Salesforce.com filled in some gaps in its business applications portfolio Tuesday with updated partner relationship management and hosted collaboration and content management offerings.
PRM 2.0, due out later this week as part of the Spring 07 quarterly release, makes it easier for users to customize business process and brand partner communications, Salesforce.com said. Users can also create hierarchies for partner records so sales management can better visualize the pipeline.
Salesforce.com has offered hosted PRM capabilities since last year. Yet PRM remains a work-in-progress for the San Francisco-based company, according to one partner/customer of the current version of hosted service.
"We have it up and running, and it's not the easiest thing in the world, to be honest," said Will Corkery, director of channel sales at Persystent Technologies, a Tampa, Fla.-based software vendor and Salesforce.com user.
One new feature, that lets the partner apply its own branding to triggered e-mail to customers and partners, is a big plus, said another partner. "I hope this is a trend they continue. The more we can put our branding, instead of Salesforce's, in front, the better," said Glen Stoffel, practice director for Bluewolf Group, a New York-based Salesforce.com partner.
The original PRM service required the use of Salesforce.com's Enterprise or Unlimited Edition plus $1,500 per partner per year above that cost. The Unlimited edition is $250 per user per month, and the Enterprise Edition is $125 per user per month. The pricing for PRM uses a different model than end-user pricing for CRM.
Salesforce.com positions its hosted wares as a less pricey alternative to full-blown, on-premise CRM systems. On-premise CRM competitors are quick to point out that after three years once the hosted model is factored in, the comparison can often work in their favor.
Salesforce.com "can get pricey," agreed John Orrick, CEO of Okere, a New York-based Salesforce.com partner. But he cautioned against reading too much into the published prices. "There's often a difference between retail and what people are really paying," he noted.
Salesforce.com also opened up a significant new battle front with Microsoft and others with its planned hosted collaboration capabilities, due out later this year.
The company plans to offer shared, secure workspaces to customers based on technology recently obtained with its acquisition of Koral Technologies last month.
Salesforce.com's upcoming ContentExchange will let users contribute documents or Wikis and share them with designated workgroup members. The hosted service will let users tag their unstructured documents in a way that will make them easier to locate and use and allow workgroup members to rate and comment on them.
In addition, the company said it will offer Apex Content as a platform for building shared applications that can draw on audio, video, office documents, Web pages and e-mail.
Bluewolf's Stoffel also lauded this move. "The real power here would be around the Wiki experience. Wikis provide a good way to interact not only with customers but partners. If we could apply them to PRM so that partners could update their own information [where appropriate] in certain fields, that's very compelling," he noted.
Orrick said the upcoming collaboration technology is another example of Salesforce's push to extend its platform and its applications footprint.
This report was updated Tuesday evening with additional partner comment.