UPDATED: Saleforce.com's newly released spring '04 edition allows users to design customer relationship management applications to fit their specific industries or business structures.
NEW YORKWith the latest release of its hosted software suite, Saleforce.com Inc. aims to put the custom into customer relationship management.
The company on Monday introduced new development tools and features that it says make its hosted CRM software highly customizable without the need for high-level programming skills.
The spring 04 release of Salesforce.coms CRM suite allows customers to create custom tabs to fit their specific businesses and industries with simple point-and-click selections, said Patricia Sueltz, Salesforce.coms president of technology, marketing and systems. For example, users can now rename application modules, called tabs, or create up to 10 new tabs tailored to their business.
"You used to mold your business into a CRM application. Now you can mold your CRM application to your business," said Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff at an event here for customers, press and analysts.
Benioff said businesses can customize the latest release of Salesforce.com applications without having to hire advanced programmers. Business administrators can use Salesforce.com Studio, a point-and-click tool, to create new tabs, forms, objects or applications. Security features allow administrators to hide tabs from certain users and to control which users can enter data into fields. The tool also allows administrators to define relationships between objects and to view those relationships in the user interface.
One Salesforce.com user in the health-care industry welcomed such customization features.
"We needed our own tab names to match the terminology for our industry," said Martin Howard, CIO at Patient Care Inc. As an example, Howard pointed to the tab named "opportunity," which his company uses to list patients.
"Opportunities and patients are not the same thing," said Howard. "[Salesforce.com] fit the flow of patient information, but because of language, people werent getting what they should out of it."
Patient Care, headquartered in Newton, Mass., provides home health care to some 7,000 patients in eight states.
Salesforce.com released the latest edition to all 9,500 companies that subscribe to its hosted CRM service. The service allows customers to access all of Salesforce.coms CRM applications on the Internet rather than buying and installing software at their own sites. Benioff said the company will continue to upgrade its suite every four months.
Users such as sales administrators can assign tabs to track sales of specific products or sales in certain territories, company divisions or sales teams in addition to the standard tabs built into the package, said Parker Harris, senior vice president of product development at Salesforce.com, based in San Francisco.
The tabs, Harris said, can be associated with custom objects, such as expenses or advertising, in addition to standard objects such as sales accounts, opportunities, contacts and cases.
In recent months, Salesforce.com has been adding support for enterprise-application platforms such as Microsoft Corp.s Office 2003
and IBM WebSphere to streamline data-sharing and application access among these widely used packages.
The new version also supports 11 languages and foreign currencies. The application automatically translates all customized tabs and objects to whatever languages the customer has to support, he said.
The language support is particularly important for Phoenix Technologies Ltd., whose sales professionals access the applications in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, said Cliff Bell, CIO at the company, which is based in Milpitas, Calif.
Phoenix Technologies deployed Salesforce.coms winter 04 edition to replace an internally designed CRM system that would have required a year to upgrade, Bell said. Instead, the company was able to deploy the Salesforce.com applications in four months.
A key indicator of the applications success is that Phoenix executives as well as sales staff and managers understand the system and use it regularly, Bell said.
For developers, Salesforce.com unveiled Version 3.0 of sforce, the San Francisco-based companys hosted application development environment. New in Version 3.0 is support for IBMs WebSphere application server, originally announced in February.
Salesforce.com already supported BEA Systems Inc.s WebLogic application server and development tools from Sun Microsystems Inc., Borland Inc. and Microsoft.
Sforce 3.0 also includes new database mirroring APIs, enhanced query capabilities and increased management of relationships between objects.
"The system is close to being not just a CRM environment but also an application development and deployment tool," Benioff said.
Salesforce.com has filed papers to issue a $115 million initial public stock offering
that should hit the market sometime this spring. But the company hasnt set a date for the IPO to hit the market, officials said.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include additional material from Shelley Solheim.
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