In some ways, this is a fairly normal story detailing the general evolution of a company's product. What's interesting is the number of new and "newish" elements that Sage Software is including in its customer relationship management (CRM) product road maps. The list of buzzwords in the story is impressive.
Most prominent among them is Web 2.0, which is both a set of specific programming languages and application-programming interfaces (APIs) and a general mindset seeking to achieve a high level of interactivity and community on the Web. It is clear that Web 2.0, along with the other buzzwords in the story -- mobility and software-as-a-service (SaaS) -- herald a new day for CRM.
The point here isn't whether Sage has good products or if it is ahead of its competition in the incorporation of new approaches and tools. The bigger point is that these technical advances are sinking deeper into organizations. It seems that as folks become more accustomed to the arrival of new technologies, the more quickly vendors and users recognize their competitive advantages and put them to work.
Vendors easily speak of mobile CRM platforms with Web 2.0 functionality that can be managed in-house or via a SaaS platform. Taking apart the buzzwords makes the statement even more impressive. Companies are offering CRM software that:
- Tears down barriers between mobile and office-bound workers;
- Greatly increases the number of ways to interface with employees and customers;
- Facilitates customer management inside or outside the firm;
- Enables applications to cull useful data from far more places within the enterprise.
Not too shabby. Indeed, CRM is the main beneficiary of early enterprise adoption of these tools and a main way that they are gaining entry into the infrastructure.
This ZDNet commentary takes a look at Oracle CRM, which launched last week. Oracle's vice president of CRM ties social networking -- a key element of Web 2.0 -- to SaaS. His position is that these valuable applications are much harder to offer if they must be provisioned in-house. More detailed information on the new software is available here.
Salesforce.com is the highest-profile SaaS provider. This long release highlights the unveiling last month of the 25th release of its software, Salesforce Spring 08. The release provides a lot of background on the software, which includes new applications called Salesforce Content and Salesforce Ideas.
Salesforce.com is using three Web 2.0 tools -- tagging, subscriptions and recommendations -- to bring unstructured data from the organization into the SaaS applications. Put more simply, Web 2.0 makes available information users find potentially useful but that traditionally is found in difficult-to-reach places, such as e-mail or Word documents.
A real-world example of what is possible was announced at the end of February when CRM Works and iCatchIT released SMaps, an application that links addresses and locations of individuals or businesses to Google Maps in real time. The piece says the interface between Google Maps and the CRM software is Microsoft ASP. The first version of the product works with Sage and Microsoft CRM. A PHP-based version that works with Sugar CRM will be available next quarter.