Salesforce.com On-Demand CRM Software Review
Salesforce.com On-Demand CRM software functionality is delivered in a front-office suite across the following core areas:
- Marketing Management
- Sales Force Automation (aka SFA)
- Customer Support
Salesforce.com CRM software feature sets are generally considered broad but not deep across the three CRM pillars of marketing, SFA and customer support. The core application provides a relatively simple and intuitive interface to do most things at a basic level. SFDC’s AppExchange strategy supports the depth where required by encouraging clients to use AppExchange partners to meet gaps or deficits in the core SFDC solution. The simplicity of the user interface is appealing on first look. The interface is similar to an ebay or yahoo type experience with lots of movement between screens and scrolling up and down pages. This familiar user experience makes the solution appealing to many users, and in particular, users who are new to CRM software. The interface is generally responsive and in most areas intuitive. In the testing conducted to research this paper, it was only necessary to access the excellent online help system a limited number of times.
Marketing management is one of the weakest areas of the SFDC hosted solution. The marketing solution is included at Enterprise Level and above (or charged as an extra for other editions). The solution however provides very limited support for conducting marketing campaigns via email. Indeed, the SFDC help guide (page 1632 – yes it’s long!) notes “Mass email is designed for small-scale sales and support mailings, not for marketing purposes. We recommend that you use a third-party email-execution vendor to send emails for marketing campaigns.” These add-on vendors are available through the AppExchange partners at additional (sometimes significant) cost. A related problem is the integration of a third party solution back to SFDC for record keeping. For example, to ensure that your sales organization is aware of which campaigns your contacts have been exposed to.
Another option is to use SFDC’s mass email tool. This tool is fairly basic however and does not support the depth of functionality that is often required by many marketing professionals (link tracking, bounce management, read tracking, etc) and the number of email communications that can be sent daily using the solution depends on the edition:
Professional Edition - 250 email limit
Enterprise Edition - 500 email limit
Unlimited Edition - 1000 email limit
It is critical to ensure these limits are adequate for the frequency and size of campaigns that you plan on conducting.
SFDC’s marketing partnership with Google is evident with the Google AdWords support being offered in all editions including Group Edition. This partnership supports the ability to track the effectiveness of Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns where organizations pay for placement on Google’s search engine rankings.
Sales Force Automation
Sales force Automation (SFA) is the strongest component in the Salesforce.com CRM software solution. The SFA system includes account, contact, activity and opportunity management. Depending on the edition, the functionality becomes increasingly sophisticated. SFA functions such as territory management and multiple recurring revenues are available, however, reserved for the higher level editions. Thus in the area of sales force automation it is critical to have a clear understanding of your requirements in order to avoid subsequent up charges through ‘edition creep’. For example, advanced functions such as revenue scheduling or revenue management, where you need to set up a specific schedule of revenue recognition for an opportunity based on defined time periods or even a user defined pattern, are reserved for Enterprise and Unlimited subscribers. Overall, the SFA module provides a solid foundation for most SMB (small and midsize business) organizations.
Customer Support (aka Case Management)
Case Management was added to SFDC’s offering in a prior release. Not considered a strength in the overall SFDC solution, the case management module does offer support for case management, automated assignment, case queues and escalation. This part of the SFDC CRM offering was strengthened by SFDC’s acquisition of InStranet in August 2008. This acquisition has provided SFDC with an improved customer support knowledgebase. It is unclear from the initial press releases to whom InStranet will be available and at what cost.
SFDC offers templates to support vertical industries through the AppExchange directory. Examples include financial services, public sector, high tech and media and communications. As an example in the “Public Sector – Law Enforcement Edition”, SFDC has added a tab called “Suspects” (shown below):
This is a creative use by SFDC using their own software customization tools. While these applications lack a real depth of functionality to claim industry specialization, they may provide a good head start for organizations seeking relatively quick solutions. Furthermore, pricing for these industry templates is often (not always) free. Real depth in any industry will otherwise be sourced from AppExchange partners (usually at a cost).