• August 16, 2002
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Salesforce.com Goes Offline

Crossing the chasm between the online and offline world should not be so cumbersome. At least, that's what executives at Salesforce.com say. Salesforce.com bet the farm on hosting CRM solutions, which requires an online connection to view customer information -- a viable alternative to buying expensive software licenses and shelling out big bucks for the integration and maintenance fees. However, one problem with an online solution is that viewing the information requires users to be connected to the Internet, which can present a problem for executives on the go. However, starting on Monday, that should no longer be a problem for those using Salesforce.com. That is when the company is releasing its salesforce.com Offline Edition, which is built on .Net and other dynamic Web languages. The Offline Edition enables users to work offline via the same browser-based interface as its online counterpart. Offline Edition incorporates the interactions between "accounts," "contacts" and "opportunities," while preserving company-specific customization for a full-featured CRM solution for use when an Internet connection is not available. When users are back online, a single click allows them to update the system without losing any information in the translation. "Up until now, offline solutions have typically been either Excel-based, or client/server based. Both solutions hold significant drawbacks for end users," stated Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive of Salesforce. "Excel-based solutions are only two-dimensional - regardless of the user interface, an Excel solution is only as good as a spreadsheet. While the typical client/server offline solution has different issues, this type of approach is also cumbersome, requiring users to install a local database or web server in order to run offline. The Offline Edition breaks down these barriers by maintaining dynamic information in an identical environment. Salesforce.com is now available to any user, at any time, anywhere in the world," Benioff said. Starting Monday, the Offline Edition will be available as part of Salesforce.com's Enterprise Edition and for an extra $25, per user, per month with the Professional Edition. The ability to carry around customer information locally is a significant perk for Lightspeed Semiconductor, a manufacturer of application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Due to its heavy technological focus, the 80-person company needed a CRM solution with robust reporting and automation capabilities for its sales and application engineers. So the company selected Salesforce.com. Because the creation of ASICs is so customer specific and requires a lot of technical information from customer IT departments, Lightspeed not only needs to report and gain access to sales information, but it also needs to report and gain access to specific technical information before giving a price quote to a customer, says Dave Werry, director of tactical product marketing at Lightspeed. Naturally, the inherent complexity associated with this type of sale gets more difficult on the road when disconnected from the customer database. "Many of our executives travel out to customers and need to be in the field for various reasons," Werry says. That is why Lightspeed became one of the first few salesforce.com customers to test-drive the Offline Edition. Because the company is still early in the process, Werry could not comment on any ROI numbers realized yet.
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