Salesforce.com’s summer release is typically an opportunity to hype minor upgrades. But with Microsoft announcing its intention to release an on-demand CRM product last week, are you surprised that there’s more than usual in Salesforce’s latest update?
The company’s Summer ’06 release, the 20th generation of its 6-year-old CRM service, includes PRM (partner relationship management), interactive call scripting, improved service call management, and a new connector for SAP R/3.
Up to now, Salesforce has thrived in a market that Microsoft ignored.
Those days may be over. Due in mid-2007, Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM Live reportedly will be based on multitenancy architecture, pioneered by Salesforce.com, in which one instance of the software is shared by all customer accounts. CRM Live will be designed to make SaaS applications vastly easier to scale, manage, upgrade, and provision.
In his keynote address at Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston, CEO Steve Ballmer singled out Dynamics CRM Live as a major opportunity for the company’s huge network of business partners to make money through customizations, add-ons, referrals, and hosting.
Salesforce.com execs scoffed at the Microsoft challenge, however. In an internal Salesforce.com memo, CEO Marc Benioff predicted that an emerging ecosystem of interconnected SaaS applications he dubs the Business Web will eclipse conventional software. “The Business Web — with all of its innovation, creativity, and most important, customer success — won’t wait for Microsoft,” he wrote.
Bruce Francis, vice present of corporate strategy at Salesforce.com, pronounced Microsoft’s innovation model broken and was skeptical that Dynamics CRM Live would ship on time.
Meanwhile, Salesforce.com touted other aspects of the Summer ’06 release, particularly the PRM features. At a cost of $1,500 per partner, per year, Salesforce customers can push customized Web pages out to their distributors, resellers, brokers, and so on. The customized pages offer multiple levels of access to shared CRM data and allow partners to register deals and learn about new opportunities.
With Summer ’06, sales managers also will be able to distribute Web-based sales scripts to reps using a drag-and-drop AJAX interface and change branch logic on the fly. Similarly, customer service managers will be able to monitor service call queues and escalate calls dynamically based on SLAs and other criteria.