At its Dreamforce '04 customer and partner conference, Salesforce.com unveiled the initial details of its quarterly software upgrade. Much of the conference buzz about the product focused on its evolution from a relatively innocuous Web site to a more substantial business tool.
The Wednesday morning Dreamforce presentation given by Marie Wieck, IBM Software general manager of industry solutions and business integration, was significant not so much for its content as its implications. In outlining the opportunities to create complex business applications by uniting Salesforce.com with other programs via WebSphere, Wieck gently mocked Salesforce.com's "no software" motto, and drove home the notion that Salesforce.com is trying to surpass its roots as a cookie-cutter on-demand solution by embracing additional software.
"Some software is sneaking out of Salesforce.com, but we don't want to productize all [potential] applications," said Parker Harris, Salesforce.com's senior vice president of research and development. Indeed, as the company seeks to prove the potential of its sforce API layer and the stability of its offline and wireless access modes, Harris maintains that many new integrations will be provided as examples to customers, not as fee-based services.
In the Winter '05 edition of Salesforce.com, the company will add a range of features for user companies. Many of the new capabilities revolve around improving the customizability of the program fields based on data calculation, and introducing proper territory management. Forecasting screens will receive an upgrade, and the supportforce.com customer service outlet will grow to incorporate email response tracking, call scripting, survey delivery and tabulation, and warranty and returns management. A customer's inventory of products, regardless of supplier, can also be tracked. The customer support side of the program will improve access to a managed knowledge base, as well as direct computer telephony integration through the new STAPI program interface.
After making a splash with its sforce program API, Salesforce.com is trying to push the envelope and change the way it thinks about augmenting the program's core operation. Now dubbed CustomForce, the company hopes to attract and hold thousands of customers who would have considered a competing vendor to obtain a particular functionality. Finally, Salesforce.com plans to increase customers' existing storage spaces to the larger of 1,000 megabytes, or to 20 megabytes per paid user at each client company.
Salesforce.com plans to publicly unveil the Winter '05 capabilities on November 15. Company estimates indicate anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks will be needed to fully integrate some of the new features.
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