Startup says its CRM app can help users get more out of Salesforce.com

DoubleDutch is offering a mobile 'engagement layer' it says inspires users to interact with Salesforce.com

A startup called DoubleDutch contends that despite Salesforce.com's massive growth, the people who use the software don't actually interact with it enough.

DoubleDutch has developed a mobile application called Hive, which it describes as an "engagement layer" that sits on top of Salesforce.com, giving salespeople and other users a much easier, simpler way to interact with data from the Salesforce.com system. As of Monday, Hive is available following a private beta period earlier this year.

"We're trying to take the time it takes to update an opportunity in Salesforce.com from 10 minutes to 10 seconds," said Lawrence Coburn, CEO and co-founder, in an interview.

"We're not trying to blow the whole thing up," Coburn added. "CRM systems delivered by Salesforce.com, Oracle and SugarCRM are really powerful, but where they fall down is that users don't like to use them."

Hive could technically serve as a complete CRM system for a very small company with five to 10 salespeople, but lacks the broader administrative tools and other features found in the likes of Salesforce.com, Coburn said.

Instead, Hive uses the capabilities provided by native device deployment, such as the ability to use time and location data, to use Salesforce.com more effectively and more often.

For example, Hive can tell a roaming salesman if he's close to a recent sales lead, or send out an alert 15 minutes before a scheduled meeting and help them pull up the client's account history.

It's features like that, plus greater application speed, that is making HTML5 a no-go for DoubleDutch's development strategy right now, which offers native applications for Android and iOS devices, Coburn said.

"HTML5's not ready for prime time," he added, citing Facebook's decision to rewrite its mobile software natively for iOS as a key piece of evidence. If Facebook, with its engineering might, can't build a "snappy mobile app" with HTML5, that's a red flag, he said.

Hive also adds in some analytic firepower, giving sales managers a visual sense of their sales force's behavior. "It gives them a glimpse of what drives the sales, how many [customer interactions] were made across various stages of the deal." With this knowledge in hand, managers can learn the behavioral patterns of their top performers and use them to train new hires, Coburn said.

From an architectural standpoint, data from Salesforce.com passes through DoubleDutch's private cloud servers, which take ongoing snapshots. This allows users to have at least some data to work with should Salesforce.com suffer an outage. Changes and additions they make to data while Salesforce.com is down get synched back up when access is restored.

However, should a Hive user end up fully offline, they can read data on the device but not write back to it.

Hive is available at no charge for up to three users, along with a midtier version for US$20 per user per month and an enterprise edition for $40 per user per month. The company is also planning a version for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

While Coburn is enthusiastic about Hive's potential appeal to enterprises, it hasn't yet been exposed to a wide range of companies and industry use cases. About 10 companies participated in the private beta, and all of them were technology companies. But nearly all have had glowing feedback for Hive, according to Coburn. "The engagement numbers are off the charts."

DoubleDutch has to contend with Salesforce.com's own burgeoning efforts around mobile applications, which include native and HTML5 offerings as well as a new Touch interface. The latter is expected to be a key topic at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce event, which starts next week in San Francisco.

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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