The hosted software firm is drawing particular attention to the analytics customisation capabilities it plans to offer in the next version of its hosted customer relationship management (CRM) software, Salesforce Winter '07.

At an event due to take place Wednesday in London, Marc Benioff, the vendor's chairman and chief executive officer, is expected to preview analytics and dashboard mash-up capabilities as part of his "Future of Software" presentation.

Analytics is loosely defined as the analysis of data contained in a company's enterprise applications to help highlight potential business trends. Being able to spot such trends early can help firms improve the speed and quality of their decision-making.

Other CRM players including Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are increasingly placing more emphasis on their respective analytics offerings as key product differentiators.

For instance, Oracle announced last month that it would add more real-time predictive analytics to its business intelligence, middleware and applications after acquiring intellectual property assets from Sigma Dynamics.

While the main theme of the current version, Salesforce Summer '06 which debuted in July, was integration between Salesforce.com's CRM offering and third-party products, the watchword for Winter '07 is "unlimited customisation," according to Ariel Kelman, the vendor's director of AppExchange product marketing.

Since Salesforce.com officially went live with AppExchange in January, a network to host third-party and custom applications and integrate them with Salesforce.com's CRM software, the vendor has seen plenty of demand for analytics offerings, he said.

In Salesforce Winter '07 users will have the ability to fully componentise the on-demand CRM application's analytical dashboards so that they can mash up or bring together components of different vendors' business intelligence (BI) software which they can then share and manage.

Users will be able to engage in a wide range of BI activities, which can be displayed on their dashboards within Salesforce including supply chain analysis, complex what-if scenarios and profitability analysis.

Business Objects SA is Salesforce.com's first BI partner to participate in an analytics mash-up between its Crystal Xcelsius data visualization offering and the hosted CRM software's dashboard framework, Kelman said.

Analytics, e-mail marketing and sales tools have been the most popular offerings on AppExchange since January, but Kelman is already starting to see a second wave of component categories gaining more user interest.

This next wave is around human resources, financials and IT tools, he said, along with project management, bug tracking and quality assurance.

Other features for Winter '07 include a new user interface based on Ajax (asynchronous JavaScript and extensible markup language), a hook-in to Cisco Systems's computer telephony integration option and full support for IBM's Lotus Notes collaboration software.