launches into Spring 04

As regular as the four seasons, Inc. unveiled this week its Spring 04 edition of its online CRM application.

Winter 04 saw the introduction of a customizable Sforce development platform using open APIs as integration hooks into other enterprise applications. The Spring 04 release extends those capabilities with Sforce 3.0 that includes Web services APIs, support for IBM WebSphere, Lotus Notes, and a toolset to work with Microsoft .Net, among other applications.

The one feature that appeared to attract the most attention from customers attending the launch party was the new customizable tabs.

The custom tabs feature allows users to create a business process or custom application. A custom object can have its own database tables and page layout and can be related to other data in other applications.

"We created a user tab to track how many times our customers log in to our site," said Ron Hess, CRM manager at Neoforma, a supply chain management solution provider for the health care industry.

Hess said the custom tab helps his support people track who is logging in, when, and how much time they spend at the site.

"Based on the login history our support people might suggest training," Hess said.

Related to tabs is the ability for users to rename exiting tabs which can dynamically reconstructed for every mention of the new term in nine different languages.

Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, found the custom tabs feature to be "powerful" in and of itself, but also added that it is representative of something bigger.

"What's important about what is doing is that they are making CRM strategic. Features like customizable tabs give a company a competitive edge in their market right off the shelf," said Greenbaum.

Another added feature in the Spring release is Studio which, according to Pat Sueltz, president of technology, marketing, and systems at, will give business administrators the ability to create custom tabs and new applications.

"You don't have to be a programmer. This was made for people like me. I can drag and drop from a Wizard and select tab names, create custom objects, and define custom relationships," said Sueltz.

Three new standard tabs were also added to the new release. They are a product tab for managing product catalogs, a contract tab for contract tracking and management of renewals and approvals, and a solutions tab, a best practices knowledge base for customer support.

The Spring 04 edition is online and available this week.

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