Review: Salesforce.com

 
 
By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-05-09
 
 
 

Review: Salesforce.com


Salesforce.com, a finalist in this years Excellence Awards program, is among the most complete CRM packages weve tested and is especially well-thought-out for the hosted space. Salesforce.com turned in best-of-class performance in a benchmark that Keynote Systems Inc. ran for us and had 100 percent uptime during the testing phase—the only ASP we tested that did (see graphic).

Functionally, Salesforce.com has a clean interface designed for throughput. While NetLedger, Salesnet and UpShot opt for dashboard-style interfaces, Salesforce. com displays as much data as possible on a single screen. The data is organized effectively through tabs and menu items (see screen), and eWEEK Labs found it easy to maneuver through the interface. We especially like how Salesforce.com provides a tab-based frame of reference for each of its modules, including Campaigns, Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities and Forecasts.

Eventually, Salesforce.com will run out of screen real estate, especially if it continues to add modules at a rate of about two per year. Until then, the interface is highly suitable for online work. Salesforce.com also has a simple but effective help desk tracking system.

Salesforce.coms offline strategy is a work in progress. The offline client is browser-based (Internet Explorer) and mimics the online version. There have been reports of data synchronization problems, but we could not verify them in tests.

Salesforce.com was designed from the ground up to offer everything that Siebel Systems Inc.s CRM system does, but in a simpler way and from an ASP.

However, Salesforce.com clearly is not yet in the same league as Siebel: There is no best-practices culture at Salesforce.com, and there are no employee relationship modules in the Salesforce.com application. Salesforce.coms integration with desktop applications—something that Siebel excels at—is coming along, but it is coming along slowly. And Salesforce.coms back-office integration strategy is more of an afterthought, although the companys recent focus on integration has led to remarkable progress.

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The integration strategy is more fleshed out than in the past, and Salesforce.com has an API and significant partners, including Cape Clear Software Inc. and TIBCO Software Inc. Salesforce.com uses two methods of encoding for its API—XML-RPC (XML-Remote Procedure Call) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)—and Salesforce.com has a 106-page document that outlines specifically how to encode in each.

Beyond XML-RPC and SOAP, the preferred way of integrating Salesforce.com is through one of its third-party partners, such as Data Junction Corp., Cape Clear and TIBCO.

eWEEK Labs likes the openness of the Salesforce.com API and the companys partnership strategy. We expect that most people integrating a single application into Salesforce.com will use one of the open API encoding schemes. Organizations can also use XML-RPC or SOAP in larger integrations that involve the assembly of complex, disparate products, but a more practical route is to opt for one of the Salesforce.com partners.

Executive Summary

Usability Good
Capability Good
Performance Excellent
Interoperability Good
Manageability Good
Scalability Good
Security Good

Salesforce.com is the dominant hosted CRM solution available today. The company (www.salesforce.com) is shifting directions to become a business development ASP, but so far it hasnt sacrificed CRM capabilities. Salesforce.com has an easy-to-use interface that displays large amounts of data on the screen. The application is also easy to use and quick to set up.

(+) Aggressive strategy for adding modules and development capabilities; easy to use; fast performance; good partner programs.

(-) Too much display data may be a problem; no dashboard capabilities; needs better way to link to financial systems.

Price $125 per user per month for Enterprise Edition.

CRM Systems Go Head to Head:

Labs Director John Taschek can be reached at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.

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