Apttus — Configure, Price, Quote Never Leaving Salesforce or Office
This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as Salesforce.com celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch. The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.
Apttus has the kind of solutions that the AppExchange and Force.com were made for. The company has been successful at building applications in Force.com that leverage the Salesforce user interface and that behave as if Salesforce developed them. Apttus calls its applications “100% Native Force.com” and they are but they go well beyond Salesforce to integrate other major solutions too.
Apttus has staked out a position in the quote-to-cash business process covering CPQ applications — Configure, Price, Quote and Contract Management — a niche populated by other Salesforce partners, too. But where Apttus has distinguished itself is in how it has implemented its solutions, by enabling Salesforce business processes and controls inside Microsoft Office, through its X-Author technology..
Early on, the company’s leadership realized that the processes they were automating all had significant inputs from Microsoft Office products and that salespeople and others involved in the sales process, spent significant parts of their workflow outside of Salesforce CRM. For many companies configuring solutions involved Excel spreadsheets and contracts were almost exclusively written and edited with Microsoft Word. These and other documents had to be socialized among sales, finance and executive management and often the manual business processes involved slowed down business.
This meant that significant and important documents for any deal lived outside of Salesforce and data and documents were scattered around an organization on various hard drives where they were vulnerable to loss. Version control was an obvious issue as was the need for executive collaboration. A sales manager might have to approve a configuration’s pricing and various levels of executive management might have to collaborate on contract terms and conditions, for instance. But without a social interface such as Chatter for these participants, the workflow was manual and slow.
Most of the collaboration was taking place semi-manually with meetings and phone calls, very little enterprise control or tracking and there was no repository for multiple contributions. These processes tended to take longer than necessary, which is never good when a deal is pending, especially near the end of a reporting period. So Apttus invented X-Author technology.
X-Author accomplishes two key things for users: It enables all activity in Microsoft Office documents and Outlook to be shared and fully recorded inside Salesforce, and it enables any Salesforce enterprise process or control to be executed from within Microsoft Office products. A user in Salesforce CRM can work and collaborate on a deal’s configuration and contract without leaving Microsoft Office. X-Author is an application built inside the Microsoft Office ribbon that makes it possible to go back and forth between applications, all within Office and to store all deal data including configurations, contracts and Chatter streams all within Salesforce making it the single source of the truth.
X-Author is an enterprise grade application because it brings together several critical applications that have their greatest impact in a complex sales cycle involving many inputs. The company’s customer list bears this out with names like, American Express, Dell, General Electric, Forbes, Delta Airlines, Google and many others.
X-Author for Chatter is also a great example of a serendipitous application that you might expect from a resource like the AppExchange. It is an application that few people would think of but which upon seeing it many people would think is intuitively obvious. That a SaaS application like Salesforce CRM would need access to the functionality in Microsoft Office is clear but how to accomplish the combination had eluded many people. A proof point for this are five pending patents for the company.
Apttus has more than three hundred customers including sixty in the Fortune 500.representing more than 350,000 users. While still a relatively small company it is much larger than its competitors in the CPQ and Contract Management markets and its orientation toward bringing together disparate solutions like Salesforce and Office suggests the company has a bright future.