Salesnet Takes SFA Offline With .NET
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In the Web-based sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) market, Salesnet is the last of the big three to announce an offline version. Salesforce.com announced its offline product more than a year ago and Upshot officially unveiled its offline capabilities last May.
However, while Boston-based Salesnet may be the last to take its application offline, it appears to be the most sophisticated of the solutions. While Salesforce.com and Upshot use a Web browser and Microsoft Excel as offline clients, respectively, Salesnet chief technology officer Rich Perkett told ASPnews that its offline product is based on Microsoft's .NET framework for the presentation level and SQL Server Desktop Engine for the back end.
Using Microsoft technology, Perkett said, Salesnet is able to offer a rich-client interface that mirrors the online application as well as more date storage, search capabilities and security on the back end.
Perkett said when Salesnet asked its biggest customers about what they needed, "we got a lot different answers. Some said, 'I want to be able to work on an airplane,' but they also wanted to be able to work in the office." Ironically, coming from a vendor of online software, Perkett said sometimes the Internet-based approach isn't the most convenient approach. "Bandwidth is intermittent, even on a good T1 line. That comes out a lot. Users don't want to rely on bandwidth." Citing Salesnet's .NET-based offline capabilities, Perkett told ASPnews, "We are not just a briefcase solution."
- Select can take an unlimited number of accounts, contacts, deals, appointments, tasks or notes offline. Unlike other offline solutions, Salesnet doesn't limit the number of records users can take offline or force them to take a preset number of records.
- View, update, create, and delete records using tabs, pull-down menus and windows that users are familiar with in Salesnet Online.
- Customize online settings offline. All of the sales processes, screen layouts, custom fields and calculated fields available in Salesnet Online remain the same in Salesnet Offline. The offline version is designed to update data during each refresh, but also updates all aspects of the application including any changes to the business logic. This is designed to eliminate the need to reinstall updated versions of the application on the desktop or laptop of every user each time customizations are made.
- Store data in a secure, password-protected relational database. Other offline solutions, Perkett said, store critical sales data in unsecured files on users' hard drives.
How significant are offline capabilities in online SFA applications? "There's no question people want it, so it's important to offer it," Summit Strategies vice president Laurie McCabe told ASPnews. She described Salesnet Offline as a "solid offline implementation."
McCabe told ASPnews that it's especially important for Salesnet to keep up with its competition. "Salesnet has not really been on the radar the way Upshot and Salesforce have been," she said.
While not having offline capabilities could be a deal breaker, having the best offline technology won't be a deal maker, McCabe said. "Salesnet's rich client interface is a nice feature, but I'm not sure companies will base a decision on it."
In a larger sense Salesnet, Salesforce.com and Upshot are all "are missing the boat," McCabe told ASPnews. "They seem to be competing with each other when they should be competing with Microsoft CRM."
"This beast is coming down the pike at them," McCabe said. "Web-based vendors have a compelling story to tell fixed monthly cost, great features, no upfront costs." She add that if they don't start re-directing their efforts, "they'll watch as their lunch is eaten by Microsoft."
Salesnet Offline is available currently for no additional charge with both Salesnet Standard ($65 per user, per month) and Salesnet Extended ($99 per user, per month). After May 1, users subscribing Salesnet Standard will pay an additional $20 per-user, per month. Salesnet Extended will continue to include offline functionality at no additional charge.
Salesnet today also announced that it will offer integration with Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client. The capability will be available to Salesnet Standard or Salesnet Extended edition users in May. Pricing is yet to be determined.
Salesnet's Outlook integration is designed to eliminate the need for double entry once an e-mail is sent or received from a customer or prospect. With the click of a button in Outlook, Salesnet said, e-mails will automatically be associated with the appropriate contact in Salesnet. And, the original e-mail, including any attachments, is permanently stored in Salesnet.
Salesnet is listed by ASPnews as a Top 20 Service Provider.
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