SIA signs up with Salesforce.com

The Asian carrier wants to make it easy for its sales team to collaborate and access data, regardless of where they are located.

Singapore Airlines is part of a growing list of big businesses that are turning to on-demand software.

On-demand customer relationship management (CRM) vendor Salesforce.com announced last Thursday that it had signed up Singapore Airlines (SIA), which will use Salesforce's marketing and sales force automation services to facilitate collaboration and information sharing among its home office-based sales representatives.

In addition, SIA will utilize 14 applications from AppExchange to automate manual tasks, increase efficiency in sales and marketing campaigns, as well as improve the visibility of sales accounts. Touted as the "eBay of business applications", AppExchange is Salesforce's platform where third-party vendors can offer on-demand applications beyond CRM to Salesforce customers.

Said Michael Stellwag, SIA's manager of direct sales and marketing, in a statement: "We have a highly-dispersed team of inside and outside sales representatives in North America, and before selecting Salesforce.com it was often a challenge to collaborate as a team to meet our sales goals."

To increase the number of sales representatives at SIA while staying economically viable, the company moved a majority of its sales team to a home-office environment, according to Stellwag.

He added that Salesforce has allowed the airline to centralize customer information and make data fully accessible to the members of the sales team, regardless of where they are located.

Apart from SIA, Salesforce's other key customers include Nokia, Cisco Systems and Symantec. Salesforce claims to have 27,100 user companies hailing from various industries and geographies.

Package works, too
But at least one big company is contented with its Siebel CRM packaged software and does not intend to embrace on-demand CRM, for now.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Clive Selley, CIO of BT Wholesale, said although he does not have experience with using hosted CRM products, BT has "demonstrated that we can get value out of our CRM product".

He added that BT has invested a lot of time and effort in training and getting experience in its CRM package, and that "represents an asset that we want to leverage".

"We are not in the business of revisiting and looking at a hosted on-demand product," Selley added.

According to a study by analyst company Springboard Research, Salesforce leads the SaaS (software-as-a-service) market in the Asia-Pacific region, with 21 per cent market share in revenue terms. The analyst expects this market to grow to more than US$500 million in 2008, registering a compound annual growth rate of 84 percent.

The growing momentum of SaaS in the Asia-Pacific region is being fuelled by organizations of all sizes, Springboard noted.

Not surprisingly, competition is heating up in on-demand software. Traditional on-premise business applications vendors like SAP and Oracle have also entered the market in the past few years.

Keen competition is also provided by NetSuite, a pure-play hosted software vendor.

In October, NetSuite announced a package offering existing Salesforce users a life-time subscription fee that is fixed at the price of their most recent Salesforce invoice. To make the migration from Salesforce easy for its customers, NetSuite also included a service to transfer 100MB of their existing data for free.