Hosted Sales Force Automation Solutions Rated

Forrester finds robust sales analysis tools, but immature analytics, in Web-based customer relationship management apps

Forrester finds robust sales analysis tools, but immature analytics, in Web-based customer relationship management apps

Cambridge, MA — February 3, 2004 — With demand growing for low-cost and easy-to-implement alternatives to traditional customer relationship management (CRM), technology consultancy Forrester Research has added hosted sales force automation (SFA) solutions to the list of applications that it evaluates under its TechRankings program.

The consultancy said that hosted CRM's Web-based interface and pay-as-you-go subscription model are bringing CRM value to a new set of users — from traveling sales representatives to channel partners to business executives. SFA is the most widely adopted area of hosted CRM, as well as the first area most companies consider when they begin CRM implementations. The independent nature of most sales forces makes it particularly well-suited to the hosted model, Forrester believes.

The low entry cost and short implementation time for hosted SFA provides companies with a number of benefits, including fast deployment to a wide distributed audience with easy upgrade when required. Hosted SFA solutions also allow companies to test the CRM waters without requiring hardware or IT resources.

In addition, end users can access and manage the solution through a simple Web browser, allowing them to modify business processes and screen layouts as the business changes.

Forrester invited CRM vendors offering hosted SFA products or services to participate in TechRankings, which are intended to provide an objective, scenario-based product testing and evaluation process.

Four vendors have participated in the consultancy's evaluation process to date, with the solutions examined including NetSuite Version 9.1, Salesnet Extended, Enterprise Edition and Siebel CRM OnDemand — UpShot Edition.

TechRankings analyzed both the ability of the vendor to support the solution and its functionality, including the tools to manage the sales process and sales management — from managing opportunities, quotas and forecasts, to assessing the results.

While each of the vendors has different strengths and weaknesses, Forrester said that, in general, its testing revealed robust sales analysis tools, including reporting and dashboarding, but immature analytics, such as cross-sell or purchase analysis.

Integration with desktop applications was another strong feature, with good support for PDAs and desktop tools. Forrester also noted that process management, such as automating next steps, encouraging sales best practices and alerting users to take action, was becoming a differentiator for some vendors.

"With the CRM market moving to cost-conscious midsized companies, we're seeing hosted SFA solutions as an emerging battleground for CRM," said Erin Kinikin, vice president and research director at Forrester. "Hosted SFA solutions are now at parity with traditional CRM products for basic sales functionality, qualifying them for the short list for companies with low integration requirements and distributed sales forces."