Salesforce.com on Monday enhanced its offline customer relationship management (CRM) edition by leveraging Microsoft's .Net platform to boost mobile worker productivity.
The Offline Edition is designed to re-create the user's experience in an offline setting by generating screens that precisely match the familiar online interface while maintaining the multi-dimensional relationships of data, according to officials from Salesforce.com in San Francisco, Calif. For example, the offline offering incorporates interactions between accounts, contacts and opportunities, while preserving company-specific customization when an Internet connection is not available, said Cary Fulbright, Salesforce.com senior vice president of marketing.
"The ability to track the deals and update them is a key thing that people have been asking for," Fulbright said. "We are using .Net components [and] we are using XML as the messaging infrastructure. There is no client software to be installed and maintained. You've got a much faster synchronization or updating process compared to client server sales force automation products."
The new edition is designed to eliminate the IT headaches associated with traditional offline solutions from client-server companies because there is no need to install local databases or Web servers. In addition, the offline solution doesn'trequire users to run heavy, resource-intensive software locally on theirlaptops, or perform lengthy and error-prone data synchronization, Fulbright added.
While Salesforce.com already offered the ability to synchronize contact lists and other data from Microsoft Outlook or to a Palm device, this offline edition offers increased functionality, said Joe Outlaw, a research director with Gartner.
"This fills a gap in their functionality for better support for offline use," Outlaw said.
However, he noted that Salesforce.com did not add support for full functionality offline. For example, the offline edition does not support forecasting to allow managers to monitor the sales pipeline.
"Their view is that they didn't put it in the offline client because they to force users to do their forecasts online so they are more current," Outlaw said. "The counterargument is that if you have full functionality in the offline client you might get into the habit of working offline for long periods of time keeps the rest of the company in the dark in terms of what you are doing. Their goal is not to be feature- and functionality-competitive with high-end products like Siebel's but to provide a product that meets most company's needs at lower costs with ease of use."