Upcoming Salesforce.com release focuses on Chatter, service

Analyst: Salesforce.com needs more work on mobility, analytics

Salesforce.com's next CRM (customer relationship management) software release will contain a slew of new features, with many focused on the Chatter collaboration and messaging tool as well as customer service, according to a set of official release notes.

Many new features associated with Chatter concern usability and access to the system. For example, now iOS device users will be able to launch Chatter Mobile from their Salesforce.com email.

This is an important update "as most folks are still email-dependent," said analyst Ray Wang , CEO of Constellation Research.

Another major new feature, albeit available only as a pilot, is called Salesforce Files. It allows users to "securely sync files between Chatter and your desktop and some mobile devices," according to the notes. "This is the competitor to Box," and something customers should look at, Wang said.

For core sales automation, the upcoming release introduces Console for Sales.

This gives users "easy access to sales intelligence and helps you quickly contact leads, assess companies, and identify key contacts -- all in a dashboard-like interface that means more access to contextual data with fewer clicks and less scrolling," according to the notes.

Salesforce.com has also deepened the integration between its application and Microsoft Outlook.

Known as Winter '14, the new release also features improvements to Salesforce.com Communities, including the ability to assign a moderator to groups; and a series of usability updates within the Service Cloud product family, which includes Chatter Answers, Salesforce.com's knowledge base platform and Live Agent, among others.

Meanwhile, Winter '14's new feature lineup for analytics and mobile is less impressive, in Wang's view.

"Next to the mobile apps, analytics still is the weakest part of Salesforce.com," Wang said. "To be clear, it's better reporting and dashboards, not really analytics, as there are no predictive models, or algorithms applied here. This area will require the most attention in the long run but for now, reporting and KPIs are fairly decent."

Many of the new features in Winter '14 came from users' suggestions submitted through Salesforce.com's IdeaExchange, which is admirable on the company's part, Wang said.

As of November, Salesforce.com will no longer offer new customers the ability to purchase Unlimited Edition subscriptions, although it will support existing ones, according to the notes. Instead, the top-tier offering will be the recently announced Performance Edition, which costs more money but includes additional features.

It wasn't immediately clear Monday when the Winter '14 update will go live, although customers with Salesforce.com sandbox accounts can take part in a preview period that begins Sept. 6.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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