Branching Out

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2002-02-18
Fueled by increasing demand for its hosted CRM applications, Inc. plans to challenge major enterprise software vendors such as SAP AG with hosted back- office applications.

The San Francisco company, which has attracted 3,800 paying customers for its hosted customer relationship management services in its three years of existence, will extend services to the back office with hosted billing, order, inventory and contract management applications—all expected by years end.

And, according to Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, thats just the beginning.

"Our vision as a company is to, within five years, have every module that SAP has available to license—but totally online," Benioff said.

Hosted accounts payable and accounts receivable applications will follow the software due this year, Benioff said. All the tools will be built from scratch. customer Steve Harding said his company plans to take advantage of the hosted order and inventory management applications.

"We can use as an extranet to our vendors," said Harding, applications development manager for Rosen Products LLC, in Eugene, Ore. "Itll save us the trouble of having to create a portal."

Heidi Shigematsu, who uses hosted CRM services from a rival, UpShot Corp., was more skeptical about the back-office strategy.

"Enterprisewide [applications are] not what their core business is," said Shigematsu, director of global enterprise lead development at Business Engine Software Corp., in San Francisco. "We already have other things in place. You generally have to adopt a finance and budgeting system before you can add contract management. Id rather see UpShot keep true to what their business is."

UpShot, in Mountain View, Calif., does not plan to host back-office applications, stressing, instead, the back- office integration capabilities of its new enterprise-class UpShot XE (Extended Edition) service, which was introduced last week. has added similar integration capabilities in its Enterprise Edition, which will be formally announced this week at the companys Freedom from Software celebration in New York.

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