Waiting for Wireless
Salesforce.com made its name providing reliable CRM information to any corporate user with a live Internet connection. Highlighting a growing trend, that of CRM developers increasingly competing across a broader landscape of client size and complexity, the on-demand provider has shifted to highlighting its capability to run on tiny wireless devices, even in an offline capacity--not normally a core strength of a browser-based product.
The change was inevitable, but the results are not guaranteed, as CRM developers must increasingly learn new tricks to work where their clients work. "Most salespeople aren't in the office 40 hours a week...so there are questions [of mobile access] that have always needed to be answered," says Martin Schneider, enterprise software analyst at The 451 Group. "Everybody is trying to up the ante to make [access] as close to real time as possible," regardless of where or when the user touches the CRM system.
The transition between interface architectures is not always a smooth one, as anyone who remembers the ragged migrations to a Web-based interface for popular CRM systems like Siebel and SalesLogix of a few years back can attest. Salesforce.com has generally been praised by industry watchers for partnering with wireless experts Vettro and Sendia to provide the synchronization engine, rather than trying to build one with an internal R&D unit better tuned to providing real-time, browser-based functionality.
Salesforce.com is not the only company taking its CRM solution to new form factors. Best Software will soon launch another attempt to take SalesLogix to a more flexible wireless and Web-architected model, and is providing the recently acquired ACCPAC CRM system under a variety of models, including full-service subscription hosting and the option to run an internal server along with disconnected, mobile sales clients. The browser-based ACCPAC CRM product gave Best a foothold in the coveted hosted space without creating a distraction from its conventional software deployment efforts. "You will see most of the vendors supporting both models," says Liz Herbert, an analyst at Forrester Research, "because customers will demand it."