Salesforce Summer '13 release to focus on Chatter, customer ideas

Analyst: The release shows that Salesforce.com is listening to customers' requests for new features

Salesforce.com's upcoming Summer '13 release of its cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) software will feature a slew of enhancements to the Chatter social collaboration tool as well as many improvements that are the result of customer suggestions, according to a set of official release notes.

The major new Chatter feature set for release is Communities, which Salesforce.com recently announced. Communities allows customers to create websites where they can communicate with partners and customers.

Other Chatter updates set for Summer '13 include the general availability of Topics, which is supposed to help users keep their information feeds organized as well as give them a way to find people with similar interests.

Salesforce.com is also set to roll out improvements to Chatter's API (application programming interface), Chatter-based email and searching within Chatter feeds.

The core sales application, meanwhile, will now offer quantity forecasting. This is a notable change, as quantity forecasts "help in predicting demand of units and can be fed into sales operations and planning systems, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.

Another sales feature, opportunity splits, was derived from an idea posted on Salesforce.com's IdeaExchange, a forum where users can propose new product functionality.

"Opportunity splits is a top request in IdeaExchange," Wang said. "It's key to team selling, and sales users will be rejoicing on this one." The addition of opportunity splits will also bring Salesforce.com in line with Oracle's Siebel CRM, which has had it for years, Wang said.

Salesforce.com recently took up the marketing theme of "customer companies," positioning itself as a vendor with products companies can use to build stronger bonds with their customers. The addition of opportunity splits and other IdeaExchange-generated features in Summer '13 "show that Salesforce practices what it preaches," Wang said.

Other planned new features in Summer '13 will cover analytics, mobile applications and Salesforce.com's underlying Force.com development platform.

But at least one feature is going away. "At the end of June 2013, we'll discontinue the availability of and support for Connect for Lotus Notes. We understand that this decision may cause a disruption for your users," the release notes state. "But we strongly believe that this will allow us to deliver other features that will provide greater value to your users and our entire community."

As for Summer '13's availability, Salesforce.com's system status website on Thursday listed release window dates beginning May 10 and running through June 15.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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