Archive for September, 2005

Dreamforce Developer Presentations

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Salesforce posted their Dreamforce presentations. Below are links to some of the more interesting developer-focused ones. There is no audio.

Sforce and Customforce Hacks – Provides a good look into new functionality being offered in Winter ’06.

AJAX Toolkit – Nothing here you can’t learn from the manual, but is a decent getting started presentation.

Open Source Software – Decent presentation points you towards the Sourceforge site.

Gearing Up – Overview of the PHP, Perl and ForceAmp tools.

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Dreamforce News

Wow. There has been quite a lot of news in the Salesforce.com world this week.

AppExchange

This is such an innovative idea. The more I think about it, the better this idea sounds. We will truly see it in action in the Winter release, but it has lots of potential and looks great on the website right now. Salesforce.com seeded the marketplace with some of the apps and I believe these apps will all be free to customers.

Using AppExchange is also a great way to learn about Custom Objects and advanced configuration. If you want to get a really good, real world look at Custom Objects in action, do the Test Drive on one of the Appforce apps (Appforce Project and Issue Management is a good one to start with because it is not too complex). The Customforce configuration is exposed for you to view.

One thing I noticed from the Test Drives was that each demonstration is completely read-only. It was difficult to get a real taste of the application if data cannot be created or edited. It would be really nice to be able to see the Edit view on a page to really understand the user experience. To get around this, I believe AppExchange will allow you to import the functionality into your Org without Deploying it. This will allow your admin to see the functionality in a read-write environment without impacting end-users. I hope something similar will exist for the partner apps as well. The ideal would be to allow anyone to import an app into their own environment for free. Then, for partner apps that are fee-based, they would have a trial period (30 day, 15 day, etc.) determined by the vendor so we can have time to play with the app, get user feedback and put it through some real world scenarios prior to deploying it and paying for it.

AppExchange isn’t officially operational until the Winter release, so I am sure many of the kinks will be worked out and we’ll also see more as to how these apps will be trialed and deployed in an org. It’s a fantastic start.

Siebel Acquisition

In my world, the most important thing coming out of this acquisition is opportunity in the CRM services industry. I am sure many companies will now question their CRM vendor selection. Whether they be existing Siebel customers, Oracle customers or new CRM customers, the pot is being stirred and movement will be occurring in the industry. That is exciting news on the services side!

Siebel does have a very good product (the on-premise one) that has a fit in many large-scale organizations. Especially ones that require very sophisticated workflows and high-levels of automation and interactivity in the app through the use of event-driven scripting and other tools. This cannot be totally achieved in Salesforce.com (yet) with the same level of interactivity for the end-user. I believe that the greatest movement will occur from existing Siebel customers when 2 things have happened: 1) the next major Siebel release is out and customers question whether to upgrade or not and 2) more advanced development capabilities are included in Customforce such as event-based scripting logic that does not require a user to click a web link, more advanced workflow allowing scripts to be initiated based upon database triggers, and the advancement of record types to create classes of the main object. Prior to these things happening, I think most Siebel customers will stick with what they have for a while unless they are only using the most basic of functionality.

I have actually never heard a good thing about Oracle’s CRM product and have never had a customer actually decide to use it, so I know little about it. Ellison says that Siebel will be the center-piece of Oracle’s CRM platform. In other words, existing Oracle CRM customers will need to migrate to the Siebel platform. That’ll be a headache. I think there will be a lot of opportunity for Salesforce with these companies as many of these customers will opt for the minor aches of migrating to Salesforce vs. the migraine of migrating to Siebel. Many of these companies probably use Oracle Financials. The biggest challenge for Salesforce will be convincing these companies that Salesforce can support the integration processes between the two apps. Especially the ability to maintain the customer and product masters and in supporting a seamless quote-to-order-to-cash process.

CSS-Based UI

An article on silicon.com references Benioff speaking about the new UI. According to the article, Benioff said the following regarding the new UI, “If you don’t like it you don’t have to use it. Soon you will be able to create your own user interface as well.”. That sounds to me like they are heeding the advice of those that provided feedback on their blog that the UI should be CSS based. Nice! For starters, I think they’ll allow a customer to select from a few options. A follow-on release will probably open that up further to allow for custom configuration of the UI.

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Winter ‘06 Overview on CRM Success Blog

There are too many postings to count about App Exchange and what’s coming in the Winter release. Salesforce boiled down the Winter release key points for us in a recent posting on the CRM Success blog.

I am especially looking forward to the new Quote Management and Campaign Management capabilities mentioned there. Those will have the most immediate impact on my customers. Features such as the new UI will also be great attention-getter in selling customers on Salesforce. The current method for creating a campaign member list and associating it to a Campaign is very cumbersome. That and performing mass mail merges are the two things that are difficult to train and gets most people confused. I am excited to see how the Campaign enhancements turn out. Hopefully, the mass mail merges will come too! (hint hint).

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AppExchange

An article today in Business Week Online talks about an upcoming announcement from Salesforce called “AppExchange”.

According to the article, AppExchange is a marketplace for On-Demand applications that will be managed by Salesforce.com. It sounds like these are all apps that would be hosted by Salesforce.com (not 100% sure about my interpretation there) and could be trialed and purchased through AppExchange. I presume that these will all integrate with Salesforce.com, but the article indicates that they will also host apps that have no interaction with Salesforce; stand-alone On Demand apps. Salesforce will be seeding AppExchange with some apps they built when it goes live.

Sounds like an interesting idea that will open up the door for a lot of innovation in and around the product.

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Upcoming Functionality

With Dreamforce coming up, Salesforce is very likely to be announcing some big improvements to the software and new initiatives. I have not heard much, but am anxious to find out. Hopefully some of the improvements I recommended in other posts (ref 1, ref 2) will be implemented.

The only insight I’ve been able to find has been:

  • A multiforce ERP solution (reference article). This might just be another partnership, but using the term “multiforce” leads me to believe this would be incorporated into the Salesforce.com UI. If so, I would hope it would also allow enhancements to it using customforce. Will this be part of an Enterprise license or a small addition to an Enterprise license? I have had projects where we struggled to determine how to complete the opportunity to cash process. Salesforce.com currently stops you at the opportunity, which is a weak form of quoting. A solid quote and order solution has been missing. I have long heard they use an Order and Invoicing solution internally (you can see it when you check your order and invoice history in the Company Information section of Setup).
  • Salesforcewatch.com notes two possible somethings. The first is a reference from an employee blog and the second has something to do with “multiforce app packaging” (link). The post has a reference to an Sforce forum posting from Salesforce.com. It leads me to believe that they will be allowing developers to port their multiforce app configuration from one ORG to another. Hopefully, if it is something along those lines, it will allow for more granular porting of specific configurations (like a specific object or specific profiles) rather than the entire multiforce app.
  • I have also heard that there will be some improvements to the Offline Edition and that it will support Leads in the next release, but I am not sure if its next release is the upcoming one.

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