Salesforce.com Buys Its Way Into the CM Space

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Salesforce.com has long been a major force in customer relationship management, but can the company known for automating customer contact buy its way into the realm of content management systems?Salesforce.com has always been a leader in CRM tools -- what else can you expect from a company whose very stock ticker is CRM? Yesterday, Salesforce announced its upcoming ContentExchange product. ContentExchange is being built on the company's Apex platform with the goal of implementing a Web 2.0 content management approach specifically focused on business documents. CMS may not be Salesforce.com's typical sweet spot, but last month, Salesforce acquired Koral Technologies for an undisclosed sum. ContentExchange -- and the extension of the company's Apex system called Apex Content on which ContentExchange is built -- is based on work that was already in progress at Koral prior to the acquisition.Salesforce.com's goal for ContentExchange is to replace standard hierarchical file systems with a more organic approach to content in which users subscribe to individual shared documents, add tags to business documents and even rate or recommend document content. Essentially, this is a way for existing Salesforce.com customers to leverage their current CRM system into something resembling an actual CMS. But will ContentExchange be able to compete with other CMS?It's certainly not clear yet how competitive ContentExchange will be. It's not even certain when the software will be available. The product is in an early enough stage of development that Salesforce.com will only commit to releasing pricing and availability information by the end of the year. The product will enjoy an AJAX user interface, and certainly has plenty of exciting bullet points associated with its announcement and marketing. As with all things, the proof will be in its execution. The main advantage of the ContentExchange software is likely to be its compatibility with Salesforce.com's other products built on their Apex technology. It will also be interesting to see how ContentExchange deals with the security issues that are of paramount concern to companies such as financial services firms. There's no question that it will be worth keeping a close eye on ContentExchange if you're already a Salesforce.com customer. For others, whether you're using commercial CMS or DMS products or are on a proprietary system, if you're part of the sales team, you can well afford to wait and see how this progresses. The move is sure to put even more pressure on the likes of SharePoint (MOSS) 2007 and its simple document management and collaboration appeal. And speaking of pressure, the recently released HighRise product from Chicago-based 37signals is taking a clear aim at the lower-end of Salesforce.com's market. Ouch! One big step forward into CM, but all the while those darn Web 2.0 kids are nipping at your heels.