.Net Making Sense for CRM Developers

Salesforce.Com, Firstwave, Banter follow Microsoft in creating CRM applications for .Net technology.

Microsoft Corp.s forthcoming CRM application is expected to be the first business application fully built on the companys .Net Framework when it becomes available later this year. In the meantime, other customer relationship management software developers, including Salesforce.com, Firstwave Technologies Inc. and Banter Systems Inc., are embracing the technology.

San Francisco-based Salesforce. coms new Offline Edition, which will be launched this week, allows users to view and update customer and prospect information offline through the same interface as online, thanks in part to the use of .Net extensions built into Microsofts Internet Explorer browser. Offline Edition uses Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations and Dynamic HTML.

Customers can update account information and synchronize with their hosted database at Salesforce.com when theyre connected, as well as download a "briefcase" of customer account information for offline access.

Mike Bauer, northern region vice president of sales and marketing at Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution Inc., said his 100-plus users had been clamoring for offline access to Salesforce.com for on-the-road access to their applications.

"One of the drawbacks to Salesforce. com initially, according to our salespeople, was that you couldnt work with it offline," said Bauer, based in Richmond, Va. "Now theyll have to find another excuse for not putting in their information," he joked.

Bauer said his users mainly work offline to update their sales contacts, accounts and opportunities, then re-sync with the hosted database when reconnected. They rarely download information for offline access.

Meanwhile, Firstwave, which also develops online CRM software, last week announced it has licensed a .Net Framework from Extreme Logic Inc., which it will use to build a Web services-oriented workflow engine to handle CRM workflow and call scripting. The Extreme Logic framework was developed in the C# language.

Officials at Firstwave, in Atlanta, said the .Net architecture of the workflow engine will allow for easy integration with other applications and devices, as well as support changing business environments and requirements.

Separately, Banter late last month announced it will integrate .Net Web services into its Banter Server product. Banter software is used to process informal written communications, such as Web forms, instant messaging, e-mail and self-service inquiries, and to develop natural language applications. The company will integrate .Net Web services with Banter Server to make it easier for customers to extend those language processing capabilities to more applications in the enterprise.

The San Francisco-based companys support of .Net will enable customers to add advanced e-mail management capabilities to Microsofts Exchange message server.