Forrester Ranks Hosted SFA Solutions

Forrester Research has announced the results of its 2004 Hosted Sales Force Automation (SFA) TechRankings assessment of four key solutions. The TechRankings assessment is an objective, scenario-based product testing-and evaluation-process that attempts to determine which hosted SFA solutions have the best functionality. According to Erin Kinikin, vice president and research director at Forrester, TechRankings analyzed both the ability of the vendor to support the solution and its functionality, including the tools to manage the sales process and sales management--from managing opportunities, quotas, and forecasts, to assessing the results. Four vendors have participated to date: NetSuite Version 9.1 Salesnet Extended, Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition, and the Siebel Systems' CRM OnDemand--UpShot Edition. "We measured vendors on seven key categories: setup and configuration, sales management, sales analysis, usability, access and integration, market presence, and cost," Kinikin says. "Salesforce.com had the highest score overall, based on particularly strong setup and configuration, access and integration, and market presence. Salesnet has some great sales-analysis functions, Upshot has some nice advanced functionality with the market presence of Siebel, and NetSuite excelled for pricing and discounting of discrete products and services." One overall strength of the SFA solutions Forrester tested was ease of configuration. "We performed our own hands-on testing based on predefined scenarios, developing all customizations with one business analyst in a matter of hours, not days or weeks as would be the case for most on-premise tools," Kinikin says. Each of the vendors has different strengths and weaknesses, but, according to Kinikin, in general Forrester's testing revealed robust sales-analysis tools, including reporting and dashboarding, but immature analytics, such as cross-sell or purchase analysis. Integration with desktop applications was another strong feature, with good support for PDAs and desktop tools. Forrester also noted in the report that process management, such as automating next steps, encouraging sales best practices, and alerting users to take action, is becoming a differentiator for some vendors. Kinikin did point out some across-the-board weaknesses. "Hosted sales tools still lag on-premise solutions in operationalizing the sales process--pricing and discounting, quoting, forecasting, and activity, and account management," she says. "They do a good job of tracking, but don't always incorporate the logic and integration with company systems to act on the information. NetSuite's broad ERP footprint gives them some advantages in pricing and discounting, especially for companies who are also using NetSuite's ERP functionality."
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