As part of an effort to bridge a historic divide between spreadsheets and customer-relationship management (CRM) software, Apttus today unveiled X-Author for Excel software, which leverages the APIs that Salesforce.com exposed in its Salesforce1 platform to present users with an Excel-style user interface.
Beyond simply providing an Excel-style user interface, X-Author for Excel also makes use of those RESTful APIs to allow users to update Salesforce1 applications, says Jules Ehrlich, vice president of advanced solutions for Apttus.
Within most businesses there is a divide between financial management teams that rely heavily on spreadsheets and CRM applications that have been widely embraced by sales teams. Rather than allowing that to continue, Ehrlich says Apttus is making a case for end users who prefer to work with Excel to be able to update Salesforce applications directly. Otherwise, manual updates of CRM applications using data first entered in a spreadsheet wind up creating additional opportunities for errors to be introduced.
At the same time, Ehrlich notes there are still routine tasks that are much easier to perform using a spreadsheet interface. For example, price management, opportunity forecasting, marketing promotions and case management are generally easier to complete in Excel, he says.
X-Author for Excel, adds Ehrlich, also provides organizations using Salesforce1 with an offline capability. Most sophisticated users can also take advantage of the object stores that Salesforce exposes to build more complex spreadsheet applications that can be more easily shared across multiple users.
To little or no avail, application vendors across the spectrum have been campaigning against the use of general-purpose spreadsheets for years. Software vendors have made the case for using analytics applications to replace spreadsheets, either in the form of dedicated applications or as modules embedded within larger applications. The challenge is that given the widespread exposure to Microsoft Office applications, the number of users who are proficient in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets runs into the millions.
In the meantime, as Salesforce continues to build a substantial data ecosystem in its own right, it’s clear that organizations of all sizes need to marry data residing in Salesforce1 with all the data being generated on a daily basis in Microsoft Excel. The degree to which that needs to occur will, of course, vary widely by organization. But with the proliferation of APIs, the opportunity to bridge that divide has never been greater.