Salesforce.com is still out to prove the point that hosted software applications make sense. One area where this is definitely the case is the area of offline use of the applications. Offline Edition 2.0 enables Salesforce users to manage their CRM data when working without Internet connectivity. It seems the next step is to integrate applications such as productivity tools, including word processing, e-mail, VOIP and Web meetings, directly into the newly relabeled Force platform.
Documents, e-mails, telephone calls and Web meetings are the basis of customer interactions and the basic building blocks of a formal business relationship. The only ingredient missing is face-to-face meetings, but even those can be logged through a calendaring system.
During several workshops that I attended at the Dreamforce "global gathering" I heard the phrase repeated, "If it's not in Salesforce, it doesn't exist." One of the biggest barriers that customers put forward for why information doesn't end up in Salesforce is the EXTRA time needed by reps to log data about the customer contact. From sales reps' point of view, it would be great if every phone call made, from whatever phone device they use, be it a desk phone, cell/Wi-Fi phone or softphone on a PC, were automatically logged to a customer contact. The rep could then enter details about the content of the call with the application doing all the grunt work of looking up the customer and creating the call record.
I don't even have to let my imagination run wild to see the possibilities. Peter Polasek, senior vice president of Financial Systems for SunGard Data Systems, which provides software and processing solutions for financial services, higher education and the public sector, detailed his use of Saleforce for cross-selling and filling the pipeline. For example, the application acts on information in fields such as "we're behind the competition" in a sale and brings up sell sheets geared to overcome the competition. A computer application can't tell a customer why he or she should buy Product A over Product B, but a person can. A computer application can certainly help a person sell these products. The computer application can help even more effectively when the number of product lines is large and the field of competition is broad.
I can barely bring myself to repeat another Holly Hobbie-ism spread like thick margarine at Dreamforce, but I will. "If you can dream it, you can do it." Gack. Taking the smarm out, it is cool to think about ways to use technology to make it easier for people to do knowledge work.
And this could be extended through many parts of the enterprise on a hosted platform. Tune in for my next posting on why hosted platform aggregation is the next obstacle that Salesforce must overcome if it hopes to prove the point that hosting makes sense for enterprise applications.