Salesforce.com readies partner tool

The CRM provider has added on-demand partner relationship management to its repertoire of services.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
Salesforce.com, a provider of customer relationship management tools, is set to launch a service intended to help companies better interact with their business partners.

Partnerforce, set to debut July 12, lets employees share data with sellers outside the company as well as with internal sales staff. The on-demand data service uses an interface similar to that featured in Salesforce's CRM software, which saw 77 percent growth last year, according to research firm Gartner.

The partner relationship management product is another sign that Salesforce is doing a good job of turning around the preconceived notions about on-demand software, Forrester analyst Liz Herbert said.

"On-demand is seen as 'vanilla,' and you can't customize it. Salesforce.com has done a good job of changing that perception, of getting their message across that you customize beyond what's offered out of the box," Herbert said.

With Partnerforce, either the partner's or parent company's URL can become a portal for the service. The portal can also be customized to the look and feel of the partner's Web interface, something Salesforce believes will help with adoption of the system. A dashboard of charts gives a changing view of the sales partner's relevant activities. There are also security controls to restrict outside access to internal company data.

Partnerforce does analytics and forecasting tied to current data. However, SAP and Oracle have been offering PRM products with modeling options for a while--something that may give them an advantage, Herbert said.

"As a system first version, it's simply not going to have all the features, compared to something that's been in the market for years," Herbert said.

Partnerforce's portals are a selling point of the service. Other on-demand PRM competitors like BlueRoads, which is also a Salesforce partner, do not offer them, Herbert said. But a Salesforce partner that already uses the CRM system must access a separate portal for each company that enrolls them in the PRM program. So a Salesforce partner that is a reseller, and also happens to sell for three companies that are Salesforce subscribers, will have to go to four different portals to access data.

"They can also take the API from AppExchange and use it to pull information from the multiple portals into their own reseller portal into any CRM. As our API is standards-based, any system that can access Web services can pull the portal information into their CRM," said Kendall Collins, vice president of marketing at Salesforce.com.

The new service is priced at $1,500 per partner per year--and includes five users--in contrast to Salesforce.com's CRM service, which is priced by user. The PRM licenses may also be pooled, a Salesforce spokesperson said. Ten partners would require 10 licenses, for example, but those 50 users can be distributed among partners in any way the parent company chooses.