Review: Salesnet

 
 
By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-05-09
 
 
 

Review: Salesnet


Bucking the trend in the CRM space is Salesnet, a hosted CRM service provider that barely provides any CRM functionality—and is proud of it.

Instead, Salesnet focuses on SFA (sales force automation). Although CRM and SFA are inextricably linked, there are differences between the two: SFA is all about getting sales employees running efficiently, and CRM is software that gives the business view into customers actions.

Because customers are typically first "touched" by the sales or marketing staff, CRM solutions include at least some functional SFA tools. Salesnet takes the SFA concept further, allowing sales employees to build processes that force at least minimal business rules to be followed. The result: The sales staff becomes more effective.

eWEEK Labs tests show that the Salesnet application is an almost-perfect minimalist SFA solution. We found it extremely easy to create business processes, which instantly became available to everyone on staff. For example, we created a multistep process in which we tracked a lead, kicked off a conference call, automatically initiated an e-mail message and processed a literature request. If the deal was lost, we could set up Process Builder to initiate a follow-up call later in the year.

In fact, of the products we tested, Salesnet was the only solution that had any significant workflow capabilities at all. The only thing Salesnet is missing is the ability to validate improperly constructed workflows. When we created processes that Salesnet could not finish, for example, it returned with the cryptic message "unfinishable."

Salesnet could use better validation in general. For example, Salesnet does not catch the entering of single-byte years in the date field until the entire page is saved. Other solutions simply validate and convert them into four-digit dates.

The default Salesnet home page is nothing but colorful charts in Flash format (see screen). There are charts for lead source outcome, imminently closing deals and rolling forecasts, among others.

Its unfortunate that Salesnet provides no drill-through capabilities in the charts, although Salesnet provides chart data with mouse-overs. Its also unfortunate that Salesnet works only with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.

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By default, Salesnet works without an SSL connection, which will be a problem for some customers. Administrators, however, can force SSL, tweak log-in attempt rules and set up passwords to expire on a timed basis.

In tests with SSL turned on, Salesnet slowed down—from performance in the excellent range to worst overall. What took 10 seconds without SSL took 20 seconds with SSL. Organizations will need to decide whether the security of SSL log-ins is worth the performance hit.

Among the hosted competitors, Salesnet has the richest offline client software, but it is also the most limited. Salesnet was the last major CRM ASP to offer an offline client, but the software leapfrogs its competitors in terms of functionality. The problem is that it requires Microsofts .Net Framework, and it runs only on Windows.

Behind the scenes, Salesnet is based on Windows technology, and most of it uses .Net; however, Salesnet is still evaluating the use of Microsofts BizTalk as a core integration strategy. We found this odd but not limiting, since Salesnet has some of the strongest integration capabilities out there.

Salesnet has a three-pronged approach to integration. For simple integration projects, Salesnet allows users to embed URLs into Salesnet fields. These hyperlinks can pull data from other sources and push data back to them. For simple reads and writes, hyperlinking may be the way to go: It provides some flexibility since hyperlinks can launch applications. However, the limitation with hyperlinks is that, generally speaking, they need to be processed—that is, someone has to click on them.

For more complex integrations, Salesnet provides 25 Web service APIs for its core modules, including Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities and Custom Fields. Organizations with strong IT departments may opt to write their own connections. However, in the midmarket, chances are good that this level of integration will need to be left to an integrator.

Salesnets third integration strategy is through partnerships, including one with AptSoft Corp., a startup specializing in integration.

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

Executive Summary

Salesnet is strictly a sales force automation ASP, but its a best-of-class SFA solution. Salesnet (www.salesnet.com) also has a good strategy for tying into other business applications. The services dashboard-style interface is appealing but slow. In addition, the service defaults to a non-SSL connection, and turning on SSL slows performance.

(+) Best-of-class SFA solution; great reporting capabilities; enviable workflow-creation tools; well-rounded development strategy.

(-) Slow performance in SSL mode; difficult to interact with otherwise-nice dashboard; defaults to non-SSL connection.

Price $99 per user per month for Extended Edition.

CRM Systems Go Head to Head:

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

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