Benioff unveils winter Salesforce offering

The on-demand CRM supplier has been showing off a number of key features that will be introduced into its product lines this winter has unveiled some of the new elements scheduled for the winter 2006 release of its on-demand platform, including CRM functions.

The winter 2006 release is expected in the fourth quarter of this year, and the company's chairman and chief executive Marc Benioff previewed some elements at the company's Dreamforce customer event in San Francisco.

As well as the AppExchange application exchange, other new features include a new user interface but Benioff said switching over was optional: "If you don't like it, you don't have to use it. Soon you will be able to create your own user interface as well."

Other new elements in the release will include territory management to help target sales staff at key geographic areas, and a new "campaign targeter" to help manage marketing campaigns.

It will also include a new "suggested solutions" function which helps customer support staff answer queries by presenting a likely answer based on previous questions.

The next release will also include an update to the Outlook edition, and an expanded Offline edition. said it is also working with Cisco to better integrate Cisco's IP Contact Centre technology with the Salesforce Service & Support application.

By next spring, the work done by the two companies will deliver a system which integrates call control, tracking and reporting. Closer integration will mean that customer support staff will have quicker access to customer accounts and histories without making callers repeat information, the companies said.

Benioff also had some harsh words for his rival Oracle. On Oracle's acquisition of Siebel he pointed out the complexity of integrating the companies: "I don't know what you do first or what you do last. I think for customers it will be very confusing and very difficult."