Tuesday, April 10th 2007 | Ismael Ghalimi
Three months ago, I wrote about Koral, one of the best online document management systems currently available. Today, Salesforce.com will announce that they acquired the company, and are using its technology to build Apex Content and ContentExchange. This acquisition marks Salesforce.com’s entry into the ECM market, but I hope Marc and his team won’t stop there.
With its strong document management capabilities, Koral will allow Salesforce.com to better manage unstructured data, but being able to store documents is not all that exciting if you cannot produce them from structured data, nor share them outside the boundaries of your organization. For such purposes, I would recommend that Salesforce.com takes a look at ThinkFree and EchoSign (covered here and there).
As written before, ThinkFree has one of the best office productivity suites currently available, and certainly the most feature rich. It is about to release its read/write API, which would allow direct integration with Apex Content. This in turn would allow any office document stored into ContentExchange to be directly edited from Salesforce.com. Granted, a more advanced API would be required in order to support merge with data stored into Salesforce.com, but I could not think of a better use case for ThinkFree to develop such an API. One scenario would be for a salesperson to draft a contract for an opportunity managed by the CRM system.
Following this scenario, the next step would be for the salesperson to send the contract to the customer for review and approval. Of course, this could be done as an email attachment or via fax, but a much better solution exists and is already integrated with Salesforce.com — EchoSign. Using this powerful yet extremely easy-to-use tool, the salesperson would be able to get the contract signed either electronically or via fax, without having to actually use a physical fax machine. And once the contract is signed, it could be stored directly into ContentExchange for archiving purposes.
I use all four applications — Salesforce.com, Koral, ThinkFree, and EchoSign — today in order to support this end-to-end workflow, but because the later two are not fully integrated with the former two, I still have to move files around manually. Contracts written using ThinkFree Write have to be manually edited with customer-specific data before being saved on my local computer, then uploaded into Salesforce.com as EchoSign agreements. Then, when contracts have been signed by customers, they have to be downloaded from Salesforce.com to my local computer, then uploaded into Salesforce.com again as Koral documents. A partnership with ThinkFree would solve the first problem, while EchoSign’s support for the upcoming ContentExchange would solve the second. Quite frankly, I cannot wait for this to happen.
In the meantime, congratulations to Mark Suster and his team!