October 9, 2006 6:45 PM PDT

Salesforce.com CEO: Customization is king

SAN FRANCISCO--Salesforce.com Chief Executive Marc Benioff trumpeted the company's Apex technology as the next step in customization of the company's otherwise generic Web-based business services.

Apex is a Salesforce.com Java-like programming language and server infrastructure that will let customers build their own applications, either extensions to Salesforce.com's services or free-standing programs built from scratch. Salesforce.com will host the applications on its own servers.

Marc Benioff

Suppose a customer wants features not present in today's Salesforce.com user interface. "What can you do about it? Nothing! You can harass us, send us e-mail and lobby us," Benioff said. It will be up to Salesforce.com to change the software, he told thousands of attendees at the company's Dreamforce conference here in a keynote address.

With Apex, by contrast, "If you want to change our software, you can do it," he said.

The move is the newest step in the San Francisco-based company's effort to maintain its growth. Benioff told CNET News.com that he expects Apex will mean the company's services will appeal to new customers and that existing customers will sign up for new subscriptions. However, he declined to describe pricing details.

Salesforce.com offers an online version of customer relationship management (CRM) software, which tracks details such as customers' purchasing history, sales force quotas, or supervisors' approvals of discounted product prices. Hosted CRM competitors include NetSuite and RightNow Technologies, while traditional software companies including Oracle, SAP and Microsoft also are in the market.

Apex is in a closed beta test now and will enter open beta in the first quarter of 2007, Benioff said. The production version will be available in the second quarter.

The service will run on hundreds of Dell servers, Chairman Michael Dell said in a video appearance. The systems are Intel processor-based models, the PowerEdge 1850 and 1950, according to a presentation by Parker Harris, Salesforce.com's executive vice president of technology.

Apex also highlights the increasingly complicated infrastructure available on the company's servers. The company has made its initially generic interface gradually more customizable to suit different customers' needs, most recently adding its AppExchange service to more than 400 business applications from other companies that are based on SalesForce.com's infrastructure.

Some AppExchange options available today include hosted applications for job recruiting and project management, Benioff said.

SalesForce.com's interface also got a Web 2.0 makeover. Bringing AJAX, mashups and other technology to the browser-based interface, users have a more elaborate options.

For example, hovering the mouse pointer over items such as contacts or calendar entries automatically reveals details of those items. Pop-up windows appear to offer reminders. And sidebars of the user interface can be temporarily collapsed to devote more screen real estate to primary tasks.

"We think this is going to dramatically increase the usability and the user experience," Chief Marketing Officer George Hu said in a demonstration.

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Salesforce.com Inc., Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com AppExchange, sales force, CEO


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How about a version that doesn't suck
The company I work for uses SaleForce.com and it sucks. They pitch this crappy software and then to make it functional you have to customize the hell out of it, pay for a bunch of application. That guess what need to be customized to "really" work right. After two years SalesForce.com is still customizing the software to fit our needs. We are stinking distributor. Act did 90% of what we needed out of the box for less than the $100.00 a user fee we pay now. The only thing we needed was a national database... again.

SalesForce.com just sucks.
Posted by stuxstu (73 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New to salesforce.com
Hi Stu,

good to know of your comments. my company uses MS CRM. It's
working fine for the basic needs as pipeline management.
No complicated dashboards, and no complex analytics.

But must say that it has its own set of problems too. As basic as
even getting our customised program to be loaded into Excel!!

MS still not come back to us on the 'bugs'. Now spending hours
researching for another tool.

SAP CRM is also getting in the way with complicated 'moves' just
to get simple data.

so again, still at lost of what's and who's the best out there?

so much money spend, hours lost, and talent wasted!!! Wonder if
these software companies are tapping on improving process or
into our pockets.

Yet we cannot do without them!
Posted by kasperon (1 comment )
Link Flag
I'm missing something here...
Isn't the point of salesforce.com so you don't HAVE to customize your own software? So that a set of industry standard tools and metrics will be available for you without any upkeep or additional technology cost? I like the premise but they should just work harder to improve their product not shove it off the users. People will come up with 50 different ways to do the same thing and where is the value in that?
Posted by pezcore37 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about the others?
Have you tried to customize sfdc yourself instead? Also have you tried one of the other CRM vendors such as Netsuite, Salesboom.com, RightNow?
Posted by princedudi (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Many people switch from salesforce.com to AppShore because their customer service is excellent, the price is a fraction of salesforce.com, the product is intuitive and easy-to-use, and it provides most of what small businesses need without all the bloat of what big companies want (but mostly never use).

Try AppShore http://www.appshore.com
Posted by KreggRay (1 comment )
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