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Forrester puts hosted SFA to the test

Who's the top dog in hosted sales force automation? It all depends on what you're looking for, Forrester says.

Each of four hosted sales force automation services recently tested by Forrester Research stands out in some way, according to a report from the Cambridge, Mass.-based analysis firm.

Forrester's new TechRankings survey evaluated NetSuite 9.1, Salesnet Extended,'s Enterprise Edition and Siebel's UpShot service. Each service was rated in seven categories.

I think the combination of Siebel's OnDemand and UpShot's [offering] … is going to be a very powerful product when they put it all together.
Erin Kinikin
Vice president and research directorForrester

Predictably, all the services scored well in at least one area. For example, San Francisco-based was found to have the broadest set of functionality overall, as well as strong setup and configuration features. also scored well with integration through its Sforce tool, said Erin Kinikin, a vice president and research director with Forrester.

The study also looked at sales management, analytics, usability, market presence and cost.

"In process automation, Salesnet really goes above and beyond," Kinikin said. "It's easy in all tools to record activities, but to really define a set of activities and guide a salesperson is an area where Salesnet excelled."

San Mateo, Calif.-based NetSuite, which also offers hosted back-office applications, stood out when it came to pricing and quoting. Most hosted tools can manage contacts and opportunities but fall short when it comes to managing what a company is trying to sell, Kinikin said. NetSuite, also an accounting provider, offers options for customer-specific discounting, multiple price breaks and service pricing.

Also, as one might imagine, with 1,000 sales representatives around the globe and a partnership with IBM, San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel came out on top in terms of market presence. The study began before Siebel's own CRM OnDemand product was available but included the application from UpShot, which Siebel acquired late last year.

"I think the combination of Siebel's OnDemand with its strong analytics and UpShot's good sales management functionality and advanced configuration is going to be a very powerful product when they put it all together," Kinikin said.

All of the applications scored well in contact management, but poorly in usability. Each came up short when it comes to helping a sales rep manage the accuracy of data. For example, most of the products don't indicate whether a duplicate record exists or provide functionality for merging two records, which would be useful if a user discovers that two records are related to the same customer, Kinikin said. That leads to degraded data.

The applications also didn't offer much in the way of making sales operational, such as providing "quote to order" out of the box, and Boston-based Salesnet was really the only vendor to offer scripting, Kinikin said. No hosted vendor offered ways to use customer information to make better decisions, such as defining cross-sell opportunities, she said.


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