Salesforce.com updates hosted CRM
Winter ’04 edition builds strong workflow automation and alerting features into flexible offering
One of the most important advances in the new Winter ’04 release is the addition of workflow process management. Nearly everything, from assigning prospective leads to launching inquiries when high-profile accounts change status, can be managed using triggers and rules-based automation. This extends, too, to managing customer service cases and Web-initiated solicitations as well.
I used the text-based workflow interface to build rule sets for standard business practices. Rules could be built on criteria such as geographic location or revenue potential, for example, to ensure that a new lead on a prime account didn’t end up in the lap of a newbie. Even changes in the status of an opportunity or existing contract could be used as a trigger. So, as a deal moved closer to completion, alerts and workflow tasks could be fired to call in the expertise of big guns to finesse the final closing.
The rules development interface would benefit from a graphical layout to help managers better visualize and test workflow processes. Also, the ability to include relational, date-based rules would be helpful. SFDC does allow you to implement new rules on existing records. And relational, date-based rules are available in task creation, where I could define a trigger date as “current date plus x-number of days,” for example.
The Winter ’04 edition also steps lightly into contract management by automating approval routing. SFDC won’t replace your primary contract repository. It lacks integrated quote development, as well as many other features of a full-fledged contract management system (really an ERP function), but its audit trails can benefit support staff, and expiration alerts will allow sales reps to identify potential opportunities for renewal revenue.
In or Out?
Outsourcing CRM has always been viewed as a trade-off between reaping immediate benefits and satisfying ongoing flexibility requirements. With SFDC you gain the best of both worlds. And because SFDC mitigates hardware, storage, and security requirements, as well as the burden on IT staff, it becomes possible to accurately predict the true cost of your CRM system.
SFDC combines a rich set of CRM features, an intuitive interface, superb help and support services, strong reporting, extensive customization, and the tools to meet the challenge of most any advanced application or legacy integration requirement. In addition to a new Web services API, Winter ’04 offers advanced integration through its SForce on- demand application server and an in-house TIBCO Integration Server that can directly extend your backend applications with CRM functionality.
Any company in all but the most vertical of industries would do well to consider SFDC Winter ’04. Its potential for building more productive, cost-effective sales teams and ensuring customer satisfaction is unmatched in a hosted solution, and one lead well worth your time to qualify.