah it's a shame they still sell GE and PE as in my experience all those do (for the customers who don't get upsold to EE after that) is lose customers for life. They should just have one full product configuration and try to get everyone to use it for everything. That's worth way more than leaving low-end customers with bad tastes in their mouth. – jkraybill Aug 5 '12 at 12:07
  • IMO, making clients choose between UE, EE and nothing is counter-productive. The tool should meet the job. Sure, the limitations of PE can be frustrating, especially since so much of an admin/consultant's job is done is EE, but that doesn't mean it can't be useful to the client. This is especially true when a client has an open security model and has plans to scale up to EE when their budget allows. – pdxjake Aug 6 '12 at 16:00
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The primary differences are:

  1. Group edition is limited to 5 users lacks many features such as the API (custom pages, triggers and web service access), campaigns, products, dashboards, quotes, etc...
  2. Professional Edition has the above missing features but still has no access to the API.
  3. Enterprise Edition adds the API, increases your customization limits (custom objects, custom fields, etc...), and adds territory management and several other features
  4. Unlimited Edition adds full sandbox (testing environment) support, further increases your limits and gets you better support.

This link gets you a pretty good over-view of each editions primary features and prices: http://www.salesforce.com/crm/editions-pricing.jsp

  • The API can be added to the Group edition for an additional charge. That doesn't necessarily mean that you can then use Apps from the App Exchange that require professional edition. – JodieM Aug 4 '12 at 3:49
  • It can also be added to professional edition. API only comes included with Enterprise Edition and Unlimited Edition. – E.J. Wilburn Aug 4 '12 at 3:56
  • Oops, sorry, my original comment was wrong. The API can't be added to Group, only Professional. – JodieM Aug 4 '12 at 6:31
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    My experience with adding API access to PE is that the reps responsible for setting the service up a-la-carte would rather talk customers into upgrading to EE. I've even heard reps say that the API is no longer available a-la-carte (and the edition comparison PDF - salesforce.com/assets/pdf/datasheets/… - supports them). – pdxjake Aug 6 '12 at 15:48
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I agree that EE is the best way to go, but it is far out of reach ( financially and/or psychologically) for many businesses.

I've used GE successfully for a number of clients and have found it a) very functional, if you set expectations correctly and b) a good way to introduce people to the value of SF, with the understanding that they may want to or have to upgrade in the future. PE is even better, of course.

But with a minmal cost for GE (and it can go up to 10 users), you can give them leads, accounts. contacts, highly customized opportunities and custom objects, even a campaign-like object. Plus the appExchange apps that do work (jitterbit data loader, Vertical Response for GE, GridBuddy, etc.). With PE you can get API access, for a price, plus most of the apps on the AppExchange.

And since the beauty of SF is in the deep functionality of the native mode, Apex and Visual Force are not always critical to a successful SF implementation

The secret to success with GE and PE is to be imaginative and to use what they can do to the max.

  • Couldn't have said it better. I've had success with clients using PE, after expectations were set correctly (your second point). – pdxjake Aug 6 '12 at 16:02
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Features the Group Edition doesn't have:

  • Edit mini page layouts - The hover layouts for Accounts are a bit limiting with just the name of the account and very few other details.
  • Rename Tabs and Labels - it is very difficult to get buy in, even in a small business if you have to keep referring to organisations as Accounts.
  • Have OR filters in Views - this makes views quite limiting.
  • Change permissions or roles - there is the standard System Administrator and Standard User Profiles and that is it.

Features the Professional Edition doesn't have:

  • Record Types - Record Types are very useful, especially when storing details of different organisations, eg Suppliers and Clients.

  • Joined Reports - Joined reports are very useful to show two different data sets that aren't in a parent > child relationship.

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