As a company that appears to be growing very rapidly, Salesforce.com does not rest on its laurels. Not content with launching its AppExchange platform in January, Salesforce.com has just announced the upcoming release of an expansion to its Salesforce application, Partnerforce. While the product should be a useful addition, however, it may prove to be at the mercy of broadband penetration rates.
Many organizations have business partners that sell their products and services. Managing these can be a challenge, and providing them with access to in-house applications can be complex and time-consuming, with many associated security and training issues.
While some packaged applications do provide coverage in this area – for example, the ability to manage partners and for partners to have portals or similar access to relevant sales-related information – it can still be complex to provide access to those systems. Salesforce.com has continued its ‘no software’ approach by providing an on-demand solution, with new functionality aimed at supporting the partner channel, all accessible via an internet connection.
Some customers have been testing out the beta service already and it has already had good adoption rates, being intuitive and easy to use, in a similar manner to the main Salesforce package. While the solution provides the main functionality that is likely to be required both to manage partners and for partners to access the appropriate information, it is easy to customize as necessary, with tabs, fields, help, and workflow all easily changed.
A good feature is that the whole branding is easy to change too, making the partner’s screens look as though they belong to the organization. As might be expected, there are already some additional applications available on AppExchange (some developed by Salesforce.com, some by its partners) that can extend the Partnerforce functionality further (for example, adding training and rebate management).
The new service is scheduled to be generally available from July 12, 2006. The application already has some 26 trial customers, with between 10 and 1,000 partners. Access to Partnerforce will cost extra, with a current guide price of GBP85 per partner per month (with up to five users at the partner).
A key concern with the growth of internet-provided applications like this is that they are still at the mercy of the ‘last mile’ of internet access. While broadband penetration rates are now high and still growing, there are still a surprising number of smaller businesses that do not have broadband access. Total broadband subscribers in the UK are now some 10.8 million, according to Point Topic, but of course many of these are consumers rather than businesses.
It is unlikely that applications like this have been designed for use over dial-up lines, and providing such applications to partners that only have dial-up access could have a negative impact.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)