New app makes Salesforce.com easier to use

Active Endpoints' Cloud Extend software lets managers embed interactive guides directly into Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com's growth and popularity are undeniable, but startup Active Endpoints is betting that its customers could use a little help getting the most out of the on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) software with a new application called Cloud Extend.

Over the years, Salesforce.com "has become a beast," said Active Endpoints CEO Mark Taber. "It's hard for the sales team to adopt."

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Moreover, "there's nothing more infuriating for a sales manager than having the knowledge of how to win a deal and not have sales reps consistently and accurately following that," he said.

Cloud Extend for Salesforce.com gives sales managers and other domain experts the ability to deliver their users such knowledge in an effective manner, without involving developers, according to Active Endpoints.

Managers can create interactive guides dubbed that walk a user through a typical scenario, such as making an outbound call to a sales prospect.

The guides are not meant to be rigid, as they can provide different paths for the user depending on the answers given to various questions the guide poses. Guides are accessed within the Salesforce.com interface, keeping the user in context with whatever task they are performing.

Once a guide is created, it can be published for use with a single click, according to Active Endpoints.

Cloud Extend, which is built on Salesforce.com's Force.com platform, also includes some sample guides for areas like "lead nurturing" and "sales qualification," as well as mobile support for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

The application is now available in early access form for a limited amount of customers, with general release slated for later this year.

Active Endpoints intends to target other SaaS (software as a service) applications in the future, such as for Workday, NetSuite, and RightNow, although no firm plans were revealed. It is also hoping to partner with other ISVs (independent software vendors).

Cloud Extend fills a need despite the presence of many existing training and scripting tools for Salesforce.com, said Forrester Research analyst Stefan Ried.

BPM (business process management) software vendors like Active Endpoints have realized that business users are overwhelmed by "full-blown" BPM tools, Ried said. Cloud Extend, as well as IBM's Blueworks product, reflects a trend toward giving those users something they can actually use, he said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.

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