The company announced June 26 its Partnerforce, Salesforce Partner Edition, an on demand service that combines the concepts and functionality of online partner management with online CRM (customer relationship management).
The caveat here is that companies connect to their partners—and are able to manage those third-party relationships—through Salesforce.coms AppExchange platform.
The idea behind Partnerforce is to connect businesses with their partners and then shuttle Salesforce.com CRM and PRM functionality to those partners.
So, for example, a company can distribute sales and marketing information across both direct (in-house) and indirect (channel partners) sales teams across using Partnerforces on demand portal.
Integrated dashboards are set up to display forecasts and pipeline views—tapping Salesforce analysis and forecasting functionality—across both direct and indirect teams.
At the same time a lead management system distributes leads across direct and indirect teams, rating prospects for users, while a deal registration and opportunity management capability is in place to streamline communication between a company and its partners.
Its also there to reduce channel conflict where indirect sales teams find themselves competing with other channel partners (think early Microsoft Business Solutions partners), or with the vendor themselves (think Oracle, prior to the PeopleSoft acquisitions).
The goal of Partnerforce is, in effect, to create a single sales team across direct and indirect channels. To this end, Salesforce is hoping the functionality in Partnerforce will entice partners to actually use the system.
The problem with PRM initiatives in the past has been getting partners to use the software, according to Kendall Collins, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce.com, in San Francisco.
Its only when partners input data that Partnerforce would achieve its goal: enabling a single sales force with up-to-date, accurate information.
To better increase the chances of partner adoption, Salesforce is adding incentives for partners, including the ability for a company to pass on—and rate—leads to partners.
Its also providing add-on services partners can use as part of their environment, to bring in functionality such as rebate services or market development fund management.
AppExchange, a sort of online marketplace for Salesforce and third-party applications (as well as a development and integration platform), is a good venue for service sharing, and one that could help build adoption for Partnerforce.
"Today, tens of thousands of companies are leveraging the benefits and efficiency of on-demand services," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce chairman and CEO, in a statement.
"Salesforce Partner Edition is the next incarnation of on-demand services."
However, Salesforce isnt alone in offering a PRM suite.
Business applications heavyweights like SAP AG and Oracle, the worlds biggest and second biggest applications providers, respectively, offer PRM.
Oracle is hitting PRM functionality from two fronts; it acquired on premise functionality from PeopleSoft, which it acquired in late 2004, and on demand functionality from Siebel Systems, which Oracle acquired earlier in 2006.
At the same time, on demand ERP provider NetSuite—a competitor of sorts to Salesforce—also offers PRM functionality.
Salesforce said it has 26 customers using the early version of Partnerforce, including the likes of Cisco Systems and F5 Networks.