Salesforce CRM Software Review
Salesforce offers professional services, however, relies on business partners for the vast majority of CRM implementation projects. Salesforce.com business partner programs fall into the two broad categories of ISVs and consulting partners. Most consulting partners are then categorized into Registered, Select or Premier programs. Premier partners (Accenture, Deloitte) and global system integrators (Capgemini, Fujitsu, Hitachi Data Systems, HCL, IBM, Infosys, Wipro) generally assist with larger or more complex implementations.
Despite an indirect channel of about 1000 partners serving middle market businesses, Salesforce.com does not support the traditional value added reseller (VAR) channel as do primary competitors such as Microsoft, NetSuite, SAP and Sage. Instead of tapping into the volumes of business software VARs for increased feet on the street and highly competent local services delivery, Salesforce uses a direct sales model, but also gets some representation from large account resellers such as Ingram Micro, CSC and Dell. This is clearly more of a supplemental sales strategy than an omnipresent services delivery network and limits professional services options in largest part for small and midsize business (SMB) customers.
Integration and Customization
Force.com offers several integration tools ranging from off-the-shelf native ERP software connectors to web services, email, syndicated feeds and HTTP-based REST calls. SOAP/REST Web services APIs enable integration with legacy systems using other languages such as Java, .NET and PHP. The primary APIs include the Force.com SOAP and REST-based Web Service APIs, the Bulk API, and the Metadata API. Each of these integration interfaces can be called from a number of client-side languages and Integrated Development Environments (IDEs).
Presentation layer integration can also be accomplished with simple HTML. Flash access to the Salesforce platform is available through a partnership with Adobe however appears headed for deprecation. There is also an AJAX toolkit that provides the basis for in-browser mashups.
To create custom user interfaces you can either use Visualforce, a component-based framework for creating custom presentation layer interfaces, or use the dynamic, metadata-driven, auto-generated user interfaces and page layouts.
For application level customization, developers can use or modify the Apex code, formulas, approval processes and business processes. Apex is a strongly-typed development language used for controllers, database triggers and web services. The Visual Process Manager permits developers to define business processes atop of the Salesforce.com application.
At the data model, Force.com database services aid developers in creating objects to store data and tap into existing data logic functionality. The feature sets of Database Services are available to applications running on Force.com, whether they are built with the declarative application framework, extended with Force.com Apex Code and Visualforce pages, or simply exposing data through the Web services API. The metadata approach is largely developed in Java for in-memory computing and uses the Oracle database.
The single biggest benefit of Force.com for most organizations incurring software customization is time savings. By starting with Force.com's common objects, forms and workflow functionality, developers spend less time custom coding, actually write fewer lines of custom code and accelerate project timelines. Further, as developers are working within a predefined framework, they can get to work faster as they are freed of many time consuming up front planning decisions such as database structure, database connectivity, security protocols, and infrastructure planning for items such as application servers, web servers and load balancing. The downsides of this approach are of course licensing costs and vendor lock-in.
Salesforce.com's integration and customization tools are feature rich and purpose built for scenarios most common in CRM software integration and customization. This is an area where Salesforce.com clearly leads the cloud CRM pack.
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The single biggest benefit of Force.com for most organizations incurring software customization is time savings. By starting with Force.com's common objects, forms and workflow functionality, developers spend less time custom coding, write fewer lines of custom code and accelerate project timelines.