For project-based organizations, life may have just gotten a little easier. Selling services that differ from client to client can be a lot to manage, with project information, client data, and knowledge resources often held in silos. That particular problem is one that professional services automation vendor OpenAir is hoping to remedy. OpenAir may operate under the NetSuite roof -- thanks to its acquisition by the software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor in June 2008 -- but its expertise is hardly vendor-specific.
As of to solidify that vendor-agnosticism, OpenAir is announcing a tighter integration with Salesforce.com -- a rival to NetSuite in the SaaS marketplace, but one with which OpenAir shares many customers and sees a lot of potential, according to Ed Marshall, OpenAir's vice president of sales and marketing.
OpenAir had existing integration capabilities with the sales force automation portion of Salesforce.com, but will now expand into the support aspects as well. As a result, Marshall says, users will now have access to new kinds of metrics:
- "How many hours of support am I spending with Client X?"
- "How much money am I spending with support?"
- "How many hours is our staff spending on cases like Type Y?"
Basically, OpenAir users can funnel their Salesforce.com leads and current customer data to automatically create projects to correspond with intended opportunities -- all with a single sign-on.
Marshall says "very little" has changed with OpenAir's operations since its acquisition by NetSuite eight months ago. "We are integrating with NetSuite in terms of financial and CRM [applications]," he says. "But we are still a standalone entity."
Marshall estimates that OpenAir probably has 100 clients running Salesforce.com, but he expects that number to significantly increase once OpenAir's integration efforts take off. Joint customers to date include corporations such as Hallmark, Jive Software, nGenera, and BioPharm. Marshall also notes that OpenAir has clients that use all three solutions: NetSuite, Salesforce.com, and OpenAir.
"It's refreshing to see two big [SaaS] players doing something nice to help their customers," says Brian Solmer, president of consultancy Vital Analysis, adding that service organizations need to be operationally excellent, especially given the troubled economy. Developing a grasp of customer profitability, he says, is often a challenge for service organizations -- one that can be alleviated with the integration of CRM and professional services automation. Service-based companies using Salesforce.com without also utilizing a solution for professional services automation (such as OpenAir's) need to do so as soon as possible, he says. "If you don't, you will be roadkill," he says.
In challenging economic times, service- and project-based companies might need to fire customers, especially ones that are costing more money than they're bringing in. An integrated solution similar to OpenAir's, Solmer says, will help an organization gain visibility to see which customers are profitable and which are not.
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