Salesforce.com's next product update will feature scores of new capabilities for its core CRM (customer relationship management) application as well as the Chatter messaging and collaboration service.
A sandbox preview for the Spring '13 update is scheduled for Jan. 11, according to a set of release notes posted on Salesforce.com website.
The update will feature a large number of enhancements to Chatter, Salesforce.com's social collaboration and messaging service, covering areas such as search, content previewing and general usability.
"The improvements to Chatter are much needed," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "The toughest challenge with products like Chatter and other enterprise social networks is avoiding the social feed deluge. It's like being buried by email."
Another new feature for Salesforce.com will allow salespeople to run forecasts by quarters, according to the notes.
"You can forecast up to 12 months or eight quarters in the future or past." Users will also be able to run forecasts using partner opportunity data.
"Forecasts and partner forecasting helps improve the ability to handle indirect sales," Wang said. "This joint forecasting should help improve coordination and quota assignment."
Analytics are also getting an update in the Spring '13, with the ability to now view dashboards from Salesforce.com's Touch mobile interface.
Salesforce.com has been challenged by analytics to date, Wang said. "The reporting engines are good but advanced analytics still require other tools. Analytics has been the stepchild at Salesforce.com but a big opportunity for partners."
Touch is available only for iPads. It comes in two forms: A downloaded application as well as a mobile browser application that runs inside Safari for iPad, according to the notes.
Elsewhere in Spring '13, Salesforce.com's Data.com offering, which provides a database of business contact information, will gain additional records from Dun & Bradstreet, with more than 200 countries covered, according to the notes.
Data.com will also gain a new data-quality service based on Dun & Bradstreet technology, they add.
Another major new feature, which was proposed by a user on Salesforce.com's IdeaExchange site, focuses on making it easier to find online help resources.
"We know it can be difficult to find the information you need in our online help," the notes state. "So with Spring '13, we've reorganized help and created a series of new downloadable PDFs."
Help topics will be organized according to "feature area, user type, and task, so you won't be distracted by information about other features or by topics that are targeted at other kinds of users," the notes add.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com