Salesforce.com Inc. has improved on its well-designed hosted customer relationship management application through a number of new features that make information more accessible and useful. Updated in December, the enterprise edition of Salesforce.com is priced at $125 per user per month and includes a large number of changes that improved the user experience in eWEEK Labs tests. The most valuable improvement is the addition of a dashboard that graphically consolidates data into key metrics, while other layout improvements and new account and data management capabilities make for a more robust system. Dashboard views are a crucial element Salesforce.com had lacked, especially when compared with rival hosted applications, such as Siebel Systems Inc.s CRM OnDemand-UpShot Edition and NetSuite Inc.s NetCRM. However, Salesforce.coms implementation, with all metrics grouped under a single tab, was a bit crowded. Wed rather see the Salesforce.com dashboard more closely mirror NetSuites, which allows dashboard elements to be integrated within the users home page.In addition to basic task-based workflow management, we could create automated response workflows around lead generation and customer support requests from a companys self-service Web site. Salesforce.com has made progress in providing a better user experience when it comes to viewing information, but entering and modifying information can be a cumbersome and click-intensive process. The templates for the rules engine for workflow and automated response are examples where minor improvements, such as putting the whole form on a single page, would make the user experience much better. In general, the user interface is improved, albeit with 13 tabs across the screen. We could edit page layouts to meet a users needs. Salesforce.com also supports dynamic page layouts and field-level security so that critical data, such as customer support information, can be viewed by sales representatives but cannot be edited. On the application server layer, Salesforce.coms Sforce has a new API based on Simple Object Access Protocol and Web Services Description Language, and it supports previous-generation XML and SOAP APIs. Sforce also supports the creation of custom objects, so a company can more readily manage data. Salesforce.com has added basic document management, which should make it easier for companies to manage collateral and other sales tools. The functionality is limited to uploading content, designating content for internal use only and making it easy to generate reports. Wed also like to be able to manage templates used elsewhere in the application from within the document management interface. This update also has a contract management feature for organizing agreement terms, such as a service contracts expiration date. Wed like this feature more if it could store the contract document with the contract details. Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salesforce.com now includes a workflow engine so that an organization can create process rules for the sales and customer support teams. We liked this capability as a way to make sure that organizations adhere to process rules, with the end results focusing on tasks and events. This means that when an event triggers a rule, the workflow generates a task or alert for a particular user, with tasks appearing in the task list and alerts arriving via e-mail.