Salesforce.com has released the Summer ’06 version of its on-demand CRM application, along with a SAP R/3 connector designed to boost its enterprise credentials. This release is one of two substantial upgrades the company makes available each year, one in winter and the other in summer. It marks its twentieth version and adds core CRM functionality across sales, customer service and marketing.
A major new addition is Salesforce Partner Edition, which provides partner relationship management (PRM) capabilities, and is full integrated with the core application. PRM is geared towards tracking a consolidated sales forecast and managing pipeline dashboards across internal sales groups and external indirect partner sales channels.
Mobile functionality has also received attention with new AppExchange Mobile updates that provide mobile support for product and price books, enabling sales reps to view, add, edit, and delete individual items to their opportunity data. The company is ramping up its mobile functionality following its acquisition of Sendia earlier this year – Sendia’s technology allows existing applications to be extended so they can be run on wireless devices.
Other functional additions include advanced call scripting to guides sales and service staff to the right script to market, sell, and service customers. The function offers branching scripts, question-and-answer coaching, and answer scoring.
Lead history tracking addresses aspects of corporate compliance and auditing by allowing sales managers to track lead status changes from week to week, conduct historical and trend analysis, choose which information on leads needs a detailed audit trail, and help ensure legal compliance with an audit history of customer interactions.
On the service front, attention has focused on upgrading capabilities to improve the ability of organizations to match service levels with customer status.
Salesforce.com has also introduced Salesforce Connector for SAP R/3, which it said provides seamless integrate between Salesforce.com and R/3 to allow a full, integrated view of all relevant customer data in one place. It will enable bi-directional account synchronization and support customer data-centric business processes that span both applications.
While the connector does fulfill a need and helps Salesforce.com with its enterprise credentials, it is no accident that the company chose SAP as its first connector target following SAP’s own entry into on-demand customer relationship management (CRM). The connector is an attempt to dissuade SAP customers, who had previously opted for Saleforce.com because the SAP CRM on premise offering was too costly and complicated, from swapping to SAP’s on-demand offering.
It is one of the few times Salesforce.com has had to seriously consider customer retention rather than pure customer acquisition. Ultimately, SAP may have the upper hand as a result of the indirect access conditions within its licenses, which allows it to charge its customers for certain types of third-party access to its applications. Although this has not been used in anger, and will not be imposed if it is likely to alienate customers, the possibility could be enough to tip joint SAP/Salesforce.com users into moving to SAP CRM on demand.