The new forecasting capabilities in the Salesforce.com Summer 04 release, due this month, will go a long way toward serving enterprises divergent forecasting needs, sources close to the San Francisco company said.
Lack of customization can be an acute problem with forecasting, a key activity in which companies look for accurate views of deals in the sales pipeline. However, forecasting needs can differ dramatically from customer to customer based on such dynamics as the number of products they sell, the number of clients they have or the typical size of a deal.
Unlike Salesforce.coms existing hosted offering, the upgrade will enable companies with multiple product lines to forecast sales by product line. This will be a welcome improvement, according to Salesforce.com user Dave Janssen.
"Well be able to quote sales forecasts down to the product level in our reports," said Janssen, director of sales strategy at Seattle-based F5 Networks Inc., which has three product lines. "Not being able to do that before kind of limits the business activities we can do."
Salesforce.com Summer 04 is also expected to support forecasting for products that ship on a scheduled basis, such as for a customer that orders a product but takes delivery only when inventory is low. By law, public companies can recognize the revenue only when the product ships and need to be able to match revenue forecasting to the shipping schedule.
The Salesforce.com upgrade also will address the forecasting needs for companies that have a low volume of sales opportunities—around 100 or fewer per quarter—but a wide range of large-deal values.
Salesforce.com customer David Brooks said the companys existing forecasting engine is geared to companies with a high volume of low-cost deals that are fairly constant in price.
"The issue for us is not Will we close the deal? but Will it be a $40 million deal or a $50 million deal?" said Brooks, CIO of Magma Design Automation Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif. "The current version really doesnt anticipate that price-amount range."
"The level of functionality in the new version is more geared to high sale price deals at low volumes," Brooks said.
Other new forecasting features in the Summer 04 release include the ability to run either monthly or quarterly forecasts; manage overrides by sales managers and executives; and customize views of forecasts by either amount or percent of quota.
The upgrade also will offer support for rolling forecast views for looks further out into the pipeline; drilling down into opportunities behind forecast numbers for both reps and managers; editing forecast data from the sales opportunity screen; batch forecast submissions; forecast history reports and automatic updates as data is changed; and rollups of forecasts made in multiple currencies.
Getting forecasting right has been a challenge for Salesforce.com. Brooks said he had been expecting the forecasting improvements to be made in the companys Spring 04 release in April. And even in the Summer 04 release, the forecasting will only be released on a "pilot basis," according to sources closed to the company.
Salesforce.com Summer 04 boasts more than 100 new features, sources said. Other new capabilities of note include a portal interface called My Salesforce.com, which will allow users to customize their Salesforce.com home pages with direct access to Salesforce.com applications, forecasting dashboards, WebEx meetings and Web content, sources said.
A Salesforce.com spokesperson declined to comment on Summer 04, saying the company is in a quiet period after its initial public stock offering last month.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include additional information about the forecasting features in the Summer 04 release.