Salesforce.com gives its 120,000 users the option of using Microsoft Office applications as a front end to their online CRM data.
Salesforce.com subscribers will be able to access and update their online CRM data using Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook as front ends with a new package called the Salesforce.com Office Edition.
The new service will increase productivity by eliminating the need to cut and paste data from Salesforce.com applications and into spreadsheets and e-mail messages, company officials said.
Subscribers only have to add a Salesforce.com menu to their Microsoft Office applications to gain access to this feature. The Office Edition is available immediately to all 120,000 sales force subscribers at no extra charge, said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com chairman and CEO.
Read eWEEKs interview with Salesforce.coms Benioff.
Once they are connected, subscribers can use Excel, Word, Office and Outlook to create and transmit sales reports, draft sales proposals, and analyze sales results from CRM (customer relationship management) data stored on the Salesforce.com servers.
The Outlook Edition will work on Office 2000 and later editions. With Office 2003, users will be able to access that versions document protection tools and use Visual Studio .Net 2003 to customize and extend their Office front-end applications to Salesforce.com data.
The Office Edition will enable Time Warner Cable to integrate its "two most often used interfaces, Salesforce.com for customer information and Microsoft Office for productivity applications," said Bo Coughlin, Time Warner Cable vice president of Commercial Business Development in Raleigh, N.C.
Salesforce.com is able to offer access to Office applications because it has published the application programming interface for its sforce 2.0 application server. This allows third-party software developers to link their applications to Salesforce.com online servers.
Independent software vendors have already been using development tools such as Visual Basic or Visual Studio to build custom front ends to Salesforce.com. George Krucik, CEO of Eletel Inc., a developer of telephony and voice messaging applications in San Raphael, Calif., has used Visual Basic to build applications that allow sales personnel to record voice sales status reports on the Salesforce.com CRM system.
The Office Edition will be a valuable new option for building front-end applications to Salesforce.com online CRM applications, Krucik said.
Knightsbridge Solutions LLC, a Chicago-based consulting firm that specializes in developing business intelligence and data mining applications, will likely take a look at using the Office Edition as its front end to Salesforce.com, said James F. Wirth, senior principal with the company.
Knightsbridge just became a Salesforce.com customer in December, Wirth said, so the company is just setting up its access to the online CRM service. No decision has been made to actually use the Office Edition, but it is readily available to anyone who might want to use it, he noted.