Important Industry Announcements

By Geoffrey James

Salesforce.com announced new customization capabilities, available this summer that will allow Salesforce subscribers to multitask between multiple on-demand applications running in the same Salesforce environment. With Multiforce, companies will be able to use the same data model, security system and user interface for any on-demand application on the sforce platform and the Customforce tool.
Our take: Salesforce.com has based its future on the idea that companies will glue together multiple, best-in-breed applications rather than opt for an ERP approach, such as Oracle, Siebel, or SAP. For this strategy to work, the gluing process must be extremely easy so that inconsistencies in the various programs don’t turn into annoying glitches. Salesforce.com is expending much of its creative effort to build middleware that makes ad-hoc integration easier. Fortunately for Salesforce.com, Web-based programming has created a consistency among applications that makes this kind of integration possible.

Commence Corporation announced the formation of a professional services division to help its clients with expanded use of the company’s product in the marketing, sales, customer service and call center areas. Commence now offers advanced user training and system administration, in addition to the system integration and custom programming requirements served by Commence’s business partner channel. Several of the courses are being offered over the Internet, which alleviates travel time and expense and allows Commence to offer the training at an affordable price.
Our take: Commence president Larry Caretsky has a talent for reading the pulse of the CRM customer base. Caretsky has been particularly vocal in recent years about the need for better training on CRM systems, which some CRM vendors consider a secondary priority – shortsightedly in our view. Commence’s move to online instruction thus signals increased use of the Web for CRM training purposes.

NetSuite launched NetCRM-Services Edition, a package that includes service item management, project-job tracking, a client self-service center, advanced activity and time tracking, and document management, in addition to traditional CRM functionality such as marketing campaign management, client support and opportunity management. When deployed as part of a complete ERP-CRM solution, services-based businesses can go from proposal to invoice in the context of a single integrated solution.
Our take: NetSuite’s entry into this application area is another sign that CRM is expanding beyond its traditional SFA role and into every aspect of customer-facing interactions. Tying the SFA functionality of CRM to extensions in customer service is a good way to ensure customers receive a more integrated and consistent view of the corporation with which they’re doing business.

Research In Motion (BlackBerry) announced that it has joined AOL’s mobile developer program (MDP) to support the popular mobile AOL instant messenger and ICQ services on the BlackBerry wireless platform. BlackBerry users will be able to send and receive instant messages (IMs) over both the AIM and ICQ networks. Mobile IMs will be transmitted to and from the BlackBerry handheld, notifying users of new messages. In the past RIM also worked with AOL to give BlackBerry users easy access to the mobile AOL mail service, quickly and seamlessly.
Our take: The BlackBerry is rapidly penetrating the business world. The extension to IM via AOL is particularly interesting to CRM users because it offers another way of communicating with customers. It’s likely that within two years sales reps without an IM capability will find themselves at as big a disadvantage as sales reps without cell phones in the late 1990s.