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Saleforce.com Preps For February Refresh

The Force.com cloud computing platform will also be upgraded.

The first thing Salesforce.com users will likely notice when the Spring '10 release debuts in February will be the new look and feel. Salesforce.com credits the likes of Twitter and Facebook with inspiring the user interface, and the company says it has done lots of testing to ensure that it makes things easier to find. That's important because the upgrade, announced Wednesday, will deliver that much more functionality, including new quoting, service-level tracking, support, and custom development capabilities.

To help customers drive and close more deals, the Spring '10 release includes a new Real-Time Quotes with Quote Sync feature for the Sales Cloud 2 sales force automation application. Real-Time Quotes enables sales reps to quickly populate quotes with relevant customer data with a few clicks. Once the back-and-forth negotiations lead to a close, Quote Sync lets you designate the final, accepted terms with a single click.

"Quote Sync lets you maintain multiple quotes but then designate a primary quote that is kept in sync with forecasts and any reports that are generated," explains Al Falcione, senior director of product marketing.

The Service Cloud 2 customer support application will see two significant upgrades in Spring '10. Salesforce Answers lets companies tap into the wisdom of customers with social so-called crowd-sourcing functionality. "Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Answers are good examples of the kind of functionality this offers," Falcione says. "Customers will be able to set up cloud communities in which their customers can ask questions, get answers, and then have the community vote on the best answers."

Service departments in particular are exploiting crowd sourcing because customers often solve problems long before inside experts can develop new support documents.

Another Service Cloud 2 upgrade is Entitlements and Service Contracts, which is designed to help turn customer support into a profit center. Using these features to track and manage service entitlements, contracts, and service level agreements, companies can not only ensure customer satisfaction and proper escalation of cases, they can do a better job of upselling and renewing service contracts, according to Salesforce.

The Force.com cloud computing platform will also see improvements in the Spring '10 release. Adobe FlashBuilder for Force.com is an all-new tool for building rich Internet applications for the cloud. Jointly developed with Adobe, the tool will enable developers to build client-side applications that can run online or offline across systems and platforms. Adobe's technology supports data management and synchronization between the cloud and client-side apps.

Security options for Force.com are bolstered in Spring '10 with an Authenticated Sites feature that lets companies run public and private authenticated Web sites. Self-registration, secure login, and security profile data filtering are among the components that can be added to applications without writing code, according to the company.

One last Spring '10 upgrade of note is a revamped Mobile Lite client for iPhone, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile devices. The new client supports two-way updating and editing of contact and service records, an advance over the previously available view-only functionality. The free download is now supported in the Contact Center edition as well as the Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited editions of Sales Cloud 2 and Service Cloud 2.

The Spring release is one of three upgrades Salesforce.com bows each year. It will gradually roll out to all customers over the month of February.

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