Salesforce.com Expands the Cloud to Sales
The Spring '09 release of the popular on-demand CRM platform includes new social functions for salespeople.
Posted Feb 10, 2009
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The mists of San Francisco are giving way to clouds. Specifically, cloud computing with the Salesforce.com stamp, as the software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor today announced Salesforce Spring '09, its 28th software release. The update, which went live over the weekend, includes a number of enhancements and new features, many of them centered on the concept of cloud computing and the value of social media.

Two major pieces of news are attached to today's announcement. First is Opportunity Genius, a tool that brings the value of social computing to the prospecting process. Opportunity Genius automatically compares relevant parts of one opportunity against others that the sales team has worked, and generates a list of the most similar and relevant ones. The user, having thereby identified the people in her organization with the most applicable knowledge for the current prospect, may then reach out to those people to seek advice or what has come to be known as "tribal wisdom."

The second hook in Salesforce Spring '09 is Community Content, a sales-focused expansion to Salesforce Content. The new features allow a user to locate existing presentations and other materials that are relevant to her current needs; clone and customize that content, adding or deleting portions as necessary with a drag-and-drop interface; and package one or several pieces of content for online viewing by the intended recipient. The link thus generated is trackable, and will alert the sender whenever accessed or forwarded. The Community Content also features version and access control -- so packaged content can have an expiration date, user restrictions, and the ability to fix mistakes through the use of "stealth updates."

"This is a big release, with a lot of breakthrough capabilities," says Al Falcione, senior director of product marketing for Salesforce.com. "There's never been a better time for cloud computing."

In mid-January, Salesforce.com teased the industry with the announcement of Service Cloud, a social SaaS application for customer service and support. These new aspects of the company's cloud computing initiative are being described as the Sales Cloud, though the distinction is artificial. Company spokespeople are quick to point out that "there's only one cloud at Salesforce.com."

While social computing has experienced tremendous advances in recent years -- many of them launched or championed by Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer -- it's still up to the user to generate actual value from the applications.

"In theory, the Sales Cloud brings a set of effective new capabilities to the sales team," says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research for analyst firm Nucleus Research. "In practice, it still means salespeople have to learn to share. For companies with collaborative sales processes in place, this is an excellent set of tools."

But the value, Wettemann says, runs deeper than that. "The important thing here is the operational possibilities Salesforce.com has added," she says. "Salesforce.com's brand of cloud computing is becoming stickier and deeper."

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