San Francisco-based online applications vendor Salesforce.com has released an offline iteration of its CRM package that works in concert with its existing platforms to help mobile users stay wired to critical business information.
The Salesforce.com Offline Edition is aimed primarily at CRM customers who need up-to-date information on accounts, leads and customers as they operate in the field generating sales or delivering services. The offering features the same browser-based look and feel that the application service provider's Enterprise and Professional Editions employ, with a focus on allowing users to interact with real-time CRM data.
Salesforce.com hopes the new application will appeal to companies with fairly advanced uses of CRM that are already leveraging customer data to improve business relationships and drive sales. The tool is being offered free to users of Salesforce.com's Enterprise Edition and will rent for a monthly rate of $25 per-user to licensees of its Professional package.
Cary Fulbright, senior vice president of marketing at Salesforce.com, said 200 customers have already deployed the beta version of the software. Vertical markets where the Offline Edition is already building a following include manufacturing, where the sales process can be more complex, Fulbright said.
While Tom Topolinski, industry analyst with Dataquest, an arm of Stamford, Conn.-based researchers Gartner, said the offline application does not represent a major step
"It's a sign of growing maturity in Salesforce.com's overall CRM package," Topolinski observed. "I'd expect there are users in a number of industries who may find this an attractive new way to help work 'unplugged."
According to one company already using the application, Lightspeed Semiconductor Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif., the offline tool can be helpful in generating complicated sales bids and working with existing customer data. Lightspeed has been utilizing the online application vendor's Enterprise Edition since April 2002 and deployed a beta version of the offline package in June.
"When we engage with a customer to try to win a design, it's a very technical sale with lots of variable parameters," said Ron Hess, Lightspeed program manager. "There's a need to gather information and generate models over several weeks to come up with an offer. With the salespeople spending a lot of this time with the customers, something like this makes a big difference."
Hess said Salesforce.com's Offline Edition allows Lightspeed's sales force to work more efficiently by eliminating the need to enter customer data more than once. Travelers don't have to transfer information into the firm's CRM systems when they return home.
One area Hess said he would like to see Salesforce.com improve is in the offline package's ability to allow users to interact with each other and share information. He observed that allowing salespeople more power to link up to remote users' data would make the offline application even more useful.
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