Mix-And-Match Services

Salesforce.com apps mesh with others.

The flexibility inherent in Salesforce.com Inc.s namesake service gives companies not only a way to build new applications but also an opportunity to integrate existing applications into their sales processes and build new processes for the Salesforce application. During eWEEK Labs tests of the Summer 05 release of Salesforce, we looked at three applications that use different methods to integrate with Salesforce. All three tap into the flexibility of the service, either to allow companies to move data into or out of Salesforce or to embed new applications directly within it.

QuickwebPro, OmniPilot Software Inc.s hosted campaign management application, shares Web-to-lead information with Salesforce through custom fields built in Salesforce using Salesforce. coms Customforce tool. Nsites namesake hosted workflow automation service brings new forms and workflows to Salesforce by embedding itself via custom links and passing shared credential information. Mindjet LLCs MindManager Accelerator for Salesforce uses the XML-based data exchange capabilities of Salesforce. coms Sforce data integration tools to bring sales data to Mindjets MindManager visual mapping software.

To a certain extent, Salesforce does create a marketplace for a class of add-on product or service—although, in some instances, an add-on product or service may actually compete with a feature or capability in Salesforce.

OmniPilots $298-per-month QuickwebPro and Automated Marketing Package services provide basic Web site hosting and campaign management capabilities, including a bulk e-mailing service.

Companies can completely source hosting through QuickwebPro or just the relevant lead-generation pages. The service has tools for broad campaign management, including the ability to automatically score and rank leads.

However, OmniPilots tools for measuring campaign success dont have the broad reach and reporting of those in Salesforce. Ultimately, the OmniPilot-Salesforce combination may be a better fit for customers that need to outsource Web and sales applications rather than those that have IT resources and choose to outsource applications.

On a more basic level, the integration between the two applications provides a convenient way to capture lead data. All we had to do was add some custom fields in Salesforces opportunity and lead management applications and map those fields to one another using Customforce. On the QuickwebPro side, we then needed to generate the Web-to-lead HTML code, enable Salesforce integration within the application and enter the custom field strings from the generated code into a form.

After completing that simple—albeit time-consuming—process, actually making the forms available through QuickwebPros publishing tools worked without a hitch. The service makes it easy to organize and publish content: QuickwebPro supports Cascading Style Sheets and has plug-ins for Macromedia Inc.s Dreamweaver.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read Michael Catons reviews of two lower-cost CRM sytems, click here.

Like QuickwebPro, Nsites eponymous workflow automation service is an odd fit for a Salesforce.com partner, considering that companies could build custom forms and underlying application logic directly within Salesforce. However, Nsites application will make sense for companies that lack the IT resources to build these applications. Nsite is priced at $40 per user per month for five processes.

In tests, we integrated Nsites forms-based applications directly into Salesforces sales applications, such as the opportunity management software. Creating the integration is as simple as creating a custom link using Customforce, putting that link in the custom links area of an application page and specifying if the application should launch in a new window or within Salesforce.

Once we completed those steps, we needed to launch a custom forms-based workflow and take that opportunity to store credentials locally through a cookie. In all subsequent use of the custom workflow, Nsite and Salesforce manage passing of credentials automatically.

When Nsite is presented directly within the Salesforce application, users can move back to within the Salesforce elements simply by clicking navigation elements outside the Nsite application.

Nsite can synchronize data between the two applications, so a process that may require approval on a price quote in Nsite will populate necessary quote information within Salesforce. The data synchronization capability can be used to update pipeline data, for example.

Although Salesforce and Nsite have tools for building some of the same workflow and forms-based applications, Nsite will give companies more robust routing options. Furthermore, Nsite will provide audit and reporting information on processes and routing that isnt as readily available in Salesforce.

We particularly liked the way Mindjets $49 Accelerator for Salesforce takes the text-heavy data in Salesforce and displays it graphically within Mindjets $229 MindManager X5 application. Mindjet has done a particularly good job of exposing components of Salesforce and Supportforce in a way that makes sense through Accelerator, a separate application that users run in conjunction with MindManager.

From a practical perspective, Accelerator is really about meeting management for sales and support teams. (Accelerator for Salesforce + Supportforce costs $79.) It gives teams a way to map the complex and important information buried in account contact and opportunity data, such as the names of gatekeepers and decision makers, within MindManager. It is also the middleware that acts as an interface between MindManager and Salesforce. We were able to update Salesforce data within MindManager, and we then used Accelerator to synchronize that data with Salesforce.

Mindjet built Accelerator using Sforce, Salesforce.coms tools platform for moving data back and forth between Salesforce and other applications. Because MindManager stores information in XML format and integrates with Salesforce using the Sforce Web Services API, companies can extend Accelerator to include custom data and applications within Salesforce.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

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